Behind the Scenes of Voter Election Reform

Published April 19, 2005

| FoxNews.com

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," April 18, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: Joining me now to discuss what else happened at today's commission [Commission on Federal Election Reform (search)] hearing is one of the witnesses, John Fund, "Wall Street Journal" columnist and voter fraud watchdog. He was, as we noted, a panelist at the hearing.

John, welcome.

JOHN FUND, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Thanks.

HUME: Is this commission most focused on making it easier to vote or on the question of — or the question of voter fraud?

FUND: Both. There are two civil rights at work here.

One, we hear a lot about, which is making sure people have the right to vote, that they aren't blocked or intimidated from voting. There's another civil right, though, that all of us have, the right to vote and not have it canceled out by someone who shouldn't be voting, someone who's voting twice, or someone who doesn't even exist.

HUME: So tell me when the commission is supposed to finish and what impact or what is the process here?

FUND: This is a very short commission. It will issue a report in September. They are going to be focused on two or three major things.

I think they are going to be focused on whether or not we should have photo identification to vote. Only 19 states have that now. The debate will be whether or not that should be a national mandate or whether or not we should just encourage states to move towards photo identification.

We have photo identification for everything else in life. Why not voting?

The second thing will be on the electronic voting machines, of which there is a lot of public suspicion and cynicism. Do you want an auditable (ph) paper trail so people will have confidence that there's not hackers stealing the election behind the scenes.

HUME: And?

FUND: And the third thing is, the Election Assistance Commission, which was set up by this HAVA, this Help America Vote Act (search) in 2002, whether or not that is going to have more federal power, whether or not it will be able to have the power to make rules to actually intervene in state elections which are traditionally a local matter.

HUME: You mean to, in effect, regulate our elections?

FUND: Like the Federal Election Commission has done with campaign finance reform. It effectively took all that power away from the states 30 years ago.

HUME: So, let's go first to the question of a photo ID. How controversial is that idea?

FUND: Well, 80 percent of Americans support it. We need a photo ID to board a plane, to rent a video at Blockbuster, to enter this building. But apparently not for voting.

A lot of people say, well, minorities don't have photo ID's to the same extent that other people do. They could be disenfranchised, they could be intimidated by having...

HUME: Well, you have to register, though, correct?

FUND: Yes. Unless, of course, you cast a provisional ballot. And then you have people argue that those provisional ballots should be counted regardless of whether you...

HUME: Or not counted.

FUND: Right.

HUME: But the point being that you have to identify yourself to the authorities in order to be able to vote in the beginning, right?

FUND: Well, it's an honor system in most states.

HUME: You can say whoever you want to say you are? You don't have to prove it?

FUND: You can say you're somebody who apparently hasn't voted in 10 years and you can vote in their behalf. Or you can literally register by mail in an alias or using a false name and show up and vote in that person's name.

HUME: And yet, we hear complaints that voters are intimidated. How serious a problem do we believe that is?

FUND: Well, I don't think it's a large problem, because only about two percent of people in states that have this requirement show up and say they don't have their photo ID. And normally they can just sign an affidavit with a signature attesting to the fact that they are who they say they are.

HUME: Of course a lot of this harks back to Florida. And there were complaints after that election, of course, that voters went to the polls, they were intimidated by the presence of one authority or another.

Did anyone ever document any case where somebody who was registered to vote went to the polls and couldn't vote?

FUND: Look, I think both sides sometimes exaggerate things in a way that really makes it hard for us to have real reform. Some people, for example, make up stories that there are millions of illegal immigrants who vote, while most illegal immigrants don't vote because they want to stay away from authorities.

On the other sigh, John Kerry and John Edwards went around this country for a year saying one million African-Americans had their votes stolen...

HUME: Right.

FUND: ... in the 2000 election.

HUME: And what was the evidence there?

FUND: Well, I kept asking, "Can you give me any names of these people?" They never had any names. So I think there's a lot of hype and a lot of hyperbole and exaggeration here, which obscures the real issues.

HUME: All right. So your sense is this — will this commission, do you think, go for the idea of requiring a voter ID? I mean a photo ID.

FUND: Yes, the question will be, should they encourage the states to do it or should it be a national voter registration card, which might be one step towards a national ID card.

HUME: Electronic voting, where does that stand and what are the issues there? How controversial an idea now? I mean, you talked about the fact that people were complaining that they thought the software got rigged in Ohio.

FUND: And there is no evidence of that. There is evidence, though, that some of these machines have some bugs in them. They also — some of the source codes, the computer codes, weren't available for public inspection to make sure that...

HUME: Nothing funny about them?

FUND: Right. Electric voting is a much better way for most people to vote. But we should have it as open and transparent a situation as possible.

HUME: And what about a paper trail? Won't that leave evidence of how people voted behind, that it will take away the — I mean, for it to work, you would have to have your name attached to it, wouldn't you?

FUND: Yes.

HUME: So you could prove that your vote — I mean, so you would have — would you be the only one who got the receipt, or what?

FUND: Well, there are two ways to handle it. You can't have people take away the receipt, because they could sell that, you know, on the street. You know, saying, I voted...

HUME: Well, they also know how you voted, too, which is supposed to be secret.

FUND: Right. Right. So there are two ways to do it.

You have a paper receipt appear under glass, you check and make sure that that's how what was — the way you wanted to vote. And then the receipt drops back and is stored by the government.

The other one is — in other words, they keep the receipt. You see it, but you don't get to keep it.

The second approach would be you have all of the ballots displayed on the Internet with a unique source code. In other words, you get a paper receipt that has a source code on it — VJX72 is your ballot. Then you can go back on the Internet and look it up and make sure that that tracks with what your ballot was.

HUME: But doesn't that mean that somebody has a permanent record of you and how you voted in each election in which you participated in?

FUND: There are real privacy considerations that have to be worked out. It's a race between technology and people's suspicions.

I think eventually we are going to find a way to do this, and I think electric voting is whole lot easier and frankly safer for people as long as we have transparency, openness and make sure that people's concerns are addressed.

HUME: Now, what about this idea of who gets to regulate these elections? Is it your sense that out of this will come a federalizing recommendation? Are the feds going to run it?

FUND: I didn't see a big appetite for that. Because remember, the Constitution delegates the states this power. They very jealously protect that power.

I think it would be a mistake to federalize the elections, because the last thing we want is, let's say this Election Assistance Commission, their members are appointed by the president. Well, if you have a president who really wanted to game the system, they could make recess appointments, stack the commission, have them issue rules tilting the election one way or the other.

I think the Election Assistance Commission, frankly, is a disaster waiting to happen. The secretaries of state, Brit, voted earlier though year to put it out of business. They passed a resolution saying, we should have the Election Assistance Commission go out of business.

I think it should be an advisory commission. I think it should give grants to the states. I do not think it should set federal rules for elections.

HUME: So some kinds of standards that would govern what kind of machines would still be a state-by-state decision.

FUND: Yes, but you would have a lot of federal encouragement. Money would only go to states that do — that upgrade their systems. Money would only go to states, for example, that have a real photo ID requirement.

There are ways of encouraging the state without sitting on top of them and forcing them to do it.

HUME: Got you. John Fund, always good to have you on this issue.

FUND: Thanks.

HUME: Thank you very much. Glad to see you.

FUND: Thank you.

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