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Carol Platt Liebau - Columnist

Carol Platt Liebau is editorial director and a senior member of the editorial board. She is an attorney, political analyst and commentator based in San Marino, CA, and has appeared on the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CNN, Orange County News Channel, Cox Cable and a variety of radio programs throughout the United States. A graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School, Carol Platt Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. [go to Liebau index]

What the Franchise is Worth
It’s Time to Start Protecting the Integrity of the Vote
[Carol Platt Liebau] 10/11/04

Last Saturday, the light from Lady Liberty’s lamp illuminated the poor, war-ravaged country of Afghanistan. Ten million Afghanis, a huge proportion of the population, had registered to vote – and forty percent of them were women, long despised and oppressed under the Taliban regime (it’s surprising we haven’t heard more praise for the liberation of Afghanistan from the feminists, isn’t it?). Citizens of both sexes flooded the polls, undeterred by uncoordinated hit and run attacks by the enemies of freedom.

In South Africa, where blacks lived for years under the evils of apartheid, true democratic elections occurred for the first time in 1994. In the run up to elections that year, almost 12,000 were killed – but despite the violence, more than 22 million voters stood in line for hours so that they could vote.

One of President Reagan’s favorite anecdotes was about a Salvadoran woman who was shot in the leg by guerrillas on Election Day, but refused to go to the hospital before casting her ballot. And as President Reagan never hesitated to remind us, our Founding Fathers risked their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to establish a country where government rests on the consent of the governed, expressed (albeit imperfectly, for many years) through the ballot box.

Today, however, some would have us believe that Americans have become too timid or too selfish to do what’s required to keep our electoral system free of systemic fraud. Measures designed to ensure that only the eligible vote are deemed “intimidating” or “inconvenient.”

In 2004, to board an airplane or to cash a check, government-issued identification is required. But to exercise one of the most precious civic rights of all – the right to vote – well, that generally requires nothing. Showing up and giving a name is sufficient, unless one registered by mail and failed to provide verification with the application. In California – as in approximately 25 or more other states across the country – no identification whatsoever need be presented at the polls.

To many Democrats, simply the request to display identification at the polls is somehow inherently “intimidating” – as is any indication that the government will be protecting the integrity of the vote. Perhaps people in other countries can face violence and chaos in order to cast a ballot, but many on the left allegedly fear that Americans will surrender their right to the franchise because they are asked to present a driver’s license.

It goes without saying that there is no place for any voter intimidation in a free society – and if some were some identified, it should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. But this insistence that the descendents of those who bravely fought Jim Crow – and confronted real threats or actual bodily harm in order to vote – will be frightened away by the prospect of showing a driver’s license is as ludicrous as it is demeaning.

Other changes to the franchise are constantly advocated by groups like Democracy Works, People for the American Way, and ACORN. Because voting isn’t “convenient” enough, they support same-day registration (which could flood the ballot box with votes of those not legally entitled to participate), while unions have been big proponents of Election Day holidays (all the better to coerce their rank and file members to campaign for the union’s chosen candidate). The desire to introduce voting procedures so amenable to fraud might even suggest that those who support them are more interested in winning elections than in winning them fairly.

If citizens of violence-plagued countries like Afghanistan, South Africa and El Salvador can muster the courage and find the time to stand up and be counted, surely Americans can be trusted to do the same. If we are to expect people to vote responsibly, we must have the confidence that they can act responsibly about voting.

Americans are the heirs to the greatest democracy the world has ever known. Across the world, millions of people struggle for and dream of the free and fair elections that Americans take for granted. Perhaps it’s time for us to do a little more to ensure the integrity of the votes that are cast, and cater a little less to that pitiable group – too timid to produce ID, too busy to vote absentee or in person – that can’t quite be bothered with having a voice in their own future. CRO

Columnist Carol Platt Liebau is a political analyst, commentator and editorial director based in San Marino, CA. Ms. Liebau also served as the first female managing editor of the Harvard Law Review. Her web log can be found at

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