The following Guest Column published in the Gaston Gazette is a response to an earlier column published by Mr. Williams (a declared Republican candidate for County Commissioner) He attacked the local Democratic party and charged that we are in favor of voter fraud among other ludicrous statements.
The dead, the mentally incompetent and the voter ID bill
The dead, nonexistent and mentally impaired are not the individuals we need to worry about in Gaston County. According to court records and the County Board of Elections, it is Republican campaign workers for Congressman Patrick McHenry that should make people take notice when it comes to the issue of voter fraud.
The county Board of Elections reports there have been two cases of voter fraud in Gaston County since 2004. One of them involved a paid campaign worker for Congressman Patrick McHenry, Michael Aaron Lay, who cast his illegal vote for McHenry twice in 2004 during hotly contested primaries that his boss won by only 86 votes. Lay claimed that he lived in McHenry’s Cherryville home with three other men. At the time Lay voted in Gaston County, his paychecks were sent to his parents’ home in Tennessee.
The voter ID bill proposed by the Gaston County commissioners would not have prevented Lay from casting his illegal vote. Lay and his illegal voting represents exactly one half of all the illegal voters casting ballots in Gaston County over the past 10 years. So contrary to what Jason Williams writes, no dead people vote here, no votes have been cast by the mentally impaired, and no elections have been stolen by illegal voters. Except, perhaps, a primary or two by corrupt Republicans.
The all-Republican County Board of Commissioners has asked the N.C. Legislature for permission to require government-issued photo identification — like a driver’s license or passport — before people can vote. All that sounds fine until you realize no blind person has a driver’s license and there are not many people in Gaston County who have passports. So that means Gaston County would have to issue photo IDs free of charge to every citizen who does not already have the required government papers.
Statewide, over 10 percent of the voters do not have photo IDs. In Gaston County, that would mean the county would have to provide nearly 13,000 registered voters with government-issued identification papers, at a taxpayer cost that would exceed $100,000.
No race card is being played here as Mr. Williams writes, except the card that Mr. Williams played himself. But it is definitely a fact that over the years and in the not too distant past, African-Americans in this county and others across the state were not allowed to vote unless they could answer off-the-wall questions like who the 23rd President of the United States was or else pay a fee to vote — a poll tax. State figures from the N.C. Board of Elections show that voter ID requirements will impact mostly the blind, elderly, handicapped and the poor — all people who do not traditionally have access to cars.
Given Gaston County’s history of voter suppression, it is no wonder many in the African-American community are alarmed over the proposed legislation, particularly when influential Republicans like Mr. Williams and Commissioner Philbeck say they have no plans to even spend a nickel on getting the required government identification papers to the voters who need them most.
But if this local voter ID bill goes through, the federal government will step in because our county’s history of suppressing minority votes means we are required to get permission from a federal judge before making any changes to local election rules or procedures. And one of those requirements will be that we the taxpayers will have to pay the $100,000 it takes to educate the voters and issue the identification papers.
Mr. Williams and Commissioner Philbeck say the local voter ID bill is watered down so that a voter could present a Social Security card or utility bill to vote. But the resolution that Commissioner Philbeck introduced under parliamentary maneuvers designed to avoid public debate says Gaston County residents would have to present the identification under North Carolina’s Senate bill 595. And SB595 says that in order to vote, the voter must present a government-issued identification card “that contains a photograph of the registered voter.” So a bad idea starts looking even worse when you realize our commissioners do not even know what they voted for.
Also, SB595 clearly states that a photo ID must be made available at no cost to the voter. The price tag to accomplish this is most likely more than $100,000. A recent article in the Shelby Star quoted the Cleveland County Board of Elections as saying “The North Carolina bill would require county election boards to provide free voter ID cards to anyone registering to vote who didn’t have a valid driver’s license or state ID.”
So here is the issue: Should we use $100,000 of Gaston County taxpayer money to stop Republican operatives from voting illegally in hotly contested primary elections, or use that same amount of money to put additional modern computers in our classrooms to help teach our children the skills they need to get good jobs in the 21st century?
Nobody in the Democratic Party wants dead people or those mentally incompetent to vote. Thankfully, the evidence shows that is not a problem in Gaston County. But if the Republican Party is still looking for a case of voter fraud in this county, they need not look any further than inside their own political party.
Robert Kellogg is a resident of Gastonia and chairman of the Gaston County Democratic Party.
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