March 4, 2012
ACLU Documents Disenfranchisement Under Voter ID Laws

Don’t worry.  It’s just to catch voter fraud.

February 15, 2012
On The GOP’s Tacit Desire For “Federal Universal Citizenship Computers”

Josh Marshall addresses GOP concerns over the fact that there are millions of deceased people on voting rolls nation-wide:

Should we be really freaked out that there are ‘millions’ of dead people on the voting rolls nationwide?

Does anyone imagine that when you die the coroner or the hospital contacts the board of canvassers in your state? What if you don’t die in the town you live in? What if you’re out of state? Mailing lists also have dead people on them. People die. We don’t have a universal citizenship computer that takes you off every list when you die. The big reason that these things don’t happen is that there is huge resistance to at all federalizing the voting process.

If there was any evidence at all that a trailing number of deceased people on voting rolls was helping anyone commit vote fraud this might be an issue. Since there’s no evidence of this, it’s really not a big thing to get up in arms about.

If you want perfect voting rolls that don’t include dead people and doesn’t remove people because they have the same name as someone who died, then federalize the system, tie it to the Social Security cards. Or invest a vast amount of money in keeping them pristine without purging them of real voters. Otherwise, shut up.

December 28, 2011
Voter ID Laws Revisited

Nonyap has written a response to my Voter ID post that deserves a response from me.  Give it a read if you have time.  But for now, I’ll take some of his/her points in turn:

It takes a little digging to get to the facts behind the stories of - let’s say - a 93 year old woman who used to clean the state government offices who just might be disenfranchised by Tennessee’s law.  But looking at the website set up to describe the changes, its pretty clear to see that her expired state ID will serve her just fine.

Yes, that’s correct.  The article I posted addressed this, actually:

[A] spokesman for the House Republican Caucus said Mitchell was given bad information. Brent Leatherwood said even an expired state ID will allow her to vote.

Asked about why Mitchell might have been confused or received incorrect information about the new voter ID law, Leatherwood said only that the provision that allows for the use of state employee IDs is “pretty straight-forward.”

He said staff would be contacting Mitchell to get to the bottom of the miscommunication.

 According to the law, a State-issued ID should have allowed her to vote.  But for some reason, she was still told it was unacceptable.  And at virtually every step of her subsequent journey into state government, she was unable to obtain another ostensibly acceptable form of Voter ID.  Perhaps the clerk she was dealing with was misinformed.  Fine.  I agree that laws shouldn’t live and die by the mistakes of one inept State clerk.  But a mistaken clerk has the power to disenfranchise someone the same as any procedural hurdle.  These sort of “mistakes” are exactly the types of things that I was talking about when I said that “no law can ever perfectly account or the multifarious vicissitudes of human experience.”  That includes not only the people affected by the law, but the people in charge of enforcing the law.  Lay persons attempting to vote will inevitably discover themselves to be out of conformity with the law for one reason or another, and as a result, will be disenfranchised.  The experience of a 93-year old woman in Tennessee is one of many actual and possible examples of voters being disenfranchised by Voter ID laws.  Consider the statistics from Ohio (cited by a Texas newspaper, whose Voter ID law you mention later in your post):

Recently, election experts at Rutgers and Ohio State universities found that states that had implemented voter ID laws saw a 3 percent across-the-board reduction in voter turnout during the 2004 presidential election. The drop was worse among minorities: African-American turnout was depressed by 5.7 percent and Hispanic turnout was depressed by 10 percent.

This is quantifiable voter disenfranchisement.  People vote less when Voter ID laws go into effect.  One might argue that this drop in turn-out is a result of fraudulent votes being filtered out, but good luck arguing that up to 5.7% of eligible African Americans and 10% of eligible Hispanics are fraudulent voters, much less 3% of the general population (I’m not implying you would, but I wanted to get out ahead of this objection before it was raised).

I also want to mention that the Texas newspaper cited above goes on to point out studies in California, New Mexico and Washington which found that voters over 65 were 8% less likely to have a driver’s license than younger voters.  In other words, there’s a sub-stratum of senior citizens in each of these states that would have to go out and pay for a driver’s license (or State-issued ID card) just to exercise their right to vote.  This amounts to a De Facto poll tax: these people have no reason to pay for a Driver’s license or State ID card other than to be eligible to vote.  They shouldn’t have to pay for the privilege to vote, anymore than your son had to when he sent in his absentee ballots, which you mention later in your post.

Further points:

Supposedly “many students don’t have” either a drivers license or a passport.  Really?  Many students don’t have a drivers license?  I’ll agree many don’t have a passport but I don’t know many college students aged 18 - 22 who don’t have a drivers license.

Many who do implies some who don’t.  Again, we’re not talking about a phenomenon that will disenfranchise wide swathes of the population.  But even if we grant that only 0.5% of eligible voters nationally in the country would be disenfranchised by Voter ID laws, that’s roughly 1,090,271 Americans, using the 2010 Voter-Eligible Population.  Over one million people disenfranchised.  And of course, the problem here will not inure necessarily from students not having driver’s licenses, but being ineligible to vote because they have an out-of-state driver’s license.  Though you address this later in your post:

What these restrictions on college ID’s are really intended to do is stop a practice of allowing a person who does not actually live in a state from registering to vote in that state in the last days and minutes before an election. State Ballots have both local and federal candidates on them. Why should a person who doesn’t live in my state…in my county, have the right to influence the state and county laws he/she won’t be living under?  Should we just have an “honor system” by which the person promises not to vote on local issues, just Federal?

If we accept that this even happens with enough frequency to justify legal barriers to suffrage (some citations would be great on this point), how will a Voter ID law prevent them from doing this if they really want to?  Students and/or organizations with the intent to influence and defraud local elections are already breaking several laws.  And a Voter ID law can do nothing further to prevent this that current laws already do.  Here’s NYC’s rules for same-day voter registration:

To register to vote in the City of New York, you must:

1. Be a citizen of the United States (Includes those persons born in Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands).

2. Be a New York City resident for at least 30 days.

3. Be 18 years of age before the next election.

4. Not be serving a jail sentence or be on parole for a felony conviction.

5. Not be adjudged mentally incompetent by a court.

6. Not claim the right to vote elsewhere (outside the City of New York).

In other words, if a college-age voter is voting in local elections, they are fore-going their right to vote at home.  Violating this pledge constitutes voter fraud, and political operatives on both sides are desperate to find it so they can disqualify votes (I recommend reading Scott McClellan’s book to get an idea for how tenacious vote jockeying can get, specifically his chapter on the 2000 election in Florida).  

All this aside, you seem to feel that college students (i.e. short-term residents) have no right to determine local elections that affect long-term residents.  Putting aside the question of whether Voter ID laws actually solve this problem, how is a college student’s interest in local affairs different from, say, a resident who only lives in the area for a couple years?  Should all short-term residents be excised from the ballot locally to represent their limited interest in local affairs?  Many college students go on to take jobs in the area where they went to school.  Some go on to grad school and may be in the area for 5 years or more.  How are these people not living under the same laws as you?  

Furthermore, if we did want to prevent short-term residents from voting in local elections, what’s the cut-off date for when someone should be allowed to vote in a local election?  Six months?  A year?  Two years?  The line will be arbitrary no matter where you draw it; and when drawn, it will apply equally to individuals who intend to stay in the area briefly or for a long period.  So again, assuming that this phenomenon of fly-by-night college-age voters polluting local elections is actually an issue substantial enough to justify Voter ID laws, these laws won’t solve the problem you’re concerned with.  Only a blanket restriction on short-term resident voters would.  And you can see how such a restriction would in itself be problematic.  

Further points:

And despite all the claims that voter fraud is “rare”, you can still hear a great many people claiming that Bush won the 2000 and 2004 elections by fraud when media recounts show that he did not win through fraud (or by the SC ruling).

Voter ID laws have literally zero relation to the type of voter fraud that people accused the 2000 Bush campaign of.  Voter ID laws target the wrongful acts of individual voters.  The fraudulent behavior that the Bush administration was accused of included such things as moving polling places, removing peoples’ names from public voter registration records, and misinforming voters about the correct day of the election.  The alleged wrongful acts of the Bush campaign had literally nothing to do with whether or not people were illegally voting in elections.  They were active attempts by the Bush campaign and its supporters to keep people from voting, not to get ineligible voters to vote fraudulently.

