How the left legitimizes voter fraud

Talking Points Memo is one of the most important sources of news and framing in American politics today. I simply don't feel like I know what is going on in American politics if I don't read it. You also learn how the left is thinking.

Over the last several years, TPM has been engaged in a highly successful attack on the Bush Administration attempts to enforce election laws that limit the universe of voters to registered voters. I am perfectly willing to believe that the Bush administration exceeded its authority in places, but you get the sense that TPM's goal was only secondarily to expose lawbreaking on the part of the Bush adminsitration.

They are engaged in a very smart attempt to delegitimize our election laws that protect the integrity of the ballot. You can see this in an absolutely astonishing post below. It seems that they have no interest in the law even being followed. Nearly every sentence contains a framing that acts to legitmize the crimes of voter and registration fraud. The piece is itself titled "Nevada GOP cracking down on urban voters". Normally TPM has credible journalism. Sometimes they go off the intellectual rails so far to push their agenda that it is hard to figure out what they are any more.

Read on for details.

This post is an example. Let's take it line by line to understand how far they go to legitimize illegal voting.

The GOP effort to suppress the vote has reared its head in Nevada.

Yesterday, Sue Lowden, the state Republican chair, sent a letter to Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller, asking him to prevent some from voting, because their registrations are incomplete.

Let's be clear what this means. Sue Lowden sent a letter to the Democratic Secretary of state urging him to only allow registered voters to vote. That is who is legally entitled to vote. Continuing from TPM:

How may peope are we talking about? Jon Ralston of the Las Vegas Sun reports: "I understand that 2,300 forms have been identified in urban counties."

Lowden argues that allowing these people to vote on the spot after fixing the errors violates a law that requires voter registration be closed three weeks before election day. She wants these voters to be made to cast provisional ballots -- which are often tied in legal challenges before being counted.

First, the TPM writer confuses (deliberately) "forms" and "people".  Someone submitted registration forms in the name of the Dallas Cowboys. Those forms were not deemed to be complete. Nevada law handles this by distinguishing between "elector(s)" and "voter(s)". Electors are people eligible to register to vote. And registered voters are then eligible to vote. What happens when "people" or "a person" shows up? They get a provisional ballot, pursuant to Nevada code:

NRS 293.3081  Casting of provisional ballot: General conditions; declaration or application.  A person at a polling place may cast a provisional ballot in an election to vote for a candidate for federal office if the person complies with the applicable provisions of NRS 293.3082 and:

      1.  Declares that he has registered to vote and is eligible to vote at that election in that jurisdiction, but his name does not appear on a voter registration list as a voter eligible to vote in that election in that jurisdiction or an election official asserts that the person is not eligible to vote in that election in that jurisdiction;

Now, TPM objects that provisional ballots "are often tied in legal challenges before being counted". They seem to be advocating the position that they be counted before any evidence that the person at the polling place is either registered or even eligible to vote.

 

My point here is that TPM is (deliberately) ignoring distinctions in the law. Now I am sure that Josh Marshall or other people at TPM would be happy to say that they want the typical list of lefty election law goals including same day registration, either a curtailing or abandoning of all photo ID requirements, validation of citizenship, felon voting, etc.

I would be curious to know what guarantees to the integrity of the franchise they would propose rather than to just wipe away any and all protections in the law. Some of us in America believe that this happens. I grew up in Chicago, and there is plenty of anecdotal evidence and, every once in a while, convictions. For example, Hans von Spakovsky goes to the archives and digs up one of the most impressive in the history of American politics:


Chicago, however, is known for its fires, and there was a roaring one there in 1982 that resulted in one of the largest voter fraud prosecutions ever conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice. The telltale smoke arose out of one of the closest governor's races in Illi­nois history; and as for the fire, the U.S. Attorney in Chicago at the time, Daniel Webb, estimated that at least 100,000 fraudulent votes (10 percent of all votes in the city) had been cast.[2] Sixty-five individuals were indicted for federal election crimes, and all but two (one found incompetent to stand trial and another who died) were convicted. [3]

I freely believe that this happens in other places like Philadelphia, where certainly sketchy circumstances surrounded the late reporting of the results of then Republican Speaker of the House Jon Perzel. Or, famously, LBJ's first election. Or recent convictions in East Chicago. The 1993-era State Senate race that was thrown out in Philadelphia.Or recent investigations and convictions in Alabama.

