TOM WARD - Keep Voter ID, repair messed up voter rolls

TOM WARD - Keep Voter ID, repair messed up voter rolls

While most of us are focused on the Rhode Island governor's race among Democrat Gina Raimondo, Republican Allan Fung and Moderate Bob Healey, I was surprised by a recent comment in the quieter secretary of state's race.

Last Sunday, Oct. 4, The Providence Journal had a front page story which noted that our state had 180,000 people on the voting rolls who didn't belong there. Reported Paul Edward Parker, "and 20 of Rhode Island's 39 municipalities, from the largest city to the smallest town, had more registered voters than it had citizens old enough to vote." Really? The big problem, according to John Lindback, executive director of The Electronic Registration Information Center, is when people move, or die. It's taking far too long to get the voting rolls cleaned up, and some Rhode Island state laws slow the process. Reform is needed.

So along comes a good idea, now in 11 states. Reports the Journal, "The Electronic Registration Information Center - known by the acronym ERIC - is a consortium of states that shares their voting databases and motor vehicle databases with one another - with sensitive information, such as Social Security number and date of birth, protected. The consortium also monitors the postal change-of-address database and the database of all deaths nationwide that have been reported to the Social Security Administration."

This makes a lot of sense, right? The cost? It is $25,000 to join ERIC, plus a portion of the group's $530,000 yearly budget. By contrast, our part-time General Assembly's budget is $40 million each year.

In the story, candidate for secretary of state, Democrat Nellie Gorbea, states the obvious: "We should definitely be a part of that. I want to make sure the government works for people, and that means making sure that elections are fair and accurate."

Her opponent, Republican John Carlevale, flubs his answer, or at least the "political" part of it, by stating: "I can't render an opinion at the moment because I don't know what they (ERIC) do." While Carlevale appears to be honest and thoughtful, it doesn't work here.

But that's not what's so interesting about this. What is odd to me, and what puts a chasm between Gorbea and Carlevale, is their opposite stands on the state's new Voter ID law. Used fully for the first time in the recent primary, it worked smoothly, despite the protests from very few on far left. The law is simple, and citizens "get it." When you go to vote, you show a valid photo ID. While the state's progressives howl that it disenfranchises minority voters, they conveniently neglect to mention that the bill was championed by two African-American legislators, Rep. Anastasia Williams and Sen. Harold Metts. Both leaders recognized that they were getting the shaft in their Providence districts, with (in their view) unrecognized illegal voters turning up at the polls. In a very important vote, championed by Democrat Secretary of State Ralph Mollis, Voter ID was enacted.

Back to our terrible voting rolls and 180,000 "extra" voters on our lists. It used to be pretty easy for persons of bad intent with a bit of time and money to find out the names of relocated or dead people and get other people (including illegal immigrants) to the polls using the valid names. Voter ID limits voter fraud, it is overwhelmingly supported, and it's working well.

Now circle back to Gorbea, who tells the Journal "I want to make sure the government works for people, and that means making sure that elections are fair and accurate."

But she is also against Voter ID and wants to kill it. Really.

Carlevale, the former CCRI professor and Operation Clean Government board member, has made it clear that if he is elected secretary of state, he will continue vigorous support of Voter ID and work to keep it state law. It's too bad Carlevale doesn't have much money. On this one issue, I believe he could easily win.

It's simple. Americans and Rhode Islanders overwhelmingly believe that if you want fair elections, you support Voter ID. And only Carlevale supports keeping Voter ID as law.

Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze newspapers


The liberal position is that voter ID laws disenfranchise the poor. Since "minorities" are overrepresented among those considered poor, the laws end up disenfranchising people of color. You're missing a couple of links in the chain Ward. Just because a law is, in your opinion, "simple" doesn't preclude its complex effects.

The fact that two African-American legislators championed the bill does not, therefore, make the law color-blind. The "progressive media" doesn't mention this because African-Americans are not a homogenous group that thinks and acts and believes in the same things. Again, "progressives" view it as an issue that unfairly affects the poor, which includes white people.

In an article about voter fraud it's interesting that no actual case of voter fraud appears. This article merely suggests voter fraud and claims that it's theoretically possible, so it's safe to assume that it probably happened in the last few decades. Rep. Williams and Senator Metts think that voter fraud exists based merely on stuff they heard or suspicions they have. If we make laws based on stuff we hear, we're going to be in a world of hurt.

GotLogic got me thinking about the last case of voter fraud that I remembered seeing in any RI newspaper. The cases were in Pawtucket, and they involved people who registered to vote there using business addresses, one a group home, the other the voter's father's business. Would a photo ID have made any difference?

The simplest, most low budget way of catching at least some fraud would be to publish the voter list on a public web site on which the public might comment regarding deceased voters, people who moved in-state or out-of-state, business addresses, closed nursing homes, etc.

I am currently working on a State Senate campaign, and I can tell you, firsthand, that the state's voter rolls are a mess. This is a clear indicator that our state agencies remain largely siloed, and do not communicate with one another. I would think that there are enough people in our state government who know how to use an Excel spreadsheetto fix this toute de suite, as we say in Woonsocket. If the rolls were purged of the deceased and RI expats, Voter ID would not be necessary.

David for having the spine to identify yourself. I am firmly convinced that nameless "monikers" do nothing to advance an issue - only cloud it. When people must identify themselves they tend to refrain from personal attacks AND usually are more careful about what they say.

On this subject, only somebody with an agenda endorsing vote fraud would not support voter ID. What possible TRUTH is not being told here you may ask? The facts in this state alone support vigorous enforcement of voter ID. The old affordability argument is a red herring and they know it but, keep using it because it is all they have. People cannot vote more than once legally and this is the ONLY way to put that in check. You need ID to do virtually everything else worthwhile so why not voting?