Congress enacted the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (also known by the acronym NVRA, or, alternatively, as the “Motor Voter Act”) to make it “easier for all Americans to register to vote and to maintain their registration.” NVRA was almost entirely a product of Democratic Party efforts. House Democrats voted in favor of the bill by a margin of 237-to-14, while House Republicans voted against it by a margin of 146-to-21. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, voted in favor of NVRA by a margin of 57-to-0, while Senate Republicans voted against it by a margin of 37-to-5. After the bill passed both Houses of Congress, Democrat President Bill Clinton signed it into law.
Effective in most states as of January 1, 1995, this new legislation applied to 44 states and the District of Columbia. Six states — Idaho, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming — were exempt from the NVRA’s provisions because those states either had no voter-registration requirements or they offered opportunities for election-day registration at polling places.
The NVRA required states to provide citizens with opportunities to submit voter-registration applications for federal elections in various ways: (a) when applying for, or renewing, a driver’s license in a Department of Motor Vehicles office (hence the name “motor voter”); (b) by mail; or (c) when visiting any office that provides public assistance of any kind (welfare, food stamps, unemployment benefits, etc.).
The NVRA also explicitly required each state to keep its voter-registration rolls accurate and current—and to remove the names of anyone who has either been convicted of a disqualifying crime, been adjudged mentally incapacitated, moved to another state, or died. But in practice, the lists soon became swamped with what journalist John Fund called “an explosion of phantom voters” who were legally ineligible to vote or whose names were simply fictitious. This occurred for a variety of reasons. For one thing, NVRA’s provisions did not require people who registered by mail to provide any proof of identification. Moreover, when people registered in person at a Department of Motor Vehicles or a Social Services office, the government workers who handled their cases were not permitted to challenge their applications or to ask for identification or proof of citizenship. In addition, it was exceedingly difficult to remove “deadwood” voters—those who had died or moved away—from the rolls. As John Fund explains in his book Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy: “Now, people who didn’t vote would be kept on the rolls for at least eight years before anyone could remove them.” Consequently, the potential for election fraud and voter-registration fraud increased significantly.
In 1999, for instance, CBS’s 60 Minutes aired a report about Californians who had used mail-in forms to register fictitious people, deceased people, or pets, and who then obtained absentee ballots in the names of those “registrants.” As a result of such chicanery, the voter rolls in many American cities and counties – in such states as South Dakota, Texas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Indiana, West Virginia, Maryland, Iowa, North Carolina, and Missouri – soon included more names than there were residents of voting age in those locales.
The fact that only about 5 percent of all people who register via Motor Voter provisions ultimately bother to go to the polls on election day – coupled with the fact that many states do not require photo IDs at polling booths – means that the NVRA has made it much easier for people to vote in someone else’s name, whether in person or by absentee ballot. A single individual can easily vote under other people’s names multiple times if he or she wishes.
The most infamous of voter-registration fraud was the community organization ACORN, which in the early to mid-2000s was implicated in numerous schemes involving the falsification and destruction of registration forms, the forging of signatures, the registration of dead or non-existent people, the registration of the same individuals multiple times, and the registration of convicted felons in states where they were legally ineligible to vote. In ACORN’s fraud-ridden 2008 voter-registration drives, some 400,000 bogus registrations were thrown out; nearly one-third of the registrations submitted by the organization were fraudulent; and on the eve of election day, ACORN was under investigation for voter-registration fraud in at least 13 states.
Overloading the voter rolls with so much potential for fraud, serves the aims of leftist agitators very well. They are delighted to have a cloud of confusion and doubt hanging over political elections, for it provides them with a pretext for asserting the illegitimacy of any vote whose result displeases them. During the years immediately following the passage of NVRA, for instance, unprecedented numbers of voter fraud and “voter disenfranchisement” claims were lodged nationwide, culminating infamously in the Florida recount crisis of 2000. As the left-wing billionaire George Soros wrote in 2004: “President [George W.] Bush came to office [in 2000] without a clear mandate. He was elected president by a single vote on the Supreme Court.” It can be accurately asserted that the left, in general, never accepted the legitimacy of Bush’s presidency for even a single day.
In September 2017, the Heritage Foundation reported: “According to a Philadelphia elections official, hundreds of individuals who are not U.S. citizens have registered to vote in Philadelphia and nearly half of them voted in past elections…. [M]any of them registered while either applying for or renewing their driver’s licenses. All applicants were offered the option to register to vote even after providing documentation to DMV officials that although they were in the country legally, they were not citizens.”
Opinion polls indicate that Americans as a whole would prefer to see stronger measures taken to ensure the accuracy and legitimacy of voter rolls. In June 2011, for instance, a Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 75% of likely U.S. voters said that voters should be required to show photo identification before being allowed to cast their ballots. This included 85% of Republicans, 77% of voters not affiliated with either major party, and 63% of Democrats. Support for such a law was high across virtually all demographic groups. Just 18% of respondents opposed the requirement.
A Primer on “Motor Voter”: Corrupted Voter Rolls and the Justice Department’s Selective Failure to Enforce Federal Mandates
By J. Christian Adams (Heritage Foundation)
September 25, 2014
Measuring Motor Voter
By The Pew Charitable Trusts
About the National Voter Registration Act
By U.S. Department of Justice
July 25, 2008
On the Motor Voter Act and Voter Fraud
By John Samples
March 14, 2001
Democracy Imperiled: America’s Election Problems
By John Fund
September 13, 2004
How to Steal an Election
By John Fund
Who’s Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk
By John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky