By Kevin Mooney | Watchdog.org
If you’re 102 years old and need to wait in line for hours before voting, expect to have your story told in dramatic fashion by the president of the United States. That’s what happened to Desiline Victor, a resident of North Miami, Fla. Where some see a rationale for expanded early voting, same-day voter registration and even mandatory voter registration, others see a false narrative created to promote policy changes that would result in greater federal control over state elections.
“When she arrived at her polling place, she was told the wait to vote might be six hours,” Obama said. “And as time ticked by, her concern was not with her tired body or aching feet, but whether folks like her would get to have their say. Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line in support of her. Because Desiline is 102-years-old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read ‘I Voted.’ ”
At this point, Victor, who was seated in the balcony during the address, received a standing ovation from members of Congress. Since then, the good name of the grandmotherly centenarian has been invoked by policymakers, and left-leaning pressure groups, eager to implement far-reaching electoral changes.
In Florida, State Sen. Oscar Braynon, a Democrat, is working in partnership with Florida New Majority and the Advancement Project to pass SB 888 – Desiline’s Free and Fair Democracy Act to “help modernize the state’s voting system and enshrine the right to vote into state law.”
At the federal level, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., introduced the Voter Empowerment Act in January, which would automatically register names of people on existing government databases. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is pushing her own version in the Senate.
“The goal here is to have a top-down election system that expands federal control,” said Anita MonCrief, a senior adviser to True the Vote, a non-profit ballot integrity group. “That system is going to be very partisan and very inefficient. The goal is to get as many people to vote Democratic as possible.”
MonCrief suspects the Obama White House is looking for a way to reactivate ACORN-type voter registration tactics, which might make it easier to commit fraud at the ballot box. That’s why the stories about long election lines are suddenly in circulation, she said.
The truth about long lines
Contrary to what the president and his allies on the left have been telling the public, eligible voters have not been disenfranchised at the polls because long lines have become a common occurrence, according to conservative attorneys.
“It’s a completely false narrative,” Hans von Spakovsky, a legal scholar with the Heritage Foundation, told Watchdog.org. “The president omitted some key facts. Victor did not vote on Election Day, but on the first day of early voting (October 28) in Miami-Dade County. During early voting in Miami-Dade, there were only about 20 polling places open. But on Election Day Miami-Dade had 829 polling places open. Had she voted on Election Day she would have waited almost no time to vote.”
Try telling that to the attorneys with the Advancement Project, and they will insist “long lines were the story of the 2012 election,” and that “early voting alleviates long lines, eases the burden on overworked poll workers, and, when administered effectively, increases the turnout of eligible voters.” That’s what Penda D. Hair, co-director for the Advancement Project, wrote in an editorial.
So are long election lines an epidemic, or are they the exception and not the rule? The average wait time to vote on Election Day was 14 minutes, according to a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. That doesn’t sound like an inordinate amount of time although the study did show the average wait time of 45 minutes in Florida to be the highest in the nation.
But we’re still talking minutes, not hours.
“When I saw the big lines, I thought I was not going to be able to vote,” Victor said in a video interview with the Advancement Project. “But I persisted because that day I wanted to vote. It isn’t that I wanted to lose all that time voting for a Democrat, it was about being part of the Democratic process.”
Here’s the kicker.
Apparently, Victor’s own Democrats operating at the local level are to blame for long lines to the extent they even exist. The most populous, urban areas are the ones that have the most difficulty, the MIT study shows.
“That’s the irony,” von Spakovsky observed. “Those places that did have relatively long waits were in big cities controlled by President Obama’s Democratic Party,” von Spakovsky observed. “It is those local officials who make the decisions about precinct size, voting equipment and the number of poll workers who are responsible,” he added.
Improvements can and should be made to the U.S. electoral system for the benefit of eligible voters, but they should be done at the state level, von Spakovsky said. In fact, states are already taking advantage of online technology to implement new programs that improve the accuracy and effectiveness of voter registration, he points out.
“The federal government and members of Congress should respect the differences among states,” he wrote in a paper for the Heritage Foundation. “America is not homogenous, and one size does not fit all, especially when it comes to issues like voter registration. Citizens in different states have different needs, desires, and values; therefore, it makes little sense for the federal government to micromanage state voter registration systems.”