So how would the people at TPM, who I admire for their skills, propose to defend our rights? Or is that not their problem?

 

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Comments

Blame to go around

As with so many issues in Wash and politics, there's blame to go around. Vote riging has been with us as long as there has been voting. However, the conservative party has had a consistent and systematic history of voter supression in regards to blacks in particular, and also the disadvantaged. That goes back some time. Conventional wisdom now states that when voter turnout is high, Dems win and Reps loose. So both parties have had incentive to rig the machine; and neither one seems motivated to fix the problem. And both use it as a wedge issue. Dems can scream 'racism' and 'voter supression' and Reps can yell 'fraud'. Both yell a little louder when they're losing. It's a convenient excuse for both.

Both have to give for this to go away. Reps have to make it easy for disadvantaged people to register, and Dems have to come to terms that people should be able to produce identification. Also at issue is that you have a state based registration for a national election. There are some thorny scenarios that result. A good post for the next right, and other outlets would be an intelligible solution to this problem . . . that recognizes the needs of both sides.

This shouldn't be an issue.

Intersting analysis.

I agree that TPM is going farther off the rails as we get closer to Nov. 4, however I think that's fairly common amongst most blogs that declare themselves partisan (and some that don't).  This post, for example, could have been titled, "How the left confuses application of voter laws with suppression", or something a bit milder, but you opted to go with the more dramatic and accusatory title.

As for the content of the post itself, remind yourself that even reasoned liberals (including myself), genuinely believe that 2000 was won by Al Gore and stolen for Bush by a partisan ruling from the Supreme Court, and that Ohio in 2004 was rife with questionable actions by Republican state officials.  We feel cheated out of the last two elections, and we feel that it has cost us dearly in the form of countless bad policy decisions and a tattered international reputation for the country we love.  Throw in the clear politicization of the DOJ over the last eight years which, need I remind you, is the department tasked with deciding whether or not to enforce such laws (and one could argue it has shown much less fierce and noble desire to "do the right thing" and enforce the law when the voter fraud at hand leans Republican).  Add it up, and some level of paranoia seems reasonable here; TPM may be going a little nuts, but their concerns about the dubious and uneven applications of such laws in a manner intended to supress left-wing voters is not totally unreasonable.  To use a cliche, you're not paranoid if they are really out to get you.

In any case, thanks for the thoughtful blogging, I came over from fivethirtyeight.com this morning and I am excited to have found a new conservative blog with genuinely insightful content.

First, congratulations on

First, congratulations on what looks like the start of a reasonable conservative blog.  I am not conservative, but have long wanted to see a sensible right-wing site, even if I disagree strongly with many of your views.

Second,  I think most people will agree that voting fraud should not happen. The essential viewpoint of the TPM folks is that there is literally NO recent evidence of actual voter fraud in cases brought by the GOP. Voter registration fraud has happened, but not actual fraud votes. This is the argument that must be refuted. Otherwise, everything is quibbling around the edges.

I'm quite open to hearing arguments that there is actual voting abuse, and I think everyone can get behind a reasonable approach to curtailing that.

But the GOP arguments, like the stuff about how ACORN is a massive fraud joint (even though they are in most states required to turn in fraudulent forms, which they flag) is just a plain dishonest argument. For McCain to say they are threatening the foundations of democracy is ridiculous. And given the general GOP attempts to intimidate voters, it's easy to see what TPM considers all GOP voter-registration protestations to be scams until proven otherwise.

 

 

On the flip side

Fraud is also ridiculously hard to flag, and even harder to prove (since you have to prove intent).  You're left with anecdotal evidence, like dead people voting in a extremely close Memphis state Senate race, or more ballots being case than voters in the 2004 Wisconsin Presidential race (I googled the last one extensively to see if it had been debunked, and couldn't come up with anything, but that doesn't mean its not out there; the first one seems to be real since the state Senate invalidated the election).  These things won't even show up on the radar screen unless the race comes down to the wire (as in Memphis), or people grossly overreach (as in Wisconsin).

Of course, you can't bring charges in these cases because, thanks to the secret ballot (which, yes, I hold sacrosanct), it is impossible to identify who did this voting or organized it.  So there's certainly indicia of voter fraud out there, even if you can't prove a case in court against an individual.  So I think asking the citizenry to take minimal steps like filling out a simple registration form ahead of time or showing some form of identification before voting is pretty reasonable.  And I think the type of stuff TPM seems to be defending (like allowing registrations submitted in the name of the Dallas Cowboys to remain on the books) runs afoul of any notion of common sense.

The secret ballot

 You mention the secret ballot makes it very difficult to prove voter fraud.  The secret ballot is one of the reasons I'm highly skeptical when either party tries to make allegations of actual voting fraud.

In a system where you cannot see how people have voted, it's difficult to conceive how a vote fraud conspiracy large enough to affect an election could actually work.  You'd need at least a few thousand votes, and the largest operation you could reasonably keep secret would be a couple hundred people.  This would necessitate having each of these people vote around 10 times each.  So you'd need to register all the excess names--thousands of them.  You'd then need to disseminate the correct names to your hundreds of coconspirators so they know which names to give at the polls.  You'd then somehow have to avoid poll workers notice the same person come in 10+ times to vote, or cycle people through different poll locations so the workers don't catch on.  Recruiting that many people to engage in a conspiracy would almost certainly involve paying people desperate for money to take part...but in the secret ballot system you have no guarantee that they voted exactly the way you wanted them to...

So I find it difficult to believe in massive vote fraud conspiracies large enough to affect elections on the voter side.  However, it's much MORE likely to happen on the voter administrator side via corrupt poll workers or corrupt election officials.  Except that, if you were worried at fraud on that level, cracking down on voter registrations is a really bad way to do it--more police oversight, double and triple checks in the vote counting process, etc would be infinitely more effective.

So it's not unreasonable, I think, when the GOP claims it is worried about voter fraud but approaches the problem by cracking down on registration errors, that the Democrat party concludes there's an ulterior motive.

I also think

that some republicans have a incorrect idea of what voter fraud is, or try to conflate voter "fraud" with the practice of turning out low income Democrat welfare types to vote.  While the latter is distasteful, and can be seen as the government paying off poor blacks/mexicans for their votes, it's clearly within the realm of legality.  This definitely doesn't help our credibility in pushing for tighter election standards.

Turning in fraudulent registrations

Acorn and the bully pulpit of 501c3s that are all funded by the same donors are all repeating the talking point you roll out here, which is that Acorn is required to turn in fraudulent voter registration forms.

It's an extremely tendentious reading of the law in some states, and doesn't even begin to address those states where there is no law that could even conceivably be read that way.

There are laws in some (not all) states were Acorn is active that require third-party registration workers to turn in registration cards they collect from voters.  They are not, however, under the law in those states required to turn in registration cards from non-voters, such as minor children or Mickey Mouse.  They are also not required to turn in duplicates, and yet they do.

It's also not clear how it is that Acorn voters can be legally required to turn in fraudulent registration forms under the law of a state, and yet can also be indicted in those same states for turning in fraudulent voter registration cards. 

My sense is that a number of the left's organizations have been suckered on these talking points by Acorn and have overreached in the stress of the last weeks of the campaign to repeat talking points that make no sense and aren't true.  This will hurt their reputation after the election when the dust settles.

 

Far be it

from such a thoroughly disreputable person such as myself to correct you, but in New Mexico, registration agents are required to return ALL registration forms, including unused blanks, to the County Clerk's office that issued them. This naturally includes spoiled and incomplete forms, as well as duplicated and, in the course of things, fraudulent submissions. These regulations are quite explicit, and no extermity of tendentious reading seems to be involved in their enforcement. 

Also (where to begin?), ACORN is under investigation, not indictment; some ACORN employees have been indicted.

If registrations cards from non-voters could not be turned in, there would be no new registration, ever. Maybe you meant something else, but that's what you said.

In New Mexico, registrations of minors are accepted, and suspended until their birthdate of majority, when they are activated. 

In any case, it is not, nor should it ever be, the discretion of the registration agent to decide what is and what is not a legitimate application for registration to vote. That is the legally designated responsibility of the registrars and county clerks; therefore, that is the point at which voter registration fraud, when it is attempted, becomes fact and should be identified and dealt with accordingly.

Both the attacking and defending arguments concerning ACORN's conduct and status can only distract from and/or undermine the already existing basis for a fair and accountable registration verification process.

 

Your argument doesn't work

When I said that some state laws require that voter registration workers turn in cards from voters, I meant statutes like the one in Missouri that says, "Any person who accepts or receives a voter registration application from another person and agrees or offers to submit such application to the election authority for the registrant shall deliver the application to the election authority within seven days of accepting or receiving the application." 

This law does not require a voter registration operation in Missouri to turn in voter registration cards from fictional persons, dead people, or made-up people because in those cases, the scenario described in the statute hasn't occurred--that is, a voter registration worker did not, in those instances, accept or receive a voter registration application from another person.  Instead, in what has happened evidently in a number of states, the voter registration fabricated a voter registration card out of whole cloth.  When that happens, no obligation to turn in these fraudulent cards has been triggered by the governing statute.

Your idea that voter registration workers should always turn in the fraudulent registrations they made up because only registrars and county clerks should decide when a registration is fraudulent is a retreat from the original Acorn defense that voter registration workers are legally obligated to turn in the cards they fraudulently created or caused to be created by hiring and failing to adequately supervise voter registration workers.

I believe that most people would disagree with the concept that our understaffed and overworked county clerks should be subjected to piles of fake registration cards on some theory that only they, the understaffed and overworked county clerks, are capable of identifying a fake voter registration card.

This excuse is also at war with Acorn's presentation of itself as having rigorous quality control standards in place to prevent fraudulent registrations from slipping through,  since it implies that the ability to discern between fabricated voter registrations and real voter registrations is always and forever above the pay grade of anyone outside of a county clerk.

The fundamental cognitive dissonance between what happened and how Acorn and their bought-and-paid-for echo chamber is defending what happened is that if it is really true that Acorn is legally required to turn in fraudulent voter registration cards, then operatives who are facing criminal investigations, such as those in Cuyahoga County, Ohio don't have a thing to fear, since they can just say, "But I was legally obligated to turn in the fake voter registration cards I made up" and walk away. I assume you realize that's not what is going to happen.

How the Right Legitimizes Voter Supression

No question TPM is acting as an advocate and not an arbiter. And you're right, their advocacy is basically for the proposition that every individual should be allowed to vote, and that anything that stands in the way of this should be cleared even if it makes the theoretical possibility of fraud more likely. It isn't a legalistic position, it's more of a moral stand. Josh's basic assumption is that the risk of actual voter fraud (at least in the sense of some person voting more than once) is vanishingly small, while the risk of suppression is much much greater, and much more prevalent. I tend to agree with his basic assumption.

What I think a lot of the folks on the 'tighter restrictions' side fail to acknowledge is that a ballot that has been affected negatively by suppression is just as defective as one affected positively by fraud. I admit to perhaps being more sensitive to this because I was once unable to vote, having left my driver's license at work, and having been improperly handled by a poll worker. They should have had me cast a provisional ballot, instead they told me to try and get home and get some other i.d. before the polls closed. In the rush I didn't think or argue about it, and I didn't make it in time. I was pretty pissed. That vote tally was just as theoretically incorrect to me as it would seem to you if Demetrius "Mickey Mouse" Jackson was allowed to vote twice.

That was vote suppression. It's so innocuous in it's actual implementation that it disappears in people's minds, and you forget that at some level this was policy that was made with the clear understanding that these scenarios would arise. Now I know (from having had this argument) that a lot of folks will simply say that this is just too bad, that if you can't be properly prepared to vote and make sure your t's are crossed and i's dotted, then you shouldn't get to vote. I see the point, but what standing does that claim have in the light of the true accuracy of the ballot as an expression of the will of the people? Some folks, by temperament or life circumstances, simply are not going to be dotters and crossers. The argument is a near cousin of poll taxes and literacy tests.

