Norman Ornstein Fixes America's Broken Election System

On June 25 in Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act (1965). This decision has raised a lot concern about democracy in America. Not to put too fine a point on it, the debate over elections in America is divided into those who worry about access, voter suppression, and making voting and registration easier, and those who worry about election theft due to voter fraud. One side thinks that the new voter ID requirements are an unnecessary impediment, while the other side insists that something more substantial than a utility bill should be required to take part in determining the course of our nation. Both sides in this debate make valid points.

On July 17 in "Let's enact a new Voting Rights Act" at the Washington Post, Norman Ornstein lists four reforms he thinks should be enacted to fix America's broken election system. The fourth reform holds promise:

●A Social Security card as a valid voter ID. Any American citizen who can provide proof of a valid Social Security number should be able to obtain, free, a Social Security card with a photo. It should be mandated as acceptable for identification wherever a photo ID is required to vote. Such cards should be available not just at Social Security offices but also at post offices.

Using our de facto national ID for voting is a terrific idea. But Mr. Ornstein expects citizens to travel to certain federal offices, "provide proof" that they are eligible, and have their photo taken. That doesn't seem much different from the various photo ID requirements recently enacted by the states that progressives consider such a huge burden. Besides, Americans already have SSN cards; why can't they just use them to vote?

Mr. Ornstein doesn't seem to understand the larger implications of his proposal, for earlier in his article, he writes:

No more provisional ballots or access denied if someone shows up at the wrong polling place [...]. Why shouldn't Americans be able to vote at any nearby polling center?

But if folks can vote anywhere with their new SSN-ID, how does Mr. Ornstein propose to stop them from voting more than once? Without an answer to that, Ornstein is opening the floodgates to fraud.

Ornstein also urges a "new voter registration regime":

The United States is the only major democracy where the burden of registering to vote is on the citizen. The default should be that eligible citizens are presumed registered, with same-day voter registration available for those not registered via their draft registration or driver's license.

But if "eligible citizens are presumed registered," why would they need "same-day" registration? Mr. Ornstein sidles up to a good idea, but can't quite make the final connection.

Norman Ornstein is a resident scholar at American Enterprise Institute. It's heartening that a thinker at a major think tank might think of something unusually thoughtful, but Ornstein needs to think harder and deeper. He doesn't seem to be able to fire that final electron across that last synapse. Ornstein's page at AEI shows nothing that would flesh out his ideas.

If Ornstein had thought through all this, he'd be an advocate of "automatic voter registration." With automatic voter registration, citizens don't need to do anything to get registered -- the government does it for them. But don't confuse automatic voter registration with universal voter registration; they're completely different. UVR is just another Democrat scheme. (To understand the difference between automatic and universal registration, read this short article and watch the video of John Fund. The article also has links to two fine articles on UVR by James Simpson at American Thinker.)

If conservatives would agree to the automatic registration of all citizens, would progressives then agree to reforms that would make election fraud impossible, including the fraud committed by election officials: i.e., vote counters? It was allegedly vote counters in Minnesota, Ornstein's home state, which got Ornstein's buddy Al Franken "elected" to the U.S. Senate. And it was allegedly vote counters that put Christine Gregoire in the Washington state governor's mansion. But such allegations can't be proven to everyone's satisfaction. However, neither can the vote counts of alleged victors be demonstrated. That's why elections in America are strictly "banana republic," (if that's an adjective).

Nonetheless, I'm thrilled that someone else is advocating the SSN as a valid voter ID; I've been advocating it for years.

Jon N. Hall is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

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