Just one day after the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) disbanded its Public Safety and Elections Task Force that was responsible for model voter ID and "Kill At Will" self-defense legislation like that linked to Trayvon Martin's death, a new organization emerged to carry the torch for the implementation of voter ID laws nationwide.
In an April 18 press release, the innocuous-sounding National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR) heralded "the formation of a 'Voter Identification Task Force,' intended to continue the excellent work of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in promoting measures to enhance integrity in voting." According to NCPPR chair Amy Ridenour, "conservatives will kick up our support for voter integrity programs. We're putting the left on notice: you take out a conservative program operating in one area, we'll kick it up a notch somewhere else. You will not win. We outnumber you and we outthink you, and when you kick up a fuss you inspire us to victory."
NCPPR's press release ominously concluded with a claim that NCPPR was prepared to pull a metaphoric gun on its political opponents: "Unlike [ALEC critic] the Center for American Progress, the National Center for Public Policy Research eschews the use of violent references such as 'War Room.' We are, however, inspired by a particular passage in the 1987 movie 'The Untouchables': 'They pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That's the Chicago way.' Indeed." So much for eschewing violent references.
It was only fitting then that the National Rifle Association, the former private sector co-chair of ALEC's disbanded Public Safety and Elections Task Force, would give NCPPR free publicity. During the May 22 edition of NRA News' Cam & Company, NCPPR adjunct fellow Horace Cooper appeared to discuss his organization's voter fraud hysteria.
Cooper ran through the usual arguments. He claimed that voter fraud is "a real problem" and worried that "felons, illegal immigrants, or just people who are paid to show up" will "go from one voting site to the next and cast votes in the names of other people." Host Cam Edwards certainly seemed to agree. During Cooper's appearance, NRA News displayed a graphic that claiming that newly enacted voter ID legislation in Virginia "will ensure that voters presenting themselves at the polls are who they say they are, and greatly reduce voter fraud."
Cooper also tried his hand at linking the need for Voter ID laws to Second Amendment fearmongering, stating, "As I'm sure your listeners are familiar, just as Chicago, even Washington D.C., has refused to acknowledge that the Second Amendment actually confers an individual right on individuals to bear arms, the states of Texas, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Virginia, all have a clear right to be able to do this [enact photo identification requirements]."
During the interview, Cooper stated his preference for states to pass voter ID laws that are similar to laws in Texas and South Carolina. Texas has been sued by the Department of Justice over its voter ID law, which requires voters to show photo identification, because it allegedly disproportionately hinders the ability of Latinos to vote. South Carolina's similar voter ID law has also been enjoined by DOJ amid allegations that it disenfranchises African-Americans. Cooper stated these controversial laws contain the "grade A voter ID requirements" that NCPPR prefers.
The fears expressed by Cooper and Edwards are, of course, largely unfounded. Research has shown that in-person voter fraud of the sort that voter ID laws are intended to curtail is extremely rare in the United States.
Furthermore, it may not be the best idea to use someone who was convicted of a crime for violating the integrity of our political system as a spokesperson for the voter ID movement. In 2010, Cooper, a former Department of Labor official, pleaded guilty to falsifying a document after failing to report gifts worth thousands of dollars that he received from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. According to the Associated Press:
Prosecutors say that between 2002 and 2004, Cooper received thousands of dollars worth of free meals or drinks at Abramoff's restaurant.
The five-count indictment charged Cooper also took thousands of dollars worth of free entertainment, including tickets to professional baseball, hockey, basketball, and tennis events, as well as concert tickets.