The bottom line would seem to me quite simply to be that the ballot is going to be affected by both fraud and suppression. That is a sort of simple mathematical fact. But from the point of view of the accuracy of the ballot, the sum of suppression and fraud should be reduced to the lowest total number possible. If more votes are being tossed by suppression than are being added by fraud, then you need to adjust the system. That is the point that TPM starts at in it's advocacy.

I will be interested in researching some of your cited cases of fraud. Maybe it will change my mind as to the scope of the problem. I tend to dismiss it out of hand for national issues on the thought that no one is going to risk jail time to double or triple or even multiply by 100 their 1/50,000,000th chance of actually affecting a national race. It's just irrational. But perhaps as races get more local and payoffs and incentives increase exponentially, fraud would be n incrementally greater concern. I'd like to see some verified numbers.

Kudos at the least on being one of the few right wing sites that isn't simply shouting nonsense on this issue, even if your article could be used just as effectively in a counter article called "How the Right Legitimizes Voter Suppression." This whole issue lies on a spectrum, and the proper idea should be the right balance.

 

 


excellent job explaining my views on this topic

much better than I could have done myself.  My concerns are much greater for voter suppression than voter fraud, especially when tactics such as  caging are used to intentionally disenfranchise voters in targeted areas.  Of course I love MN same day registration law that results in our nation leading high turnout.  Another major problem I see is the polling places that have the longest lines to vote seem to  always be  in urban poor areas.  I think it's great so much early voting is taking place to cut down on election day problems.

what's the alternative?

And I think the type of stuff TPM seems to be defending (like allowing registrations submitted in the name of the Dallas Cowboys to remain on the books) runs afoul of any notion of common sense.

Here's a question for you, Sean... Do you think that the ideal (complete elimination of any fraud in the rolls) is attainable?

In my view, the answer is no, given that the regulatory bodies tasked with monitoring such things are never going to be truly impartial.  Therefore, the question we must ask when we analyze the system becomes, which is worse: suppression of legitimate voters' names on the rolls or excess fraudulent voter names?

Both these situations are less than desirable, but one is far worse; it clearly reduces the impact of a vote, while the other only has the potential to do so.  Given that the Dallas Cowboys are not likely to show up to vote, should we not err on the side of voter protection, and allow registrations through, then require valid ID at the voter booth?  This seems better to me than suppressing legitimate votes.

The manner of your assertion that TPM supports leaving the names on the rolls is disingenuous, because it is stated with the clear implication that TPM is intentionally supporting fraud, and this is certainly not the case.

 

The problem with that is partisan support for vote fraud

I have never seen any evidence to suggest that conservatives supress votes but do engage in attempts to enforce the election laws over the objections of Democrat and left-wing groups.  The 2000 election was such an example, there was no legitmate evidence to suggest that supression of votes took place but Democrats wanted to violate the state's own election laws in order to continue the recount fiasco (until the Supreme Court said no).

However I see many examples of  partisan election officials routinely instruct its state's poll workers to ignore the election laws (even the requirement for a valid ID) in order to allow fardulant votes be cast.  It has already happened in early voting in Tennesse in the Nashville area in order to allow illegal aliens (who don't even speak english) to fradualently vote.

 

ok, examples...

New Hampshire Senate race 2002:

http://www.usdoj.gov/opa/pr/2004/December/04_crm_768.htm

http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20081019/news_1n19jam.html

http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/10/22/rigging.election/?iref=hpmostpop

Virginia Senate race 2006:

http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/11/07/deceptivecalls.va/

Ohio 2004 (this is one of many reports on the issues there):

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6242175/

Now, I personally think DailyKOS is a bit wingnutty, but this article is exhaustively researched. It is one sided, but you asked for evidence of Republican vote suppression, so enjoy:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/10/18/82225/284

http://www.epluribusmedia.org/features/2007/20070621_supressing_the_vote...

This is after about 10 minutes of Googling. Now, I'm not claiming that Democrats don't play dirty too, but do you really think this stuff is all imaginary? People play dirty. Voter suppression is a real issue.

