By Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee’s Summit
Voter fraud is an issue in Missouri, and voter impersonation fraud is a crime that is potentially falling through the cracks in our current system. In the last several weeks, the Missouri Senate has been considering implementing a voter photo identification requirement, House Bill 1631, as well as a resolution that would give Missourians a vote on allowing these requirements, House Joint Resolution 53. Despite critics’ claims to the contrary, Missourians should be concerned about the issue of voter fraud.
It is a fact that there are people who are attempting to cheat the elections process in Missouri. A particularly discouraging example occurred in the November 2012 election in Jackson County. A woman arrived at the poll to vote, but was told she had already cast a ballot. After adamantly insisting that she had not, the election authority showed her a register where another person had signed and cast a vote as her. Sadly, this voter was only able to cast a provisional ballot, and the impersonator was never caught. This is an example of how voting fraud not only compromises the integrity of our elections, but stifles the voice of legitimate voters.
The evidence that there are malicious individuals willing to cheat elections goes on. There have been several other cases of election fraud in the last two years alone.
In April 2015, the Greene County prosecutor received a complaint about a case of double voting in the April election. The individual later pled guilty. Also in April 2015, a mayor-elect in Kinloch, Missouri, was barred from taking office due to possible voter-fraud in the election. The St. Louis County prosecutor has yet to file charges in the case. In May 2014, petitioners in Boone County were investigated for forging signatures of deceased individuals on initiative petitions that were then filed with the Secretary of State’s office.
These recent cases of voting fraud demonstrate that the system is vulnerable to fraud. This is not an exhaustive list, and it is impossible to know how many cases of election fraud are going undetected. Critics of legislation protecting the elections process claim voter fraud is not taking place in Missouri, which unfortunately, simply is not true.
Critics of voter ID often point out that there are few cases of convicted voter impersonation fraud. This absence is not convincing in showing voter impersonation does not happen, because there is currently no mechanism to detect this type of fraud. At the time of voting, election authorities cannot confirm an individual is the person they are claiming to be. The truth is, there is no way to know if voter impersonation fraud is taking place in Missouri or not.
Past estimates from the Secretary of State’s office leave an estimated 200,000 of Missouri’s nearly 4.2 million eligible voters without photo IDs, though this estimate does include inactive voters who could be deceased or have moved out of state. It is reasonable to ask the 4 million individuals with ID’s to confirm their identity when casting votes for our political leaders. House Bill 1631, the bill I’m handling that would implement voter ID laws after a vote of the people, contains several provisions helping those without ID’s obtain one, certain exemptions for age, and the ability to vote provisionally. The goal of this bill is to allow everyone their constitutional right to vote, while protecting the integrity of the election.
A final example of voter fraud demonstrates how voter fraud can and does influence the final outcome of elections, and eventually public policy, in Missouri. In 2010, a Kansas City-area state representative won his primary election by one vote. Later, the candidate’s aunt and uncle pled guilty to voter fraud in the same election. The representative is still currently serving in the Legislature. Choosing not to guard against election fraud allows the will of the people, those who voted properly and legally, to be overturned.
The foundation of our democratic process is free elections. America is built upon the principal of ‘one person, one vote,’ and cannot function without it. Because preserving this integrity is so vital to our government and our freedom, it is worthwhile to ensure that what may seem like a small amount of fraud in the election process does not turn into major amounts of fraud. Fair elections, free from manipulation, are something every American should hold dear, and we must make protecting them a priority.