A Republican election official in north suburban Lake County is using a slew
of "compromised" voter registration forms to stoke concern about the potential for election fraud on
November 4. If she gets her way, County Clerk Willard Helander may even institute a ...
A Republican election official in north suburban Lake County is using a slew of "compromised" voter registration forms to stoke concern about the potential for election fraud on November 4. If she gets her way, County Clerk Willard Helander may even institute a de facto voter ID law in certain precincts, which has the potential to disenfranchise countless voters.
Starting in mid-August, Helander's staff began flagging questionable mail-in voter registration applications -- over 1,000 in total by the time the October 7 registration deadline passed. All told, those cards make up a fairly small fraction of the 28,020 new registrations fielded by the clerk since the summer. They've since been set aside for investigation by the county's state's attorney and sheriff offices.
Even though the "compromised" registrations have not been added to the voter rolls, Helander has asked the state's attorney whether she could legally require voters to present some form of identification in the precincts where most of the problematic forms originated. Incidentally, those areas -- Waukegan, North Chicago, and Zion -- tend to lean Democratic. As such, this proposal raises questions about whether the Republican official is simply intent on overseeing a fair election or using broad concerns about "voter fraud" to suppress Democratic votes in the county, which will play a pivotal role in the tight race for the 10th Congressional District.
"There's a clear difference between registration problems and election fraud," said University of Illinois at Chicago political science professor Dick Simpson when asked about the case. "Probably some of them are legitimate mistakes. The election fraud comes down to whether you actually try to vote dead people."
Indeed, a recent Indianapolis Star article quoted an election law expert noting the scant evidence that bogus voter registrations actually lead to fraud at the ballot box:
[A]n independent voting law expert dismissed concerns that the application flap creates a significant opportunity for voter fraud in Indiana.
Nathaniel Persily, a Columbia Law School professor, said registration fraud is very different from actual voter fraud, which occurs at the polls.
"The effect is not going to change the outcome of the election or allow imaginary people to vote," he said.
NYU's Brennan Center for Justice has also looked into the recurring allegations of voter fraud from the right in previous election years and found that they generally "amount to a great deal of smoke without much fire."
One group that Helander is citing as a source of many questionable registrations is the Voters Participation Center (VPC). VPC works under the umbrella of the Women's Voices/Women's Vote project, which set out in August to add one million unmarried women to the voter rolls nationwide. VPC spokeswoman Sarah Johnson said some of the mistakes can be attributed to the way information on the unregistered population is gathered.
According to Johnson, VCP hired a commercial data company to identify each of potential voters by compiling magazine and newspaper subscription lists, cross-checking them against voter registration files, and then sending out the applications in bulk. It was up to those who received the forms to complete the process themselves and VPC says 66,860 women in Illinois did just that.
While Women's Voices/Women's Vote's registration methods have been the subject of deserved criticism, there's no evidence that they've led to voter fraud. "We're clearly not impeaching on any sort of fraudulent behavior," Johnson said. "Our goal is registering and getting people out to vote."
But now that the faulty registrations have been weeded out, the real problem could be Helander's idea to enforce an ID requirement in certain precincts -- just two weeks before Election Day -- thereby potentially blocking legitimate voters who don't bring along the required identification.
Helander counters that such disenfranchisement is not her intention. "I don't care where you live, what your interests or who you support," she said. "My job is to make sure that everyone has the fair opportunity to vote."
If you do not have a driver’s license, State Identification Card or social security number, and this form is submitted by mail, and you have never registered to vote in the jurisdiction you are now registering in, then you must send, with this application, either (i) a copy of a current and valid photo identification, or (ii) a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the name and address of the voter. If you do not provide the information required above, then you will be required to provide election officials with either (i) or (ii) described above the first time you vote at a voting place or by absentee ballot.
Everyone in Illinois has had to prove their identity or they do so when they first vote. There’s no point in checking everyone when anyone who is a new registrant by mail has to provide proof of identity already.