This year, for the first major election in my history as a voter here, the state of Virginia conducted elections under two controversial legislative measures aimed at preventing electoral fraud (a problem which, by the way, is almost 50 times less likely than you, personally, getting struck by lightning this year). The first requires voters to display photo identification at their polling place to confirm their identity. This seems pretty straightforward; you are required to prove who you are so you don’t vote under someone else’s name. However, opponents of the law claim that it disproportionately affects the poor (and due to demographics in the US, this in turn disproportionately affects minorities), acting as a potentially preventative poll tax due to the high prices of photo IDs, especially in cases where a birth certificate is unavailable. This law, typically championed by conservatives, therefore could be seen as a way to decrease or even restrict minority turnout in elections, which is especially pernicious considering minorities tend to vote for liberal candidates. In fact, it appears voter ID laws may have reduced voter turnout in the election this week, which saw conservatives gain an enormous majority in the Senate.
The second law has been around much longer, and prevents voters from registering to vote on the day of the election (in the state of VA, you must be registered 22 days prior to the polling date). Here again the logic seems straightforward; if you make people register prior to the election, it gives you plenty of time to confirm that they are registered in only one place and prevents people from registering at multiple polling stations and casting multiple ballots. However, proponents of same-day registration have pointed out that it dramatically increases voter turnout and that it is not a burden on poll workers, as its opponents claim. Movements against the practice are again often considered another method that conservatives employ to restrict voter turnout in key demographics that typically vote for liberal candidates.
Below is the very “real” story of how a member of a key conservative demographic, white upper-middle-class males, was disenfranchised in a battleground state by a measure aimed at decreasing the non-existing problem of voter fraud and, ironically, led him to commit voter fraud. Feel free to share it with your local (likely Republican) senator or congressperson.
Like every good American, I checked my voter registration long before the election, in mid-October. This was well in advance of the 22 days required by the great battleground state of Virginia. I found what I had expected: I was still registered to vote. I checked that off of my list of to-dos and continued to monitor election news and events as a well-informed voter.
Fast forward a month, to this past Monday evening (November 3, 2014). In planning to perform my civic duty the following day, I checked my polling location. I had moved about a mile and a half down the road in July, so I assumed it wouldn’t be the same location it was the last time I had voted, but I was surprised to see that it was. Being just the type of hard-working, no-nonsense white, upper-middle-class man that built this country, I investigated further. I found that, while I was registered to vote, I was registered under my old address.
“No trouble!” thought I, “I’ll just change my registration now, or perhaps tomorrow at my new polling station.” I checked the registration deadline and found that it had long ago passed. I thought that perhaps my polling station would be the same for my new address as my old one, such that I needn’t re-register. I was disappointed to find that my new address did indeed have a different polling location. I was stuck. In order to perform my civic duty and exercise my God-given right to vote — in one of the tightest senate races in the country, only decided yesterday — I would have to do something that runs completely counter to the American ideals of freedom and democracy: commit voter fraud.
In the end, my duty to contribute to the governing of this great nation trumped my law-abiding nature. The ballots at the two polling locations were identical; I live in the same county and the same district that I moved from, so I was not misrepresenting my eligibility to vote for any candidates. The poll workers were unfazed by the different address on my driver’s license; a small amount of paperwork indicating that I currently lived at my old address was all it took.
In the end, I was able to participate in this election. But at what cost to its integrity? To my own integrity, as a man? Nay, at what cost to the integrity of this great nation? Help end voter fraud — support same-day registration in Virginia and in all states.