Further points:

Ironically, it is these same folks that are now so vocal in their opinion that tougher Voter ID laws aren’t necessary. And it is the Democrats who are the loudest - I find it ironic that the very article detailing a case in which voter fraud was proven was one in which Democrats were the convicted ones and the contested election of a Republican Candidate over a Democrat Candidate for President is still claimed as fraud even as it is touted about that voter fraud is “rare”. 

Both parties commit voter fraud.  And if you are attempting to locate irony, I will direct you to the fact that the GOP does not require its own Iowa caucus primary voters to show ID during primary elections.  Pardon my sarcasm, but it appears that the problem of voter fraud is important enough to stop in general elections, (the one in which people who vote against Republicans participate), but not in their own party’s internal elections.  Bradblog spells it out (from the link above):

Unlike most primary elections where an official state election board or agency sets the rules and runs the registration and balloting processes, the Iowa Republican Party runs its own state caucuses, determines the rules, tabulates all the votes and announces the results to the public and media themselves. They have complete control over the entire process, and yet they don’t bother to ask their own voters to show a state-issued Photo ID before casting their ballot.

It is this sort of selective policy implementation that makes people cry “racism!” or “voter suppression!” when the GOP deems Voter ID laws necessary to protect the integrity of general elections, but not their own internal elections.  It destroys their credibility on the idea that their support for Voter ID laws is neutral, dispassionate and objective.

(For the record, I have no love for the Democratic Party and do not identify as a Democrat.  I would oppose Voter ID laws regardless of who supports them).

Further points:

There are an estimated 20 million illegal immigrants in this country.  I don’t want them voting in our elections.  I’m sorry if that offends you, but voting is a right (and a duty) that comes with our citizenship.  And voting laws that allow anyone to register to vote simply by signing a form shoved at them by a person strolling through the mall…..well…not good enough in my opinion.

I agree that voting is a right and a duty, but I differ on the severity of the problem of illegal immigrants voting in U.S. elections.  However, let’s grant for a moment that this is true.  Are you so afraid of illegal immigrants voting in elections that you want to make it harder for actual American citizens to vote?  Recall that if we assumed Voter ID laws only disenfranchise 0.5% of eligible voters in America, over 1,00,000 voters would be disenfranchised nation-wide, based on the number of eligible voters in 2010 mid-term elections.  That’s an incredibly high cost to pay to excise illegal immigrants from our elections.  Particularly when the same media that allegedly exculpated the 2000 Bush campaign is now telling us that voter fraud by illegal immigrants is not a problem.  Even organizations that are generally not friendly to illegal immigrants are saying that alleged wide-scale voter fraud by illegal immigrants cannot be squared against the actual number of documented cases of voter fraud. 

I appreciate your thoughtful response.  Like I said, give Nonyap’s whole response a read if you haven’t already, because I did not address all of his points.

December 27, 2011
A Brief Note On Voter ID Laws

In 2002, the U.S. Justice Department undertook a 5-year investigation into “voter irregularities.”  At the conclusion of that investigation, the DOJ did not prosecute a single person for voter fraud.  I think that’s a good way to introduce the topic of Voter ID laws to anyone who believes they are merely a reasonable precaution to preserve the integrity of our Democracy.

The problem with Voter ID laws is the problem with all laws: restrictions on human activity always avail themselves of unintended (often negative) consequences.  So when you place a restriction on human activity, you ought to be able to demonstrate that the human activity you wish to prevent is harmful enough to justify the unintended negative consequence that might flow from the restriction.  With Voter ID laws, that is clearly not the case.

Voter fraud does happen.  Here’s an example from Upstate New York.  But the fact of the matter is that voter fraud is rare.  So the amount of harm we prevent with Voter ID laws is small.  On the other hand, any restrictions we place on voting will inevitably disenfranchise people, because no law can ever perfectly account or the multifarious vicissitudes of human experience.  The end result is that people will find themselves unable to vote as they discover themselves to be out of conformity with the law for one reason or another.  In other words, the unintended negative consequences of Voter ID laws are large compared to the harm that Voter ID laws purport to solve.  Here’s just a few examples:

1. 93-year old woman in Tennessee says she’ll likely be unable to vote in the next election because she’s having trouble meeting the new Voter ID requirements.   The State House GOP caucus claims she was given bad information, and that the law was “straight-forward.”  Apparently not straight-forward enough.

