Debate Forum, 6/25

Debate Forum Center: The federal government made voter registration easy, but some think it’s too easy

By Alex Culpepper
Illustration: Joel Pett

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) was an attempt to make voting registration simple and easy for a number of people. Potential voters can register to vote when they renew a driver’s license or apply for aid such as food stamps and disability services. Applicants are handed a federal form to fill out, they swear to citizenship by checking a box and they sign the form. Instant registration.

In 2004, Arizona passed a voter initiative called Proposition 200, which required potential voters to show proof of citizenship via some form of acceptable identification when they register. Other states have similar requirements as well. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, recently struck down Proposition 200 and ruled that simply filling out the federal form is sufficient. The ruling applies to all states, and to enact further requirements for registration states must seek approval from an Election Assistance Commission or get permission through another federal court’s decision. The Supreme Court’s ruling has stirred debate about voter fraud.

Opponents of the decision say not requiring proof of citizenship clears the way for noncitizen voting. They say using such an “honor system” that only requires someone to check a box will make combating voter fraud very difficult. Opponents cite Arizona as a state with illegal immigration problems and they say because of this ruling people can just walk in from anywhere and register to vote. Opponents further say the ruling has constitutional implications because, as dissenting Justice Clarence Thomas says, the Constitution gave states the right “to determine the qualifications of voters in federal elections.”

Supporters say thousands have been denied their right to vote because they did not have the proper identification, and many of them are part of “vulnerable voter groups such as minorities, immigrants and the elderly.” Some reports say more than 30,000 people were blocked from voting in the 20 months after Proposition 200 was made law in Arizona. Supporters go on to say the NVRA was put in place to guarantee people the right to register to vote using the NVRA postcard without having to satisfy other paperwork requirements.

Arizona is not alone in this. Possibly as many as 16 states have or will be considering legislation similar to Proposition 200. The federal government and the Supreme Court have mandated that simply completing the federal registration form is enough to register to vote. Supporters favor its simplicity and how it presents as few obstacles as possible to voting. Opponents believe it is not enough to just fill out a form without providing evidence of citizenship because it damages the credibility of the election system.

Reach DCP forum moderator Alex Culpepper at

Debate Forum Question of the Week:

 On June 17, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Arizona’s requirement to show proof of citizenship in order to register to vote in federal elections. The ruling reinforces the federal government’s power over the states in determining how elections are conducted. Did the Supreme Court make the right decision, or should states be allowed to set rules that verify the citizenship of people registering to vote even when they use the federal registration form?

Debate Left: i like america. it is good.

 By Ben Tomkins

[Editor’s Note: The lack of capitalization in this column is a stylistic choice made by the author. –KM]

hi. my name is ben. i live in america. i like america. it is good. america is bigger than arizona, but slightly smaller than texas.

in america, we have a constitution. it is good. it was written when america started, and the first states thought it was good, too, so they signed it and agreed to work together and be america. if they didn’t, we would not be american. we would be british, or possibly south canadian.

the constitution has rules about how america works. it tells all the states how to get along with each other so we can keep being america and not just arizona and texas and ohio and things. one of these parts is called the elections clause. it is in section 4 on the first page. it says –

“the times, places, and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof; but the congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations, except as to the place of chusing [sic] senators.”

i like this clause because it means that america’s laws are first and arizona’s laws are second. if an american who happens to live in arizona has to work harder than everywhere else to vote for our whole country, it wouldn’t be fair. the elections clause lets america fix it and make it fair again.

if we didn’t have this clause, it would be very bad. states like arizona could make voting hard for some people they didn’t like, or even decide not to hold elections at all because they were mad. it would mean that they would only have to be part of america if they felt like it. some states tried not to be america before, and their punishment is that their professional football teams can only play in the southeastern conference instead of the national football league like the states who kept their promise. it reminds those bad states to respect the constitution and be good, because the super bowl is forever but a national championship can be taken away.

to make it easy for the states, america wrote the national voter registration act in 1993 and created the federal voter registration form so everywhere can be the same. now there is no confusion except in arizona where they can’t read the constitution. it is ok though. america also says you can’t make people take a reading test to vote either.

i am happy the supreme court ruled that arizona has to accept the federal voter registration form just the way it is, and can’t add rules any time it wants. that way we are all equal and fair. it makes us america and not africa, because africa is a state and america is lots of states working together, even if they are so far away you can see russia, which is a continent. if we decide we want to change the voting rules, it is ok, too. it may even be more good. but we have to do it for all of america, not just the hot parts.

thank you.