 

As for 2000, I never argued that anything illegal occured there. Obviously that was a complicated situation with many viewpoints on each separate affecting issue, but any fair analysis shows that Kathleen Harris's involvment and enforcement of deadlines was deliberate and intended to throw Florida to the Republicans. Legal, yes. Ethical? Not if you put counting actual votes above your desired outcome of the election. If you had the chance to throw the election to your party by stopping a vote recount, would you do it, even if it meant that the count might have been inaccurate?

Some manipulations of the system are more subtle than others. As a Republican state official, why not deny a budget request for new voting machines in poor, mainly Democratic districts? It's legal. Come election day, when machines break down and people are unable to vote or have to wait in line for hours and hours, you didn't do anything illegal. Your hands are clean, right?

For that matter, ask yourself: why isn't election day a national holiday? Why don't we have proportional electorate allocation? Why don't we have instant runoff voting? Why doesn't Washington, D.C. have congressional representation or electoral college representation based on population, like every place else? Wouldn't these things further democracy by better surfacing the will of the American electorate?

In none of those case do I see evidence, just allegations

Sorry, but you are never going to convice me that this actually happens.  In none of those cases was anyone as actually convicted of "voter suprssion".  In other words it doesn't actually happen in the real world just in the fevered imaginations of left-wing partisans.

As for your other points, many of which could be good ideas for electoral reform, but have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

False dichotomy

Obviously you're never going to have a fraud-free election, nor are you going to have an election where every conceivable impediment to voting is removed.  The point is, we've had at least a few verifiable instances of fraud in fairly recent times (ie we're not reduced to recalling Boss Tweed), to the point where elections have been vacated, and we have pretty clear indicators of fraud in other scenarios.  I don't think it exists to the extent that some on the Right imagine, but then again I don't think vote suppression occurs to the extent that some on the Left imagine.  Regardless, both a fraudulent ballot and a suppressed ballot function in much the same way: both unfairly diminish the value of fairly cast ballots.

So what we're left with, as is almost always the case in reasoned public policy decisions, is a balancing of interests for real problems that can never entirely be eliminated.  I don't think that requiring some form of proof that you are who you say you are and some previous affirmation that you live at a given address is likely to cause anything more than a marginal downturn in vote participation, and provides a substantial bulwark against fraud.  I don't think having someone of each party quietly sitting in an already crowded room to make certain that people aren't stuffing ballot boxes is unreasonable.  I've done it myself, and I can't think of a single person who decided to get out of line and not vote once they saw me.  We can go down the slippery slope from there either direction, but history doesn't go down every slippery slope, and sometimes you just have to try to support a reasonable middle ground.

(and the problem isn't that the Dallas Cowboys show up to vote, its that someone shows up claiming to be Tony Romo, and you're without tools to stop him from voting, like requiring a photo ID).

Well, the cases we are

Well, the cases we are discussing, e.g. Nevada, I believe ID is required, so I don't think that last claim holds water.  Please correct me if I am wrong about that.

But I agree with just about everything you have said here. What I find interesting is that this comment seems to be somewhat divergent the flavor of the original post, which was (in my view) a bit of a demonification of the left's position (specifically TPM) as one that is favorable to fraud.  It appears to me that you see this is really not the case.  I understand that you were not the original author of that particular post, so perhaps there is a slightly different view we are seeing there.

Also, doesn't what you have said here deflate the spectre of ACORN as a rampant voting fraud machine? This, I think you will agree, is a picture the McCain campaign has clearly been trying to paint, and it is (in my opinion, and apparently yours as well) unfounded.

It's interesting and exciting to me when a discussion like this shows how similar the motives of reasonable people really are, even when their actions or viewpoints on the situations are so different.

Nevada may well be

a voter ID state.  Then again, it also is a state where, apparently, they're running into trouble trying to scrub Tony Romo from the ballot.  That's the point of Soren's post (as I read it):  That even legitimate actions like trying to scrub obviously fraudulent registrations from the voter rolls are being dubbed "voter suppression" by TPM.  Given that many on the left consider requiring a photo ID to vote to also be voter suppression, I would assume that TPM wouldn't be excited about that requirement either.

