Political ads, mailers, volunteers knocking on every door and daily news coverage. If you couldn’t tell, the presidential election is only a few months away and every candidate is jockeying for your vote.
But, how would you feel if your vote didn’t even count?
Philadelphia officials have released a report detailing that somewhere between 200 and 1,000 voting irregularities were uncovered in fewer than 1 percent of Philadelphia’s voting precincts during the 2012 primary.
These voting “irregularities” included noncitizens voting, nonregistered citizens voting, machines registering more votes for a candidate than registered voters at that polling place, and even a case of someone voting multiple times in multiple locations.
While some of these irregularities can be characterized as mistakes, others are clearly fraud. The problem with both is that they can impact the outcome of an election in the same way: By canceling out someone else’s legally cast ballot.
Thanks to these irregularities in Philadelphia, your vote in Ebensburg, Johnstown, Portage or anywhere else in Cambria County might not be counted.
We must maintain a core balance between providing citizens access to the ballot while also protecting our process from abuse and fraud.
This is why we have voter registration, poll workers, poll books, voting machines, voter ID protections and a widely publicized Election Day.
The bottom line is that America’s free and fair elections are worth protecting and we need to be proactive in doing so.
Our system has problems, though. What if Philadelphia officials expanded their study to include all of Philadelphia’s 1,600 voting divisions, instead of just the 14 or 15 they examined? How many more cases of either voting “irregularities” or fraud might they uncover?
What if this audit was expanded throughout Pennsylvania? How many more cases might we find?
Republicans, Democrats and independents should demand no less than a fair election where everyone has his or her voice heard with the same weight. This must be our standard.
Perhaps the most important question we should consider is: Who is more disenfranchised? The illegal voter who is caught and isn’t allowed to cast a ballot, or the legal voter whose vote doesn’t count because someone else broke the rules?
Our election process is absolutely worth protecting and when we have hard evidence substantiating these irregularities, such as the evidence the Philadelphia City Commissioners brought forward, we have to do something. When even Philadelphia Democrats agree that the recent findings warranted a more “thorough investigation,” it’s clear our existing process deserves to be strengthened.
That’s the fundamental purpose behind Pennsylvania’s new voter ID legislation – to create a common-sense reform that asks citizens to show photo ID to ensure each citizen’s vote carries the same weight, no matter where they live in the commonwealth.
If we know that voter irregularities exist, it’s important that the commonwealth take action to remedy the problem, especially before a presidential election – especially one as important as this year’s.
That is at the heart of voter ID. It’s about ensuring that every vote legally cast counts.
When you vote this November and have to show your ID, think of it as your personal role in protecting the rights of all Pennsylvanians to have their vote count.
Robert A. Gleason Jr. of Westmont is chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party.