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 # 631  

January 2012

When the Dead Vote, the Living Suffer

Department of Justice is Wrong to Oppose Voter ID

by Horace Cooper

Dead men tell no tales, the old saying goes – but that doesn't mean they can't vote.

Shocking new video footage has just been released showing undercover reporters with their hidden cameras rolling, strolling into New Hampshire polling locations and asking to vote in the Granite State's presidential primary. Giving names of recently deceased voters – names they pulled from local obituaries – the reporters were handed ballots and directed to the nearest voting booth. Time after time, the reporters said they had forgotten their ID and turned to walk away, and almost every time they were told that ID wasn't necessary in New Hampshire.1

It didn't really matter that the names the reporters were giving belonged to the dearly departed, not to the poll workers anyway. After all, "How would I know if someone was dead?" asked one kindly volunteer. Indeed. No, all that the would-be "voter" needed was to give his name and home address – you know, like from the phone book.

Some states and jurisdictions might be understandably concerned that "ghost voting" and other types of voter fraud are allowed to run rampant when state-ID isn't required. Indeed, thirty-one states currently demand some form of valid identification before voters can pull the lever for their favored candidate, and states are increasingly looking for constitutional ways to strengthen their voting laws in an effort to clamp down on election fraud.

Last year, eight states passed new laws requiring voters to show some sort of identification at the polls, while others are clamping down on early-and-often voting schemes and other fraud-ridden loopholes in election laws.

Unfortunately, many of the common sense efforts being tried by states have been resisted by the Obama Administration, and legally challenged by its politically-charged Department of Justice.

Just before Christmas, for example, the Justice Department objected to a new South Carolina law that would require voters to show a photo ID in order to vote. According to the DOJ, South Carolina had failed to demonstrate – to the DOJ's satisfaction – that the state's new law would not adversely impact racial minorities. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the burden falls on some jurisdictions to prove that any new voting provision will not unfairly burden minority voters. The state, said the DOJ, had not met its burden.

According to Attorney General Eric Holder, requiring all voters, regardless of race, gender, or age, to show the same kind of ID they would need to rent a car, fill out a job application, or pick up any number of commonly prescribed medications, would violate the Constitution.

The irony is that minorities know full well the history of voter suppression techniques. American history is replete with examples of poll taxes, literacy tests and even physical intimidation designed to limit the exercise of the franchise. Ghost voting is just as sinister and is even harder to detect.

Yet Voter ID is a straightforward solution that the DOJ ought to be demanding, rather than opposing.

Never mind that the Supreme Court's decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board already held, in 2008, that a state's photo ID requirement was closely related to a state's legitimate interest in preventing voter fraud. Never mind that, according to the Court, the slight burden of producing valid identification imposed on voters did not outweigh the state's "neutral and non-discriminatory" interests. Never mind that the controlling concurring opinion in Crawford was penned by Justice Stevens, the high Court's leading liberal at the time.

Instead of recognizing the inherent dangers presented by "ghost voting" so shockingly revealed in the New Hampshire primary videos, and instead of following the Supreme Court's directive in Crawford, the Attorney General expressly endorsed the unfounded assessment that voting rights are "under attack… [by] a deliberate and systematic attempt to prevent millions of elderly voters, young voters, students, [and] minority and low-income voters from exercising their constitutional right to engage in the democratic process."2

Ignoring the fact that most states and jurisdictions are concerned with cracking down on illegal voting schemes that work to dilute the real political will of the electorate, it is Holder's estimation that "in-person voting fraud is uncommon."3

Whether common or not, when the dead vote, the living suffer. As the Attorney General himself acknowledged, "the right to vote is the basic right, without which all others are meaningless."4 And that "basic right" is profoundly diminished when the political voice of a voter – Republican or Democrat – is effectively and so easily silenced by a fraudster with a phone book and the obituary column from a local paper.

Rightly understood, voter fraud suppresses that other "basic right" – self-determination – the most important and constitutionally protected right of all. Every time a fraudulent vote is cast, a real vote, the political expression of a real voice, goes unheard, unacknowledged, uncounted.

States across the country are taking steps to ensure that the voices of their people are heard and their political will is counted. But if the Justice Department continues to play partisan politics in Washington, then common sense remedies like asking voters for ID don't stand a ghost of chance.

Horace Cooper is an adjunct fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research and a legal commentator.



1 "Dead People Receive Ballots in New Hampshire Primary," video by, available on YouTube as of January 31, 2012 at

2 Speech of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at the LBJ Presidential Library, December 13, 2011, available at the Department of Justice website at as of January 31, 2012.

3 Speech of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at the LBJ Presidential Library, December 13, 2011, available at the Department of Justice website at as of January 31, 2012.

4 Speech of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at the LBJ Presidential Library, December 13, 2011, available at the Department of Justice website at as of January 31, 2012.



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