O’Keefe video renews debate over voter ID laws

A video that surfaced today purporting to show voter fraud inVermont last Tuesday has elicited dueling responses from the leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties.

The video, reportedly produced by James O’Keefe, the conservative activist who won infamy for his undercover videos of ACORN offices, will undoubtedly reignite the old debate over voter identification laws.

That debate began Tuesday evening as Jack Lindley, chairman of the Vermont GOP, and Jesse Bragg, executive director of the Vermont Democratic Party, lauded and lambasted O’Keefe’s alleged evidence of voter fraud.

“It does expose flaws in the whole system, in my judgment,” Lindley said. “And it should give us all concern about the integrity of the voting system.”

Lindley had asked Secretary of State Jim Condos to investigate voter-checklist “irregularities” inBurlingtoneven before O’Keefe’s video hit the internet Tuesday. He said he had no inkling what O’Keefe was up to, but that the video footage only cements his concerns.

“If we have to show identification to get on an airplane, we surely ought to have to show ID at the ballot,” Lindley said. “I don’t think regular old Vermonters like me need to have the concern that there are people voting in elections that aren’t (registered voters).”

Bragg said the only evidence of voter fraud he’s ever seen is in the video that surfaced Tuesday. A gimmicky ruse designed to play on irrational fears about voter fraud, eh said, shouldn’t be used as basis to impose new restrictions on voting.

“He’s a radical right-wing activist and he is presenting a problem that doesn’t exist,” Bragg said.

Bragg saidVermontalready has law prohibiting the kind of behavior portrayed in the video. Adopting new laws that require residents to show proof of identification with a driver’s license or other state-sanctioned document, Bragg said, will disenfranchise marginalized sectors of society.

“Anything that requires a voter to travel somewhere, to pay a registration fee, or to take any extra step besides going to the polls, is a form of disenfranchisement,” Bragg said. “Any time you have to get an ID renewed and pay a fee, it becomes a poll tax. The point of our democracy is everyone has an equal vote, and the second we start putting restrictions on our right to vote is the second we start valuing one person’s vote over another’s.”