Republican radio address

For the weekend of August 14-15, 2010

Greetings, this is Rich Cebra, state representative from Naples.

Earlier this month, I submitted a bill that would require a voter to produce a photo ID before being given a ballot. My office sent out a press release about the bill because it would represent a significant change in Maine elections. The story received a lot of media coverage, but the bill itself won’t go anywhere until a new Legislature is sworn in next December. It’s no surprise that the public reaction has been strongly positive. A national Rasmussen poll found that 82 percent of Americans believe people should have to show a photo ID before being allowed to vote. And in fact, 75 percent of Democrats agree. Mainers understand the importance of protecting the fairness of our elections, and hopefully the Legislature will pass this commonsense measure.

My bill is hardly revolutionary. Eight states already require a photo ID for voting and 18 other states require some form of identification at the polls. Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to uphold an Indiana law requiring photo IDs for voters. The court’s majority opinion was written by Justice John Paul Stevens, a liberal member who recently retired. The lawyers trying to have the law ruled unconstitutional argued that requiring a photo ID would have the greatest impact on the poor and the elderly. Stevens acknowledged that the law might place a small burden on a limited number of people, but he wrote that states have a valid interest in protecting the integrity and reliability of the electoral process. He noted that voter fraud could affect the outcome of a close election.

In Maine, we have always relied on the honor system when it comes to voting, and I wish we could continue to do so. But the world has changed and voter fraud is now a fact of life. During and after the 2008 presidential election, more than a dozen states found huge problems in new voter registrations provided by ACORN, the infamous community organizing group. More than half of their 1.3 million registrations were found to be fraudulent. ACORN workers turned in registrations for Mickey Mouse, the entire rosters for professional sports teams and names pulled randomly from phone books. ACORN might not yet be very active in Maine, but election fraud can be found in every part of the United States. In fact, it is probably spreading because of the tight blue state/red state divisions that have polarized the country and created so many close elections lately.

Some of the sloppiness in our elections seems to be built into the system by design. The Motor Voter Law, signed by President Clinton, imposed fraud-friendly rules on the states by requiring driver’s license bureaus to register anyone applying for licenses. States were also directed to offer mail-in voter registration with no identification needed. The law even makes it harder to purge deadwood voters from the rolls, such as the names of people who moved away or passed away. This lax Motor Voter system explains why the 9-11 terrorists not only had driver’s licenses; nine of them were actually registered to vote. Believe it or not, Mexico and many other countries have election systems that are far more secure than ours. To obtain voter credentials, the citizen must present a photo, write a signature and give thumbprints. The voter card includes a picture with a hologram covering it, a magnetic strip and a serial number to guard against tampering. In Maine, we allow same-day registration and absentee voting for any reason – or no reason at all.

It only makes sense to make our elections as fair and honest as possible. Opponents of a photo ID requirement will argue that it will disenfranchise people, but that’s not true. A voter who shows up on Election Day with no ID could cast a provisional vote and be given a few days to prove their identification to their town clerk. And it’s not as if showing a photo ID is a rare occurrence. It’s required to board a flight, cash a check and even rent a video.

To make the law as workable as possible, a variety of photo ID cards would be acceptable, including a state-issued driver’s license or ID card, a military ID card, a U.S. passport, or a photo ID issued by a federal agency. Other forms of ID could be added. Florida accepts photo IDs from neighborhood associations, schools, employers and even buyer’s clubs. A number of states accept tribal IDs.

This bill should not be controversial, but of course in Maine it will be. Nonetheless, voters should expect the Legislature to do the right thing and stand up for the integrity of our electoral system.

This is State Representative Rich Cebra, wishing you all the best.