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Baker-Carter commission recommends national voter ID card

Raw Story | September 20 2005

A voting reform commission which has already taken heat for playing host to sham voting rights groups run by members of the Bush-Cheney campaign has now recommended the institution of a national voter ID card.

The full recommendations of the commission, led by erstwhile Secretary of State James Baker III and former President Jimmy Carter, can be found here.

Among other major recommendations, the commission calls for voter verifiable paper trails for electronic voting machines, and elections run by nonpartisan officials rather than party-affiliated secretaries of state.

Three commissioners sharply disagreed with the national voter ID card proposal. Joined by two others, former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle (S.D.). likened the ID to a "modern day poll tax."

Other commissioners expressed their support.

"Opponents of a voter photo ID argue that requiring one is unnecessary and discriminatory," commissioner Susan Molinari wrote. "In 2004, elections in Washington state and Wisconsin were decided by illegal votes."

Molinari said the commission included measures that would prevent the cards from being an undue burden on those of lower incomes.

"The safeguards include initiatives to locate those voters without IDs and provide them one without cost," she added. "Under the recommendation, eligible votes can cast a provisional ballot that will be counted if they present their photo ID within 48 hours."

Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who led investigation into rampant voting irregularities in Ohio during the 2004 presidential election, quickly attacked the report. Staff estimated that millions of people would be made ineligible to vote should if legislation were enacted.

"I am shocked that this Commission has decided to take us several giant steps back in the march for voting rights by recommending a national ID requirement for voters," Conyers said in a statement. "This would inevitably disenfranchise minority voters and the most vulnerable among us -- those who live in poverty and the elderly. Rather than gathering facts and then developing policy recommendations that follow from those facts, this Commission appeared to have developed its recommendations and simply went through the motions of a fair and deliberative process. At the very first hearing of this Commission, this voter ID proposal was mentioned twenty-two times."

He said civil rights groups had essentially been 'barred' from testifying.

"Cvil rights groups were essentially barred from the process," Conyers said. "The only input from the civil rights community (Barbara Arnwine from the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law) was essentially ignored on this critical issue. If they had spent more time on the issue, they would realize that there are incredibly few documented cases of voter fraud to even respond to via legislation."

The Commission weathered an earlier scandal which was not reported by the mainstream press. Within weeks of the Commission's founding, invitations were issued to the American Center for Voting Rights.

ACVR was a sham group set up by two members of the Bush Cheney campaign -- including the former spokesman for the Republican National Committee. Their intent was to push for voter IDs, by claiming the existence of rampant voter fraud which was, in fact, rare.

Mark Hearne, one of the group's leaders, was the national general counsel for the Bush/Cheney '04 campaign; former Republican National Committee spokesman Jim Dyke was the other. Dyke pioneered “astroturf” letters, or letters to the editor that appear to be written by constituents but instead are drafted by political operatives. During the 2004 election, Dyke traveled the country creating what appear to be front groups to disseminate anti-Kerry disinformation. He was also the source of many of the registration irregularity complaints generated in Ohio, and recently set up a Social Security lobby group.

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