There is a tenant in criminal law that proclaims that it is better to let one guilty man go free than it is to convict ten innocent men. That is the core of our legal system. Innocent until proven guilty. Everyone deserves an impartial judgement of their peers regardless of the heinousness of the crime. The burden of proof does not fall upon the accused. It falls upon the state. No punitive action may be taken until the state proves beyond reasonable doubt that the accused actually performed the deed in question.
This is a good philosophy. It keeps the government from becoming a tyranny that arbitrarily and capriciously renders judgement based upon its own purposes. Anything else results in something other and more sinister than a democracy.
Voter fraud; the act of voting under false pretense either as posing as a non-citizen, another person, or voting more than once, is a concern and election offices in states take great pains to prevent it from happening. Likewise people have to go to a little bit of trouble in order to vote. For example, I recently moved and my state sent me a letter alerting me of my inability to vote until I register in the district of my new address. They went to extra measures to ensure that I have the ability to vote provided that I follow the rules in place that prevent fraudulent meddling. Several years ago, they questioned my signature and had me come in and resubmit my signature in person to verify that I was actually who I purported to be. But that was my democratic leaning state of Oregon.
Florida, on the other hand, has taken a different approach by electing to purge voters from the voter registration rolls under the auspices of eliminating voter fraud. It should come as no surprise that this is happening just prior to the November presidential election. They are taking the extra step of requiring that people prove that they are US citizens citing concerns based upon specious data such as the Department of Vehicle Registration rolls. They claim that illegal immigrants are voting in droves as the justification for taking such extreme mitigative actions. Both state and federal judges have told Florida that their actions have gone too far and Florida Republicans have essentially said, in their best Dick Cheney impression, ‘So?’.
The thing is, there is no statistical evidence that rampant voter fraud has occurred. Even wannabe Quixotic political conservative James O’Keefe tried to purposely perpetuate voter fraud with the intent of making that case. He failed and got nailed. Why he hasn’t been jailed is still a mystery. The penalty for being caught fraudulently voting is pretty steep and that keeps most people from trying it. That, and the fact that there’s no immediate reward keep voter fraud at a minimum. Unless you’re being paid well by a third party, voter fraud really isn’t worth the trouble.
The 2010 conservative backlash has brought about all manner of reprisals from Republican state governments concerning laws that restrict voter access under the auspices of mitigating voter fraud. The end result is that it will discourage citizens from voting. It puts too many barriers in front of voters who typically tend to be Democrats.
Voter fraud makes for a good excuse to institute these draconian procedures. Just as Republican Governors in other states such as Wisconsin, Ohio, Maine, and Texas are instituting laws to limit early voting, making it more difficult to register to vote, gerrymandering districts to dilute or concentrate particular demographics and in Florida’s case, making voters prove that they exist at all. The burden has been increasingly placed upon the shoulders of the voter to prove their eligibility. But it should be up to the state to bear that burden. Just as in criminal cases it is up to the state to prove that voter fraud has been perpetuated. If they can prove fraud has taken place then they can pursue punitive measures right up to invalidating the allegedly falsely elected official’s candidacy. What they cannot do is pursue punitive measures upon the innocent based upon an unjustified fear. The state cannot use the potential for voter fraud to invalidate innocent voters. What Florida is doing is unconstitutional. Perhaps they’ve become accustomed to getting away with it. See Bush v. Gore, 2000.
Which begs the question; just what is the motive behind Florida’s voter purge? Given that voter fraud isn’t that big of a problem, why would Florida want to purge these people from the voter rolls? Florida is once again a swing state. It is in the position to influence the results of the 2012 presidential election. And once again, if you can’t win on the merits. win on the technicalities. Win dirty. Because Republicans, as they would like you to believe, aren’t afraid of voter fraud; they’re afraid becoming irrelevant for a long time. And they’re prepared to take any measures available to prevent that.
They’re afraid of losing.
- The GOP Sees Dead People – Voting (slate.com)
- Florida purging voter rolls (salon.com)
- DOCUMENTARY PROOF: James O’Keefe’s Latest Video Is A Fraud (thinkprogress.org)
- James O’Keefe proves, again, voter fraud is a Republican stunt (dailykos.com)
- Florida judge blocks parts of “onerous” voter registration law – CBS News (cbsnews.com)
- Voter Fraud in Florida (washingtonmonthly.com)