At last Thursday's Republican Debate --- the one which the four Republican front-runners refused to attend --- sponsored by PBS and hosted by (egad!) African-American broadcaster Tavis Smiley, the question of Photo ID restrictions on voters was raised by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Cynthia Tucker.
California Rep. Duncan Hunter's answer was interesting. And it's no small matter given that trying to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning voters seems to be Strategy #1 (once again, but moreso than ever) for the desperate GOP in 2008.
That's just one of the reasons why Barack Obama's block of the Dem "deal" to slide through the nomination of Bush's evil GOP anti-voter zealot, Hans von Spakovsky, to the FEC today is so important.
Tucker's question from last Thursday: "Many voting rights advocates are worried about rigid voter ID laws which require photo ID like a driver's license. Are you concerned that some eligible voters will be denied the right to vote simply because they don't have a driver's license?"
Hunter's imaginative answer: "We have right now a real danger of people that are illegally in the country being rounded up, herded into the polls, we've seen that in California, voting illegally. That disenfranchises everybody in that community."
Really? We've "seen that in California," have we? Undocumented (illegal) aliens being "rounded up [and] herded into the polls" and "voting illegally"?
Living out here in the Golden State, we hadn't heard of that one. And we do follow these issues fairly closely. So we checked with Hunter's campaign to find out if they could offer any examples of such illegal votes from herded aliens in our state...
We sent an email inquiry to two different email addresses for Hunter's campaign communication director, Roy Tyler. One was sent to the email address listed on Hunter's campaign website, the other was given to us when we called his campaign office to inquire after not receiving a response to our first email. The woman who answered the phone at his Presidential campaign office refused to take a message, saying that they don't speak to the campaign's communication director, so she wouldn't be able to pass on my message or my phone number. The second email address she gave us was not answered by Tyler either.
We then contacted Hunter's Congressional office, leaving a voice mail for communications director Joe Kasper. As well, his office recommended we send an email to him, which we did. Kasper has similarly not responded to our queries seeking details of Hunter's claim.
So we'll do what Hunter and both of his offices failed to do, and that's try to give some information on what the hell we think that he thinks he must have been talking about.
Our best guess as to what Hunter imagines he was referring to was the contested House election in California's 46th district between Loretta Sanchez (D) and Bob Dornan (R) in 1996. Sanchez was ultimately declared the winner by less than 1000 votes. Dornan then contested the election, alleging thousands of illegal votes by non-citizens.
Actual evidence, as opposed to wild, unsupported allegations by Republicanist media outlets is difficult to come by. But what happened in that race --- after a lot of Googling and even purchased articles from newspaper archives, far more research than we suspect Hunter ever did before making his unfounded accusations in a Presidential Debate --- seems to be this:
Sketchy evidence from 14 months of county, state, and federal investigations suggests that there were some non-citizens who may have voted in the election, though not enough to change the election results even if they did. They did so without the intent of knowingly violating the law. Most of the allegations had to do with an Hispanic group that had registered immigrants to vote as they were preparing to become U.S. citizens. Most of those registrants had, in fact, become citizens by the time they actually voted.
Dornan contested the election under the Federal Contested Elections Act. The challenge was eventually dismissed in a lopsided 378 to 33 vote in the Republican majority-led U.S. House in 1998. That vote came on the heels of an 8 to 1 recommendation by the Republican majority-led House Oversight Committee, after a Republican majority-led task force, comprised of Republicans Bob Ney (now-jailed) and Vernon Ehlers (now ranking member of the House Admin Comm. who replaced Ney when he went to jail) and Democrat Steny Hoyer (now House Majority leader) ran an 18-month investigation into the allegations.
At the state level, the D.A. in heavily Republican Orange County and Republican Secretary of State Bill Jones both investigated the matter as well. Both state investigations ultimately decided against bringing any voter fraud indictments. Both were unable to prove that anyone had the intent of voting illegally, deciding instead that the voters in question "had registered in error and not from criminal intent," according to Lorraine Minnite's 1993 Demos report on "Securing the Vote: an analysis of Election Fraud" [PDF, see pages 40 to 42].
All told, according to Minnite, some $1.4 million in tax-payer dollars was spent in the state, county, and federal investigations. Nobody was ever charged with voter fraud.
In the meantime, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002 included a mandate for identification to be presented by new voter registrants. As well, the federal law requires that first-time voters who registered by must show ID at the polling place when they show up to vote for the first time.
In lieu of information to the contrary, offered by either of Hunter's offices to demonstrate people in California being "rounded up [and] herded into the polls" and "voting illegally" such that it "disenfranchises everybody in that community," we'll instead have to simply conclude that Duncan Hunter is entirely full of shit.
Given the lack of response since the weekend from either of his offices (both Congressional and Presidential Campaign), we'll also have to presume they must know that as well.
A video of Tucker's question, and Hunter's answer concerning the Voter ID issue is below, along with a transcript of the pertinent sections...
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA): On the issue of allowing...mandating some type of ID, you know the first twenty-one black Congressmen were Republicans who came out of the South. And they went into a series, they went into a series of poll taxes and, and all types of...all types of...deals that the Democrats, roadbloacks that the Democrats put in their place to keep them from voting. So I don't, I don't agree with those types of stumbling blocks. But I would say this: We have right now a real danger of people that are illegally in the country being rounded up, herded into the polls --- we've seen that in California --- voting illegally. That disenfranchises everybody in that community. I think you have to have some IDs.