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Legislative Update

Vote early and often

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Vote early and often! Is it a joke or not? Sadly, it’s becoming no laughing matter. It’s estimated that there are at least 2.5 million people registered to vote in multiple states. Here in Virginia, we have eight localities where there are more registered voters than voting age adults.

This week, the United States Supreme Court announced its ruling upholding an Ohio law intended to protect the integrity of that state’s voter rolls. Ohio state law provides that if someone hasn’t voted in 2 consecutive federal elections, they are to be sent a stamped and self-addressed envelope directed to the Ohio Department of Elections which would allow the voter to indicate that he or she still lives at the address and wishes to remain on voter rolls. In the event that the postcard is sent for four consecutive years and no reply is made, then those voters are removed from Ohio’s voter rolls. It seems reasonable, doesn’t it?

Mark Obenshain

A panoply of liberal organizations, however, charged that the law was discriminatory and that it was aimed at purging poor and minority voters from the rolls. The Supreme Court disagreed in its 5-4 opinion (click here to read in full.)

Ohio faithfully followed the procedures established under the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. That law actually requires states to implement programs that “make a reasonable effort to remove the names of ineligible voters who have died or changed their residence.” It says that states can’t simply remove somebody solely for failing to vote, but it says they can remove a voter if they fail to return a prepaid postage card intended to ascertain if they still live in the district.

That 1993 law acknowledged the balance necessary in a system that promotes free, open and fair elections. It was intended to increase voter registration but also to protect the integrity of the ballot. The integrity of the ballot is undermined when opportunities for fraud exist, irrespective of whether widespread fraud actually takes place. Were we to wait until our system is riddled with widespread fraud, it would be too late to protect the integrity of our system and the confidence of voters.

Ironically, this statutory framework that liberals are now assailing as discriminatory is one that was put initially introduced by liberal Washington State Democrat Al Swift and when it was first passed in 1991, it was vetoed by President George H. W. Bush. It passed again in virtually identical form in 1993 when both houses of Congress were under Democrat control and it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Now it seems that the liberal establishment wants free and open elections, but that they aren’t quite as concerned about that they be fair. Their mantra is “don’t worry about it unless there’s widespread fraud.”

Ohio and the Supreme Court are absolutely right and Virginia should follow suit. We have a Department of Elections in Virginia that has steadfastly opposed all efforts to ensure the integrity and accuracy of our voter rolls. We have a framework in Virginia as well for removing inactive voters who are believed to have moved, however, the Department and certain registrars across the Commonwealth have stubbornly refused to follow those procedures. The result is a growing crisis of confidence in the integrity of our electoral process in Virginia. Over recent years, multiple legislative efforts have been made to restore the notion of “fairness” to our electoral equation, but notwithstanding bipartisan support or glaring problems like those localities with more registered voters than voting age adults, they’ve been vetoed by Governors McAuliffe and Northam.

This is an issue both parties should embrace. There may be short term opportunities for one party to benefit from unfair practices or policies. At some point, however, the screw turns and today’s beneficiary will be tomorrow’s victim. This political gamesmanship with the integrity of our system of elections must end.

Best regards,
Mark Obenshain

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Leonard Sherp

    June 15, 2018 at 10:34 am

    Senator Obenshain,

    Your concern for free and fair elections is admirable, but your focus on voter fraud is laughable. Despite the countless Republican drum beat about hordes of illegal voters threatening to bring our democracy to its knees and numerous investigations seeking to prove it–including a commission assembled at the behest of our current president who out of thin air claimed millions of illegal voters in California kept him from winning the popular vote–no one has been able to produce anything other than a handful of cases of actual voter fraud over the course of many elections and many years.

    On the other hand, every major intelligence U.S. intelligence agency and even the report of the ridiculously partisan House Intelligence Committee have concluded that Vladimir Putin, the Russian governemnt and various individual Russians and Russian entities mounted a major multi-faceted campaign to influence the 2016 elections, with all but that same House Committee Report in agreement that the object was to help the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump. Since then the Trump Administration has done absolutely nothing to prevent Russia from meddling in future elections, including this fall’s mid-terms. In fact, even Trump-appointed intelligence offgicials have expressed their views that it is likely that the Russians are already at work to affect the November campaigns. Where, sir, is your outrage for this real and pending danger?

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