Fraud proof scarce in two voter ID cases

Pennsylvania is one of 18 states to adopt a voter identification law - but not all are in effect due to legal challenges. Elaine Quijano reports such laws could make it harder for minorities and other groups that favor President Obama to vote in November's election.

(CBS News) In September 2004, Terrence Hines appeared to register voters in the city of Florence, S.C., at a fast pace. Paid for each completed card by the South Carolina Progressive Network, Hines submitted 1,800 registrations. But it turned out that the signatures were forged. One easy clue for election officials was that Hines had signed up Frank Willis, who was then the town's mayor.

"He wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer," said Florence County Solicitor Ed Clements, who referred Hines's case to state investigators.

Hines pleaded guilty to voter fraud charges in 2006. His is one of only three documented cases of voter fraud convictions in South Carolina going back to 2000, according to a CBS News review of the public record and interviews with election officials.

The state cited the Hines case in a legal brief filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., where the Palmetto State sued the U.S. Justice Department for blocking implementation of its photo voter ID law passed last year. A three-judge panel heard closing oral arguments this week.

The South Carolina case and a parallel case in a Pennsylvania state court, which wrapped its arguments Thursday in Harrisburg, are the focal points of a legal battle across the country.

While 10 states adopted new photo voter ID laws in the past two years, the laws are in legal limbo in six of them. In addition to Pennsylvania, where a group of voters represented by civil rights groups are seeking a preliminary injunction to block the law this November, a Wisconsin law is also tied up in court.

A three-judge panel in the Washington federal court found last month the new Texas photo voter ID law "imposes strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor, and racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty."

New laws in Alabama and Mississippi await Justice Department review. Laws passed in Rhode Island and New Hampshire won't take effect until after 2012. The only two states with new photo voter ID laws in effect are in Kansas and Tennessee.

Eight other states previously passed these laws, starting with Indiana, which passed Constitutional muster with the U.S. Supreme Court.

While the legal battles focus on the burden or ease with which voters may obtain the IDs, the justification for the laws has been preventing election fraud. Yet typically, as in South Carolina, the evidence of voter fraud is scarce and almost never involves voters impersonating others, the type of fraud photo IDs best address.

Voter ID law issues highlighted in S.C.
S.C. pushing for voting photo I.D. requirement
  • Phil Hirschkorn

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