Of course, any federal approach to voter rights is too late for this election cycle, but there will be future cycles. The shameless Republican voter suppression attempts this year alone are good cause for federal legislation. There is not a "State's Rights" issue at stake here. At stake are the sacred civil rights of millions of citizens. Please read my proposal below the orange squiggle and tell me what you think.
This is what I propose:
1. In order to register to vote, a person must state his or her place of birth, or offer documentation of being a naturalized citizen. That person must also give his or her name, address, age, and Social Security number, a single fingerprint, and execute a signature.
2. The person must also affirm that he or she is not disqualified from voting by reason of being incarcerated for a felony conviction, or by reason of being under probation or being on parole for a felony conviction. [I'm not sure about this requirement. Opinions?]
3. At the polling place, a prospective voter is obligated only to give his or her name and address, and to execute a signature for comparison. If the election official determines that the signature is possibly not valid, a fingerprint may be required in order to cast a provisional ballot.
4. A ballot cast by a person complying with the above requirements must be counted unless that person has been indicted for voter fraud.
5. The penalty under federal law for voter fraud is set at a $1,000 fine, 30 days incarceration for each fraudulent vote. Any state or local laws regarding voter fraud would be preempted by this provision.
6. Voting hours, absentee ballot requirements, early voting provisions and requirements, voter waiting times, and the like must be substantially equal for all voters and all voting precincts. The secretary of state for each state is responsible for enforcing this requirement.
7. States may not remove a voter from the list of registered voters unless they show a valid death certificate or indict that voter for voter fraud.
First of all, the requirements for a Social Security number, a fingerprint, and a signature provide threefold security against fraud. The probability that a person could somehow circumvent all three safeguards is vanishingly small. We have software today that can identify a fingerprint and correlate it to a particular person. Anybody who has ever been fingerprinted can be identified. Likewise, the Social Security Administration can provide State authorities with a yes-or-no confirmation of the correlation between a Social Security number and a name. Third, a potential fraudulent voter would have to be able to fake the signature of the citizen who registered to vote.
Ask yourself this: What sort of person would risk a 30-day stretch in the pokey, a $1000 fine, and possible deportation simply in order to cast a fraudulent ballot? The potential gain for doing so is minuscule; the chance that one vote would change the outcome is very close to zero. So, the existence of strong penalties for voter fraud is a very powerful deterrent.
Second, suppose that a person intent on perpetrating voter fraud actually succeeded? What is the probability that significant harm would be done to the country? Again, virtually zero.
Proponents of voter ID argue that we have to show ID to cash a check, or board an airplane. But in these cases, the requirement to show an ID has significant consequences. A fraudulent check may cost the person who accepts it hundreds of dollars. If the wrong person is allowed to board an airplane. hundreds of lives might be at risk. But a single fraudulent vote has practically zero effect on anybody.
What probable cause does a state have to disbelieve a person who affirms, under oath, that he or she is a citizen? Why should a person be presumed guilty of voter fraud unless he or she can prove otherwise? What has happened to the principle of innocent until proven guilty?