Better Safe than Sorry: How Strong Voter Identification Laws Can Protect Louisianans Against the Double-Sided Coin of Voter Disenfranchisement

AuthorJulia d'Hemecourt
Louisiana Law Review
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Better Safe than Sorry: How Strong Voter
Identification Laws Can Protect Louisianans Against
the Double-Sided Coin of Voter Disenfranchisement
Voting in the names of the dead, and the nonexistent, and the
too-mentally-impaired to function, cancels out the votes of citizens
who are exercising their rights—that’s suppression by any light. If
you doubt it exists, I don’t; I’ve heard the peddlers of these ballots
brag about it, I’ve been asked to provide the funds for it, and I am
confident it has changed at least a few close local election results.1
- Congressman Artur Davis
Since the 2000 presidential election, voter fraud has earned a
permanent spot in the political discourse.2 Some claim the problem
is nonexistent,3 while others point to history4 and criminal
Copyright 2014, by JULIA D’HEMECOURT.
1. Artur Davis, I Should Have Supported Voter ID Law, RECOVERING
POLITICIAN ( Oct. 21, 2011),
/adavis/artur-davis-i-should-have-supported-voter-id-law [
LAHE] (archived Apr. 5, 2014). The Honorable Artur Davis is a former U.S.
congressman from Alabama’s 7th Congressional District.
2. See John Harwood, Fixing the Electoral System: Lessons From States
Hold Hope for Reform, WALL ST. J., Dec. 22, 2001, at A1; Randall Forsyth,
Crucial Choice, BARRONS, Nov. 1, 2004; Laurence Hammack, Appalachia’s Ex-
Mayor Convicted Of 243 Felonies, ROANOKE TIM ES (Dec. 1, 2006), []
(archived Apr. 5, 2014); Kenneth R. Bazinet, Both Sides Target Voter Fraud,
Abuse, DAILY NEWS WASH. BURE AU (Nov. 02, 2008), http://www.nydailynews
[] (archived Apr. 5, 2014).
3. See John Wasik, Voter Fraud: A Massive, Anti- Democratic Deception,
FORBES (Nov. 6, 2012),
fraud-a-massive-anti-democratic-deception/ [ /5WDA-5LLE]
(archived Apr. 5, 2014).
4. See Publius, Securing the Integrity of American Elections: The Need for
Change, 9 TEX. REV. L. & POL. 277, 278–79 (2005) (reviewing the allegations of
Lyndon Johnson’s “famed theft of his 1948 U.S. Senate Democratic primary with
Ballot Box 13” and Mayor Daly’s “long-rumored stuffing of ballots in Chicago on
behalf of John Kennedy”); Matthew Haye Brown, Democrat Withdraws from 1st
District Congressional Race After Allegations She Voted in Two States, BALT.
SUN (Sept. 14, 2012),
wendy-rosen-withdraws-20120910_1_ general-election-voter-fraud-vote-o n-local-
issues [] (archived Apr. 5, 2014) (voting records show
that Rosen participated in both the 2006 general election and the 2008 primary
election in Florida and Maryland).
convictions to bolster their calls for reform.5 One reform sweeping
through the states is an effort to strengthen voter identification
laws.6 The strongest of these laws requires voters to show valid
photo identification before voting.7 The theory behind these laws is
that many in-person voter fraud attempts will be thwarted if a voter
is required to prove his or her identity by standing directly in front
of the poll worker and showing an identification that matches the
information in the voting registry.8 These strict measures have
attracted vocal proponents who stress that they are commonsense
solutions to all types of in-person voter fraud9 and vocal opponents
who decry the efforts as thinly veiled attempts to disenfranchise
The issue of disenfranchisement is a double-sided coin because
both sides of the debate can make a case for disenfranchisement.11
On one side of the coin, turning a voter away from the polls for lack
of identification directly disenfranchises that voter of his or her right
to vote. But on the other side of the coin, “[e]very vote that is stolen
through fraud disenfranchises a voter who has cast a legitimate
ballot.”12 Thus, protecting the fundamental right to vote requires a
balancing of both of these concerns.13 Using an honor system to
identify voters at the polls gives the broadest protection against
direct disenfranchisement—that of erroneously turning away
eligible voters—but the honor system allows individuals to commit
5. See Thomas Patterson, They Say Voter Fraud Doesn’t Exist. They’re
Wrong., E. VALLEY TRIB. (Oct. 17, 2012),
/opinion/columnists/article_18c26 d8c-17ee-11e2-b85c-0019bb2963 f4.html [http:
//] (archived Apr. 5, 2014) (noting that there have been
177 convictions to date for voter fraud in connection with Al Franken’s 2008
Minnesota Senate victory over Norm Coleman, which he won by only 312 votes,
and the conviction of NAACP official Lessadolla Sowers for massive voter fraud
in Mississippi).
6. See Voter ID: State Requirements, NATL CONF. ST. LEGISLATURES (Sept.
2, 2012, 5:31 PM),
id.aspx [] (archived Apr. 5, 2014).
7. See id.; discussion infra Part III.
8. H.R. REP. NO. 106-666 at 1 (2006) (“Presenting photo identification when
voting provides a simple and effective method for election officials to confirm
identity and eligibility.”).
9. See supra note 2.
10. See supra note 3.
11. Publius, supra note 4, at 278 (“Every vote that is stolen through fraud
disenfranchises a voter who has cast a legitimate ballot in the same way that an
individual who is eligible to vote is disenfranchised when he is kept out of a poll
or is somehow otherwise prevented from casting a ballot.”).
12. Id.
13. See Harper v. Va. State Bd. of Elections, 383 U.S. 663, 667 (1966);
Michelle L. Robertson, Election Fraud—Winning at All Costs: Election Fraud in
the Third Circuit Marks v. Stinson, 40 V ILL. L. REV. 869, 923 n.1 (1995).

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