by Rep. Mike Nearman
Ballot measure would combat vote fraud, help safeguard Oregonians’ electoral will
“Here, sir, the people govern.” With this immortal phrase, Alexander Hamilton summarized the system of self-rule that, among other attributes, has made America the envy of the world.
And how, specifically, do “the people govern”? First and foremost, by their right to vote.
Every American citizen has a vote equal to every other’s. With it, those citizens have the right to elect the people who make their polities’ laws. In initiative-and-referendum states like Oregon, citizens even may vote to make laws directly.
And this year, via proposed ballot measure Initiative 51, Oregonians have the chance to better protect their votes from fraud — specifically, from voting by non-citizens
If passed, the measure would enact an amendment to the Oregon Constitution to require proof of U.S. citizenship from Oregon residents seeking to register to vote. From already-registered voters, it would require such proof within ten years of its enactment. Ten readily-available documents — among them U.S. birth or naturalization certificates, U.S. passports, and military records listing a U.S. birthplace — would suffice. For aspiring registrants who lacked an approved document, the Oregon secretary of state would contact federal immigration authorities to determine citizenship or lack thereof.
Granted, the amendment would require more from voter registrants than does the current system. But wouldn’t that be a small price to pay to help assure Oregonians’ electoral choices — their very self-government — are not compromised or even nullified by non-citizen vote fraud?
Contrary to the assertions of some, such fraud is not uncommon. Instances of it, indeed, have directly affected elections across America. In California’s 46th Congressional District election of 1996 (which was decided by 979 votes), writes former U.S. Justice Department official Hans von Spakovsky, “a House committee . . . found ‘clear and convincing’ evidence of 624 invalid votes by non-citizens and ‘circumstantial’ evidence of another 196 non-citizens’ voting.” In North Carolina between 2008 and 2012, note von Spakovsky and former Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund, the state’s Board of Elections reported “there were 475 cases of election fraud [it] ‘believed merited a referral’ to prosecutors . . .” The fraud included double voting, impersonation and registration fraud, and illegal voting by non-citizens and felons.”
And in 2011, reported The Hill’s Debbie Siegelbaum, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler told Congress that “nearly 12,000 people who were not citizens [were] registered to vote in Colorado . . . Of those non-citizen registered voters, nearly 5,000 took part in the 2010 general election.”
And these are just a few among countless examples.
The signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor” to cast off George III’s tyranny and inaugurate, in its stead, a system of government by the people. Two-and-a-half centuries later, that hard-won system endures. It is too precious to leave unprotected. Over the next half-year, Oregon voters should sign the petition to qualify Initiative 51 for the November ballot — and to help assure, in years to come, that non-citizen vote fraud does not compromise Oregonians’ electoral will.
State Representative Mike Nearman (R-Independence) is a chief petitioner of Initiative 51 with James Buchal.