Voter ID Supporter: Republicans Push Them For Political Reasons

PHILADELPHIA, PA  - APRIL 24:  A voter cast a ballot in a voting booth during the Republican primary election April 24, 2012
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 24: A voter cast a ballot in a voting booth during the Republican primary election April 24, 2012 at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Turnout is expected to be low as Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continues his campaign as the presumptive GOP candidate. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

A prominent supporter of voter ID laws told a conservative group that many Republicans focus on voter ID laws instead of laws governing absentee balloting because people who vote by mail are generally believed to be more Republican.

According to Ryan J. Reilly at Talking Points Memo, John Fund, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal (and HuffPost blogger), told the Heritage Foundation that voter fraud, when it does happen, usually involves absentee voters who cast their ballots in the mail. "Absentee vote ballot fraud is the tool of choice amongst fraudsters," he said. "Every time you see a truly massive, coordinated effort at voter fraud, it usually relies in part on absentee voter fraud."

Requiring proof of identification for voting done in person would have no effect on voting done by mail. Fund said that some voter ID laws did provide guidelines for absentee ballots.

“I think it is a fair argument of some liberals that there are some people who emphasize the voter ID part more than the absentee ballot part because supposedly Republicans like absentee ballots more and they don’t want to restrict that,” Fund said. “But the bottom line is, on good government grounds, we have to have both voter ID laws and absentee ballot laws.”

Fund spoke to the conservative group ahead of the release of his new book, co-authored by Hans von Spakovsky, titled "Who's Counting: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk." According to press materials for the book, voter "fraud is a well-documented reality in American elections," and fraud could turn this November's election into a repeat of the recount confusion of 2000.

Studies have repeatedly shown that in-person voter fraud is exceedingly rare. It's so unlikely, in fact, that last month Pennsylvania had to stipulate in a case over the constitutionality of its voter ID law that it had never actually prosecuted anyone for in-person voter fraud and had no evidence that in-person voter fraud had ever happened in the state.

But the kind of people who are least likely to have proper state identification — young people, African Americans, Latinos and the poor — are more likely to vote for Democratic voters. Critics say that the wave of new voter ID laws that have gone on the books since the 2010 midterm elections, when Republicans won state legislatures around the country, are meant to dampen turnout for Democrats.

The Huffington Post's Dan Froomkin reported on a new study that found that blacks and Latinos in the deeply blue Philadelphia, Pennsylvania's biggest city, were especially likely to be affected by the new law.

In June, Mike Turzai, the Republican majority leader in the Pennsylvania State Senate, said that the state's voter ID law would help Mitt Romney win the Keystone State in this fall's presidential race.

Fund also dismissed the idea that many people would be disadvantaged because of a lack of valid photo ID. "Is there a single person in this room who believes that you can function in this society without an ID? Now there may be some very elderly people, there may be some very isolated people, there may be some bed-ridden people who don’t have ID. Now, I say to you, let’s get them an ID,” Fund said.

But many voters in Pennsylvania have pointed out just how difficult it was to get official ID that meets the state's guidelines for voting. A recently married woman who just moved to the state from Missouri said that she had a hard time proving her identity since her last name had changed, her utility bills were in her husband's name, and a new copy of her birth certificate would have to be requested from another state. "I have transportation. I have money. I have time. I have a healthy dose of luck," she told the Huffington Post. "Remove any one of those things, and suddenly it's a huge challenge."

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