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Date Created:March 18, 2011
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Opening Statement Michael Bekesha Judicial Watch, Inc. Public Hearing the State Government Committee 934 and 647 Voter Fraud Good Afternoon. Im Michael Bekesha, attorney Judicial Watch. Judicial Watch Washington, D.C.-based public interest group dedicated promoting transparency, accountability, and integrity government, politics, and the law. Thank you Chairman Metcalfe for inviting here today. honor for me, behalf Judicial Watch, appear before this Committee. you know, Voter Fraud important issue, not only Pennsylvania, but around the country. part our mission investigate and prosecute government corruption, Judicial Watch sought access FBI records related voter fraud. Specifically, uncovered election law violations and voter fraud Missouri and Connecticut. According FBI records, 2007, the FBI investigated and ultimately arrested eight St. Louis, Missouri workers from the community organization Association Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) for violation election laws and voter fraud. The FBI records include handwritten notes from FBI investigators interviewing canvassers working with Project Vote, ACORN affiliate. The FBI found that those working for Project Vote and ACORN sought cause confusion election day keep polls open longer, allow people who cant vote vote, and allow [people] vote multiple times. Moreover, the FBI found instances canvassers thinking that they used completely fake name would less like Theft. These are just few examples how voter fraud may occur. Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. According Judicial Watchs ongoing investigation, ACORN and its various affiliates (most notably Project Vote) have been implicated least well-documented election fraud schemes states. Here, Pennsylvania, after the last election, there were media reports that organizations, such ACORN, were busing people from New Jersey and New York vote Philadelphia. Moreover, former ACORN staffer pled guilty last year charges stemming from his involvement ACORN voter fraud Pittsburgh. Six fellow ACORN employees were indicted along with him. 2008, the organization was found have submitted tens thousands fraudulent voter registrations Philadelphia alone. Reports ACORNs demise have been greatly exaggerated. Although ACORNs vast network has been nominally disbanded, many its former state-level branches have been reconstituted distinct and legally independent non-profit entities. Nearly all these new organizations are led former ACORN executives and employees, and most occupy former ACORN office space. They continue perform the same type work that was previously done ACORN, ACORN Housing and their state-level offices. essence, the same organization operating under different names. Pennsylvania, specifically, Judicial Watch has discovered that ACORN has been reconstituted. The office continues located the former location ACORN PA. Moreover, the Board members and staff with former ACORN affiliations remain prevalent. Because well-documented voter fraud over the past few elections, states around the country have started re-examine their voter registration and election laws. last count, approximately states are the process passing have just enacted new laws prevent voter fraud the future. the Supreme Court (Purcell Gonzalez, 549 U.S. (2006)) has stated: Confidence the integrity our electoral processes essential the functioning our participatory democracy. Voter fraud drives honest citizens out the democratic process and breeds distrust our government. Voters who fear their legitimate votes will outweighed fraudulent ones will feel disenfranchised. course, attempt prevent voter fraud, states must mindful any burdens new laws may impose citizens. Too rigorous restrictions requirements may lead disenfranchisement. that end, the courts have nicely laid out the dos and donts with respect laws focused voter identification. Quite simply put, under the federal Constitution and most, not all, state Constitutions, states may require voters present photo identification before voting. Yet, there are some caveats. First, avoid establishing poll tax, states must not charge any fees receive appropriate photo identification. state require voter show proof identification, which must include photograph the voter, the state must provide free photo identification for every voter. This requirement, however, does not necessitate that the state abolish any fees associated with obtaining the primary documents needed register vote and receive approved voter identification card. Such fees, courts have found, are not burdensome. Second, because various reasons may prevent voter from having approved photo identification card Election Day, states must ensure that all registered voters have the ability vote. Many states therefore allow registered voters the ability cast provisional ballot. Courts have found the availability such mechanism adequate remedy. The provisional ballot allows the voter cast vote and within allotted amount time, correct the failure provide proper identification, either through sworn affidavit presentment approved voter identification card. Some states, avoid burdening the voters from having travel second state agency, usually within ten days, allow voter cast ballot the voter presents two forms non-photo identification. bill currently working its way through the Texas Legislature allows just that. Third, states must undertake voter outreach and public education efforts ensure that voters know the changes the law. This can easily accomplished providing brochures and other information through the mail, over the internet, and making such information available various state agencies. The importance here that voters will understand the change and have time receive the appropriate voter identification card. Many examples constitutional legislation can found across the country. This includes Pennsylvania. preparing for todays hearing, have reviewed both House Bill 934 and House Bill 647. 934 requires registered voters present proof identification the polls. Under the bill, proof identification document that was issued the United States the Commonwealth and contains least the name the voter well photograph the voter. voter does not have acceptable form identification, the Department Transportation will provide such photo identification cost. Moreover, the bill permits voter cast provisional ballot, which will counted upon the affirmation affidavit within six calendar days. Finally, the bill requires the Secretary the Commonwealth inform and educate the public regarding the new requirement for voting. 647 similarly requires photo identification displayed prior voting. ensure conformity, the bill requires that every registered voter provided voter registration card, which contains photograph the voter. Based the language the bill, unclear whether the voter registration card will the only acceptable form identification that may presented when voting. Nevertheless, since the bill does not change the provisional ballot provisions already place, this should not concern. This bill truly will ensure that anyone who registers vote will have the proper identification, free charge, necessary vote. With these two bills, Pennsylvania its way ensuring fair elections for its citizens. Unfortunately, however, just the first step the right direction. What not addressed these bills voter fraud with respect absentee ballots. Some citizens not only register vote, but also vote, without ever appearing person. avoid disenfranchisement those who simply cannot travel register polling place, the Commonwealth allows for registration and voting mail. Although many legitimate votes are cast through absentee balloting, there question that voting mail allows for those who want cast fraudulent votes so. Prior and after the last election, there were various media accounts concerning absentee voter fraud Pennsylvania. There were reports that voters were intimidated purposefully tricked into submitting absentee ballot applications. Also, reports emerged that instead being properly submitted for review, absentee ballot applications were being directed private P.O. Boxes. Finally, for other reason than the mechanics our postal system, can never 100% certain that absentee ballot was, fact, submitted the respective registered voter. Exactly how fix such problems remains unclear. Based survey states, does not appear though there any easy solution. Most states simply have not yet addressed absentee voter fraud. conclusion, Pennsylvania one many states willing tackle voter fraud head on. Through 934 and 647, this Committee takes the first step the right direction restoring confidence the integrity Pennsylvanias electoral process. Although just the first step, significant one. will demonstrate the citizens the Commonwealth that they can trust their government and that their legitimate votes will not outweighed fraudulent ones. Thank you.