2. In most states with Voter ID laws, an out-of-state ID will not cut it, meaning that college students trying to cast absentee ballots are out of luck.  They’d have to shell out for an in-state driver’s license, which they would need for no other reason than to vote while they’re at college.  Let’s be honest, most kids are not going to do this, not least due to financial reasons.

3.  According to the League of Women Voters, Florida’s Voter ID law has forced them to suspend their voter registration activities for the first time in 72 years, due to certain restrictions in the bill.

4.  According to Washington Monthly, up to 5 million eligible voters could be disenfranchised by voter ID laws due to various technicalities that the average person might not be able to foresee.

One last thing: note that the voter fraud story from New York I posted above involved individuals who were caught despite the fact that New York does not require people to show ID at the polls.  That suggests that these laws are unnecessary to catch the frauds that do happen.  So even if you assume that these laws are being passed in Good Faith, anecdotal evidence demonstrates that we can catch voter fraud with less restrictive means.  So the only real effect of these laws is to put millions of people at risk for being disenfranchised based on various technicalities that the average American may not be able to foresee. And this applies most profoundly to poor and disadvantaged individuals who will almost definitely be disproportionately affected by these laws, even if they are passed without any discriminatory intent.

October 24, 2011
Federal Judge: Republicans Only Cooperated With FBI In Alabama Bingo Bribery Case Because They’re Racists


U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson in an order today lambasted two key prosecution witnesses in the State House vote-buying case as being motivated by political ambition and racial prejudice.

Thomson said Republicans Sen. Scott Beason of Gardendale and formerRep. Benjamin Lewis of Dothan had ulterior motives when they assisted investigators in the case. Beason and Lewis were key prosecution witnesses in the case, in which VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor and others were charged with offering and taking bribes to try to get a gambling bill approved in the Alabama Legislature. The two Republicans said they approached FBI agents after they felt gambling interests made improper offers to try to secure their votes on the bill.

“The evidence introduced at trial contradicts the self-serving portrait of Beason and Lewis as untouchable opponents of corruption. In reality, Beason and Lewis had ulterior motives rooted in naked political ambition and pure racial bias,” Thompson wrote.

“The court finds that Beason and Lewis lack credibility for two reasons. First, their motive for cooperating with F.B.I. investigators was not to clean up corruption but to increase Republican political fortunes by reducing African-American voter turnout. Second, they lack credibility because the record establishes their purposeful, racist intent,” Thompson wrote.

Beason wore a wire for the FBI, and the recordings picked up a conversation among Republicans talking about the effect a gambling referendum would have on voter turn-out during an election.

They talked about how “every black, every illiterate,” would be taken to the polls on “HUD-financed buses.”

In another conversation, Beason used the word “aborigines” to refer to people at Greenetrack, a casino in predominately black Greene County.

Thompson said such statements “demonstrate a deep-seated racial animus and a desire to suppress black votes.”

Voter suppression by the GOP: a tried and true method for racists to get ahead.

October 7, 2011
96 Year Old African American Woman Denied Voter ID For Failure To Produce Marriage Certificate; "Worse Than Jim Crow"

I really don’t know how anyone could see the wave of new Republican-sponsored voter-ID registration laws as anything but an attempt to disenfranchise minorities and the poor.  Study after Study finds that voter fraud is a non-existent problem.  This is a bald attempt to use the machinery of government bureaucracy to prevent legitimate American citizens from voting.  Those who proclaim a love of small government ought to be furious about this.  A government that doesn’t allow you a say in who your leaders are is the textbook definition of autocracy.

September 23, 2011
As GOP Cracks Down On Student Voters, Study Finds Zero Student Voter Fraud


A study on voter fraud pushed by Maine Republicans concluded that there is absolutely no evidence of student voter fraud in the state — but the GOP has pledged to crack down on it anyway. Like conservative state legislatures across the country, Maine Republicans have been pushing a Voter ID law, ostensibly to prevent non-existent voter fraud. As ThinkProgress has documented, these laws are a transparent attempt to disenfranchise Democratic voters, especially students, the poor, and minorities.

Are honest, good-faith Conservatives really confused anymore as to why the Left accuses the GOP of being both anti-scientific and divorced from reality?  Particularly when their policy choices are antithetical to studies that the GOP themselves are submitting to the public?

(via liberalsarecool)

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