I don't know enough about the ACORN story to comment much further on it.  The problem comes not if ACORN submits Mickey Mouse and he shows up to vote -- obviously that gets caught.  The problem is if ACORN submits John Smith and then Jim Dawson shows up and says he's John Smith.  More difficult to catch, especially in a state without a photo requirement.  Like I said, I don't know enough about the ACORN thing to comment.  My sense is that McCain is probably priming this to be an issue in case there is a close election, much like the Democrats will be priming every story of a voting machine breaking down to be a potential vote suppression angle in case of a close election.

Before I came here I ran a site that was front-paged on Politics1 and MyDD, even though my conservative bona fides are pretty obvious, so I think it is fair to say that I'm not a hack, and there will probably be many times that we agree (see, e.g., my post on gay marriage).

your comments have persuaded me that voter I.D. is a good

thing that would give everyone more confidence in the legitimacy of election results. BUT laws needs  to specify a variety of acceptable I.D. for  voters without a driver's license, which in my suburban precint would be a very small percentage but likely significant in some areas.

Today I had an aha moment reading this digby post    http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2008/10/win-by-losing-by-digby-paul-rosenberg.html

which helped me understand  why all this fuss about voting when Obama appears to be on track for a clear victory.

Errors of scale...

I think that comparing suppression to fraud is unwarranted.

I have no doubt that some voter fraud happens, but I also doubt that it's widespread, as I've seen no data that supports that assertion. As others have noted, even if you can get a fraudulent registration, you still have to vote.

And frankly, I think that the vast majority of americans take their voting seriously and would never consider doing something like that.

You put those together, and I think it's hard to organize (and keep quiet) voter fraud that would have a measurable effect on the election. It's far easier to suppress the votes of your opponent than it is to bolster the votes that for you. You can:

  1. Challenge a bunch of registrations in demographics where your opponent leads.
  2. Legislate proof of birth to vote.
  3. Limit the number of voting machines in precincts where your opponent is ahead.
  4. Intimidate voters from entering the polls
  5. Give voters false information about when voting is, where to vote, etc.

The RNC has twice entered consent decrees against #1, and this good evidence for all the others as well.

Rather than focus on the one-at-a-time method, it makes more sense to try suppression or to rig the voting machines. That's how you can make measurable differences, and it's far less risky.

Finally, anybody who labels false registrations as "voter fraud" is at best a moron. It's "voter registration fraud", which is a very different thing.

Exhibit A in the current Republican mindset:

 >>I have never seen any evidence to suggest that conservatives supress votes but do engage in attempts to enforce the election laws>>>

If it's legal, then it isn't suppression? That's interesting. It would explain why you don't worry much about suppression.

I think it is a characteristic of the right to tend to give the benefit of the doubt to anything that is enshrined in law, no matter how it got there. The very point to us on the left is that the right is using the law to suppress the turnout. They try to write and pass election laws that will mean less people vote. Every four years they shout about voter fraud so that every four years the climate is more accommodating to harsher laws that will further restrict the final number of voters. IMO that's all they are doing right now. Sowing seeds to further cull voter lists next time around.

I assure you, I am a qualified voter and I have been turned away from the polls. It was perfectly legal. That doesn't stop it  from being a distortion of the ballot as an expression of the will of the people.

I don't worry about it because it doesn't really exist.

It is a myth used by the left to perpetuate voter fraud.  They want to win by any means necessary.  This is all part of their brownshirt tactics to gain power at our expense.

I support laws that require an ID as proof you are who you say you are.  If you can't comply with the law then you shouldn't be allowed to vote.  This democracy thing requires intelligent, compentent people in order for it to work rather than degenerate into mob rule.

Demonization of the other

Demonization of the other side is unhelpful. I am a liberal and have no desire to win by any means necessary; it is unfair to assign or assume motives by generalization.

As stated before, everyone here has agreed that the best situation is one in which all legitimate voters get to vote, and only legitimate voters get to vote (once). But we know that people are going to play dirty on both sides; what we are discussing here are the best methods to assure the effective operation of the American democracy.