Ben Tomkins is a violinist, teacher, journalist, and critically acclaimed composer currently living in Denver, Colo. He hates stupidity, and generally believes that the volume of one’s voice is inversely proportional to one’s knowledge of the issue. Reach Ben Tomkins at

Debate Right: Phony voting: The new American way

By Dave Westbrock

In a sense – read strict interpretation of the Constitution – the Supreme Court decision to reject the Arizona voter enforcement law, which required proof of citizenship to register to vote, may be correct. That is, technically correct, based on federal law. However, the substance of the law is very incorrect. Isn’t it strange that in the land of the free and the home of the brave, you need real ID to buy tobacco products, alcohol, register your dog, purchase a gun or set up a bank account, while at the same time not have to show a valid proof of citizenship to perform the most important civic task of a democratic form of government – the privilege to vote. Is it just me, or do others suspect that the requirement of proof of citizenship is more than “voters’ rights”? Does anyone really believe that in the day of instant communications and the panoply of civil rights interest groups and the EEOC that any individual or group may be successfully denied their legitimate right to vote? Just maybe it would affect the right to vote twice or three times in a single election. Americans are becoming increasingly skeptical of this federal administration’s or the Democratic Party’s commitment to vote security. Voter fraud makes a mockery of the electoral process, inevitably causing law-abiding citizens to lose confidence in their government and the system.

At least eight of the 9/11 hijackers were registered to vote in the 2000 election, according to Walter Dean Burnham. The Motor Voter Law in the mid-‘90s required BMVs to send a voter registration form to anyone applying for a driver’s license without specified citizenship and forbade a challenge to new registrants by government workers. According to John Fund, the voter rolls in Philadelphia have increased 24 percent while the population decreased by 13 percent. Well, it must mean more vote-compelled citizens of the City of Brotherly Love.

Think how many blue states do not require proof of citizenship to obtain a driver’s license. Utah, New Mexico and until recently, Washington state did not require proof of citizenship to obtain a valid motor vehicle license. In one county, over 28 pages of names of people registered more than once. And these were all at the same address.

The joke continues close to home. In Ohio, you can use a variety of documents as ID – even if they are not your own. They include the usual DMV or government employee ID, copy of utility bill, copy of a bank statement, current other government document, paycheck or military ID. And beyond that, you may still be able to obtain a provisional ballot – without any ID whatsoever. Is this an invitation for fraud? We often wonder why bars were closed on Election Day. Tammany Hall elected many candidates based on graft and intimidation and a good drink if you voted for the right candidate.

As a poll watcher during the last election, I was threatened by the poll supervisor to be removed because I was appropriately observing the tables where voters were signing in. The supervisor’s response was, “that is our job.” The final vote in that precinct was approximately 900 (Obama) to 9 (Romney). My first thought was, “How did those nine voters not get the message?” Although an affidavit of complaint was filed, nothing was ever done about it. The more we hear about phony voting, the less we have confidence about the results of an election. A comedian was elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota by continuing to recount ballots until the favored results were in. The joke is on the good people of Minnesota and the rest of Americans.

Unless we can recapture confidence in the voting process, the U.S. will be no better than a third world banana republic, and its elected officials no better than tin horn dictators.

Dr. Westbrock has been in private medical practice for 35 years. He was the Republican candidate for the U.S House of Representatives in 1994 and 1996. He has written and lectured extensively on the subject of health care reform and health care policy. He can be reached at

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