In response to the voter fraud scandals that have beset Rhode Island over the past few days, top figures in the N.J. Republican delegation told the Ocean State Current that electoral irregularities are “rampant” and “widespread” in their own state.
Democratic congressional candidate Anthony Gemma has released sworn statements from witnesses who claim that Rep. David Cicilline’s mayoral and congressional campaigns have benefitted from voter fraud since 2002. Gemma is challenging Cicilline in the Sept. 11 Democratic primary. John Arcaro, a Democratic candidate for House District 59, claims he has come across seven names illegally registered to vote in the primary. Four are green card holders who are not permitted to vote and three are illegally registered at places of business.
“Voter fraud is real and rampant in certain parts of New Jersey such as Southern Hudson County,” State Sen. Gerald Cardinale said in an interview at the Sirata Beach Resort in Tampa, Florida, where the delegation is gathered. “A voter identification law would make sense, but the Democrats here would never let it happen. That’s unfortunate because people in both parties are the victims of voter fraud, and we should hold high standards to ensure ballot integrity.”
The situation in Rhode Island demonstrates that both parties have good cause to be concerned that fraudulent activities effectively cancel votes from people who are legally registered, Cardinale said.
“I’m not familiar with the specific allegations in Rhode Island, but it does say to me that this should not be a partisan issue,” Cardinale continued. “You have one Democrat making allegations about another Democrat. We know voter fraud is commonplace in parts of Jersey, and we should come together to find a solution.”
Rep. Chris Smith (R, NJ) said that there is “no question” that voter fraud occurs in New Jersey.
“We need a clean democracy, and that means clean elections and more vigilance to protect the ballots,” he said. “The people who commit fraud should be held accountable.”
When he first ran for Congress in 1978, Smith lost to incumbent Democrat Frank Thompson, but prevailed in a 1980 rematch, the same year Ronald Reagan was elected president. Smith identified Mercer County as an area where there was, and probably still is, a strong potential for voter fraud.
“We had 2,000 ineligible voters on the rolls in 1980,” he said. “Thompson also worked to keep the machines open in Trenton, where he said people had trouble making it to polls because of bad weather. But I think there was something else going on. Thompson was trying to see how many votes he needed to win.”
Maria Bua, the former GOP chair in Mercer County, said a concerted effort needs to be made to root out fraud.
“There is a problem with college students who get registered here while they have an address, and with people who use businesses as their registration address,” she said. “This means we have people voting in our elections who probably are not eligble.”
Rhode Island is the only state with a Democratic legislature to pass a new photo voter ID requirement in response to voter fraud allegations since 2011. The move puts the Ocean State in company with Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The constitutionality of photo ID requirements was affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 2008 case. Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, South Dakota, and Indiana have had photo ID statues in effect for several years.
Most recently, a state judge upheld Pennsylvania’s photo ID law. The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has moved to block implementation of the new photo ID laws in South Carolina and Texas under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA).
Section 5, which was set up to guard against racial discrimination, requires Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and parts of California, Florida, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, and South Dakota to obtain approval from the DOJ for election changes. Texas and South Carolina are both countersuing the DOJ, but Texas is also challenging the constitutionality of VRA’s Section 5.
Rhode Island State Sen. Harold Metts, the lead sponsor of the voter ID law that is now operative in Rhode Island, sees room for common ground.
“The key word is balance,” Metts, a Democrat in Providence, has said. “Voter fraud is real; it has a history here in Rhode Island; and it is a problem in other states. What we did here was very reasonable and very necessary, and I think we can be a model for other states. I certainly think it’s possible to have too many requirements and to create too many hurdles and burdens. That might be true in the more conservative states; it’s not true here.”
Rhode Island’s new law was tested for the first time during April’s presidential primary, when voters were asked to show drivers’ licenses, passports, birth certificates, or health club IDs. Voters who did not have the necessary identification were permitted to cast provisional ballots. Beginning in 2014, only a photo ID will be accepted, but the state will provide free IDs to anyone who needs them, and provisional ballots will remain in effect for anyone who lacks an ID on Election Day
Left-leaning special interest groups such as the ACLU, the Advancement Project, Project Vote, and the Brennan Center for Justice claim that voter ID laws tend to disenfranchise minorities. But Metts, who is African American, views the ID laws as a necessary protection against fraud.
“There’s always a concern about disenfranchisement, and we should make every effort to ensure that everyone who is eligible to vote can vote,” Metts said. “But it got to the point where there was a such fear over disenfranchisement that people just buried their heads when it came time to deal with voter fraud, and that was not healthy for our democracy.”
Metts initially took action because several of his own constituents were the victims of voter fraud, he explained. While it is possible to put too many restrictions and requirements in place, this has not happened in Rhode Island, and it does not need to be an issue in other states.
“Again, the key word is ‘balance,’ and we need to be responsive to constituents who know voter fraud takes place here, and I’m sure there are legitimate concerns in other states.”
Of the following two issues related to Rhode Island’s public schools, which one is a greater concern?