Or make people own property . . ..

 or be a certain color, or sex. Or take a test. Sorry, Democracy doesn't require anything for someone to vote (other than be a certain age and be a citizen). You know that whole 'equal protection under the law' thing. And equal representation for that. Big Ben, hate to tell you, you sound like the brown shirt.

Thanks for the strawman arguments!

My point is that election laws are there to prevent voter fraud, plain and simple.  A law requiring a valid ID to in order to cast a vote means just that, if yu can't even use common sense to bring it with you to the polls then you should be denied the right to vote in that particular election (beyond  a provisional ballot).

By the way if you think I sound like brownshirt then I believe if you no real idea what one is.

Two sides, same coin

In my experience as a longtime observer of elections and long-ago campaign manager at the local, state and federal levels, both parties are comfortable with some level of voter fraud.  Democrats seem to be OK with allowing people to vote who might not be eligible, for either technical or sometimes valid reasons.  Republicans seem to be OK with denying the vote to people who are eligible to vote, based often on technical lapses (i.e., failing to check the correct box on an application form).  Which "fraud" is worse depends where you sit.  There is simply no evidence that large numbers of people who were otherwise ineligible to vote, showed up at the polls and cast "invalid" ballots in '02, '04 or '06, nor that any such circumstance will occur this year.  There is, perhaps, more evidence that in past elections large numbers of people who were otherwise qualified to vote may have been denied the right, or had to deal with hassles like provisional ballots, either through the incompetence of election officials or, at times, the efforts of the Republican Party and its allies.  It looks as though that "fraud" may happen again this year, or at least folks are giving it the old college try. 

The other side

For the other side of this, how the right alledgedly engages in suppressing votes, see:

 http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/23638322/block_the_vote

This is pretty convincing.

Suppose we take off our partisan hats, and put on our American hats, and ask what should good election laws do.  I think we would want principles like these:

  • No legally ineligible voters can vote
  • Every legally eligible voter can vote
  • Voting should be easy, and more advanced technologically than it is now
  • The results should be verifiable beyond question, so no reasonable person on either side will doubt the results

If you're from the Right you mostly think about the first point, and worry about ineligible voters.  If you're from the Left you mostly worry about suppression of some legal votes.  But couldn't we as Americans agree that all these principles are good, and go from there?

 

Works for me.  Now how do we

Works for me.  Now how do we make it happen?

Republicans are for ballot security

"

  • No legally ineligible voters can vote

  • Every legally eligible voter can vote

That is the Republican position. Law and order and letting entitled voters to vote. I know first hand that we need poll watchers to secure your right to vote because vote fraud take away YOUR voting rights by watering down your vote.

The Democrat position is to engage in fraud and then cry like stuck pigs when caught, and incessently claim that every one of dozens of incidents is just an 'isolated case' and means nothing.

The Democrats in our county also were deliberately late, in violation of law, in sending absentee ballots to military people deployed overseas in 2004, and then not counting them when they were returned. A military soldier was so mad about this he ran for office in 2006 on the issue ... now it seems there are folks at it again:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2111696/posts

Feh. Dont tell me the GOP is against real people voting because we are offending by Mickey Mouse getting registered byACORN. Fraud hurts our democratic rights!

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2112843/posts

Voter fraud:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2112974/posts

"Lake County officials complained early this month that some ACORN vote canvassers apparently pulled names and addresses from telephone books and forged signatures."

http://theuniversalseduction.com/articles/november-results-already-taint...

"Cited were problems that included a voter registration for Mickey Mouse in Florida, voter cards in Indiana with the name of the Jimmy John restaurant chain, one man's 73 registrations in Ohio – for which he testified on a video he was offered money and cigarettes, and 10 registrations for a dead Missouri woman."

Another ACORN voter fraud case:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2111708/posts

Fraud in Cleveland:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2111508/posts

Investigation into ACORN:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2110678/posts

Obama campaign Donation fraud:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2112451/posts

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2112914/posts

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2113089/posts

 

There will be MORE voter fraud this time

"Apricot" (above) claimed there have been no "recent" cases of voter fraud.  Here are just some of the substantiated cases in the past eight years:

http://truthaboutfraud.org/case_studies_by_state/

I anticipate many more cases of voter fraud this time around.