by Jonathan Tobin
The Washington Post’s Eugene Robinson gets on his favorite hobbyhorse today when he claims again in his column that voter ID laws are nothing more than a manifestation of racism. But in doing so, he demonstrates either his ignorance or his partisanship. Robinson and other liberals have long alleged that Republican support for laws intended to curb voter fraud are simply a way of suppressing the black vote for Democrats. To back this up, he seized on a statement made by Mike Turzai, the Republican Majority Leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, in which he said this about the state voter ID law passed by the GOP last year: “Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania — done.” Robinson represents this comment as giving away the game in which suppression of the black vote will steal Pennsylvania for the GOP as many inner city blacks don’t have driver’s licenses or a photo ID to present at the polls.
Robinson doesn’t mention that any voter can get a free photo ID from the state if they ask for one. But his recitation of statistics about those who don’t already have proof of identity leaves out a far more significant number that influenced the Pennsylvania legislature to pass the bill: 100 percent. That’s the percentage of registered voters who voted at a number of Philadelphia voter precincts in the last several elections. Indeed, as Republicans in the state capital pointed out during the debate about the voter ID law, in many parts of Philadelphia, a Democratic stronghold, voter turnout in contested elections routinely exceeds 100 percent of registered voters. But because the Democrats control the local elections board that supervises voting in the city, there is no accountability for this obvious fraud. If it is enforced, the voter ID law may make this rather flagrant method of cheating a bit more difficult this year.
That’s the problem with the complaints made by Robinson and Attorney General Eric Holder and the rest of the liberal establishment about voter ID laws. They keep telling us there is no such thing as election fraud in the United States, a point Robinson makes again today in his column. But in Pennsylvania, to seize on the example Robinson thinks is so damning, the Democrats and the unions have always been able to manufacture as many votes as they need to swing a state that otherwise leans to the Republicans. That’s what Turzai was alluding to when he said the voter ID law he helped pass would help Mitt Romney.
Romney may or may not win the Keystone State this November. Polls still show him trailing. But if Pennsylvania Democrats are no longer able to turn out voters in parts of the city where the votes cast exceed the number of registered voters, then Republicans may have a fighting chance to take the state.
Robinson works in Washington, so the dirty little secret about the way Democrats have often gained an edge in Pennsylvania politics may be news to him. But as corrupt as Philadelphia may be — and it is a city whose political culture has long been more akin to the typical urban machine cliché of the early and mid-20th century than just about any other large metropolitan area in the country — it is hardly the only place in America where politicians cheat. As I’ve noted twice in the past week, New York Congressman Charles Rangel may have won a primary against a Hispanic challenger by cooking the numbers via various methods including having the election board collude with his campaign.
If there is a possibility that legitimate registered voters won’t be allowed to vote because they don’t have driver’s licenses or another photo ID then the state has a responsibility to make sure they can get those easily. Pennsylvania has done that, but Robinson ignores it in order to make his partisan point about racism. On the other hand, it’s time for Robinson and other liberals to stop pretending that voter fraud is a myth.
Unless Robinson is prepared to tell us how it is that Philadelphia Democrats are able to produce more than 100 percent of registered voters in precincts in which the turnout is generally miniscule anytime other than an election in which the Democrats need a huge margin without resorting to fraud, then it’s time for him to pipe down. We have other things to worry about in America besides corruption. But it is an all too real problem in contemporary politics, and voter ID is one way to keep political cheaters from gaming elections.