Von Spakovsky wonders why, if Advancement Project is so concerned about long lines, the group supports same-day registration, which would require additional time to fill out forms and most likely create longer lines.
Watchdog.org could not reach Advancement Project for comment.
Executive Order could boost federal mandates
Shortly after his State of the Union address, President Obama issued an executive order creating the Presidential Commission on Election Administration. The commission will include a maximum of nine members “with knowledge about or experience in the administration of state or local elections” appointed by the president. Two commission members will serve as co-chairs.
“The Commission shall identify best practices and otherwise make recommendations to promote the efficient administration of elections in order to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots without undue delay, and to improve the experience of voters facing other obstacles in casting their ballots, such as members of the military, overseas voters, voters with disabilities, and voters with limited English proficiency.”
“I have no doubt that it will embrace all the latest wacky ideas from left-wing groups about maximizing voter turnout but will do nothing to ensure electoral integrity and the sanctity of the ballot box,” he said. “Long before he became president, Barack Obama served notice that he believed the ballot box should be a means of redistributing wealth and radically transforming America.”
Vadum, who authored, “Subversion, Inc.: How Obama’s ACORN Red Shirts are Still Terrorizing and Ripping Off American Taxpayers” sees a deliberate strategy aimed at undermining ballot integrity.
“When he worked for ACORN’s Project Vote affiliate in 1992, Obama endorsed the Cloward-Piven Strategy of orchestrated crisis and worked feverishly to get those dependent on welfare to vote themselves bigger welfare benefits,” Vadum continued. “Obama is the same radical he was in 1992 and his goals remain the same.”
That’s why J. Christian Adams, a former attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, is concerned about “the creeping federal takeover of elections.” He suspects the president’s commission will be filled with ideological activists as opposed to detached, nonpartisan election administrators who push for new federal election mandates.
“The Constitution gives the states the power to run elections,” Adams said. “This [commission] is another example of the modern Democratic Party, and the left, being at odds with the Constitution.”
The Commission could give further impetus to proposed federal mandates that are already in circulation. This would include calls for mandatory voter registration, which would require state and local officials to use government databases – at both the state and federal level – to automatically, and perhaps permanently, register all citizens to vote. Since the federal databases are “riddled with errors” this approach would likely result in fraudulent voting, von Spakovsky warns.
Here’s where the sleight of hand comes into play.
Some of same liberal civil rights groups that favor MVR have objected to using federal databases in the past to verify voter eligibility because they are supposedly concerned about the accuracy of the data. The U.S. Postal Service National Change of Address, for example, is widely known to be replete with errors, according to von Spakovsky’s Heritage report.
“It is the height of hypocrisy for these same groups to oppose using federal databases for verification [of voter eligibility] to now turn around and say that these same databases should be used to automatically register individuals to vote,” he said. “I would say the federal databases should only be used for verification purposes and to cross-check against state records.”
Put simply, automatic, mandatory voter registration would create more openings for fraudulent voter registration and potential voter fraud.
“We already have double voting, and it could get a lot worse with these new proposals,” MonCrief said. “We are heading toward a dictatorship with sham elections.”
Push for mandatory registration gains on Capitol Hill
Even so, the concept of mandatory voter registration continues to pick up steam on Capitol Hill. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., for example, recently expressed support for a proposal from the Brennan Center for Justice that would make government officers primarily responsible for voter registration. But the Brennan Center claims von Spakovsky has misconstrued its proposal. “He [von Spakovsky] suggests that Voter Registration Modernization means adding people to registration lists first and asking questions later, when in fact the Brennan Center’s proposal requires election officials to verify voter consent, eligibility, and the absence of duplicates prior to adding anyone to the rolls,” the Center argues.
Meanwhile, Adams, the DOJ attorney, has gone in search of long election lines. After Judith Browne-Dianis, a co-director with the Advancement Project, told National Public Radio that she waited in line for seven hours during the 2012 elections, Adams contacted Harold Ruston, a member of the Prince George’s County election board in Maryland where Browne-Dianis votes. Adams was told there were no election lines for the last several hours. Adams also contacted Karen Stern, a secretary with the Faith United Methodist Church in Browne-Dianis’s precinct. Same answer – there were no extended waits.
Contact Kevin Mooney at Kmooney@watchdog.org or follow him on Twitter @KevinMooneyDC