Fraud destroys romance and endangers election credibility

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

By John Heidtke

Guest Columnist

Truth can be inconvenient

During 1961, I was dating a young lady from my church where both families were members. The relationship developed to a point where a “friendship ring” is given by the man to signify his good intentions.

I was scrubbing floors and washing windows for a living. A ring was priced as much as my entire month’s income. I couldn’t afford it.

So, when my next-door childhood buddy broke up with his intended, she returned his friendship ring. At the same time, his car needed a new battery. I bought the battery in exchange for the ring. What a deal, I thought.

When I gave my girlfriend the ring in its original velvet jeweler’s box, she was delighted. Things went well the following week.

Until—my buddy told his mother; she told my mother; my mother told her mother; and she told my girlfriend Then, she told me off. That led to her returning the stereo I had given her for Christmas and her parents moving her to a distant college.

Bye-bye, hot romance.

It was just as well. It was too soon for a serious relationship headed for an early marriage and kids. Several years later, after settling down as a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy, I married and have been with my dear spouse going on 45 years.

Truth can be inconvenient, but in the long run is the best policy.

The right to vote

The history of voting in America reflects the struggle for an ever-increasing right to vote. In the beginning of our nation, only those males older than 21 who were property owners were allowed to vote.

The 15th, 19th, 23rd Amendments to the U.S. Constitution ended the denial of citizens’ right to vote because of race, being a woman and living in Washington, D.C.

The 1965 Voting Rights Act that reinforced the 15th Amendment is a highly successful piece of civil rights legislation enacted by the United States Congress.

In 1971, the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18 for all state and national elections.

The story of an American’s right to vote is colorful and worth reflecting upon. Our right to vote has been hard-won and is our precious national heritage.

But the way we manage it is an international disgrace and an unworthy example for developing democratic nations.

The Motor Voter Act

The National Voter Registration Act of 1993, known as the Motor Voter Act was signed into effect by United States President Bill Clinton. It became effective in l995.

Pertinent to this article, the act required state governments to make the voter registration process easier by providing uniform registration services through drivers’ license registration centers (Department of Motor Vehicles –DMV) as well as other centers.

The idea was to increase voter turnout rates. They had been on a steady decline since the election of 1896 and needed a boost.

Trouble at a DMV

Between 1997 and 1998, my partner and I, he retired DEA and me FBI, were assigned to set up a new Enforcement Section for DMV at Columbia, S.C.

We set out with just a dozen new agents to tackle a huge case backlog. Despite that, we managed to solve many cases in a target-rich environment. The chief of the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) saw what was going on and took over the unit.

My partner and I were reassigned to the State Grand Jury.

The fraud stems from false documents presented by some of the applicants for new licenses and ID cards. False birth certificates and Social Security account numbers for deceased persons are a common denominator in the cases.

Most other states faced the same problems. It bleeds over into the voter registration process as well.

Under those unchecked conditions, the driver license/ID card was not a reliable piece of identification. In fact, it was quite poor. The only thing a cheaply produced license says is that the person whose photo is on its face is qualified to operate a motor vehicle on a public highway.

The state government could not reasonably expect that the person depicted on the front of it is who they represent themselves to be.

To make matters worse, the administration mandated that applicants must be issued a license on the very day they applied. It was all in the name of good “customer service.”

It inadvertently created unfortunate conditions that promoted fraud.

North Carolina DMV today

Recently, I visited the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles office in Shallotte. They appear to be running a tight ship.

“Customers” who present questionable documents are not issued a license or ID card on the spot. Instead, driver license examiners under the direction of senior examiner Ken Holden go over the documents with a fine-tooth comb.

Questionable documents may then be turned over to inspector J.L. Crissman of the DMV’s License and Theft Bureau. Violators may well find themselves “hooked and booked.”

Inspector Crissman, a former Brunswick County deputy sheriff, is one of 150 inspectors working for DMV.

Substantial reform came out of “Operation Stop Fraud” during 2004 for the state of North Carolina.

Since then, efforts are continuing to be implemented, such as a biometric facial recognition computer program that substantially assists in the identification of possible criminal suspects out of the extensive state driver license data bank.

Recently, Margaret Howell of the DMV Communications Office advised that during 2007 DMV forwarded 341,714 voter applications to the N.C. Board of Elections for processing.

So far this year, there have been 356,880 applications forwarded. The DMV handles 53 percent of all applications for North Carolina.

NCDMV takes the customer’s information and forwards it to the state board of elections. The state board does the verifying and authenticating of the applications they receive.

Election credibility

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is one of the other organizations collecting voter applications and forwarding them to the state board of elections.

Apparently, according to an Associated Press writer on Oct. 17, 2008, article captioned “Officials: FBI investigates ACORN for voter fraud” states North Carolina has recently questioned the group’s voter forms.

Further, “ACORN says that it has signed up 1.3 million poor and working-class voters this year in a mass registration drive in 18 states.”

If legitimate complaints are not resolved, the Nov. 4 election may result in a national voter nightmare.

Change, like the truth, may be needed. But can we handle it?

Meanwhile, the continued diligent efforts of NCDMV are worthy of imitation.

Most of the time we are able to get the bear. But other times, the bear gets us.

John Heidtke has been employed by municipal, county, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies since 1963.