Wednesday, January 09, 2008

" I can vote" - Brian, The Breakfast Club

Let’s not confuse voter fraud with election fraud. There have been times in our past, distant and not so distant, where there’s been what I’d call voter fraud – people voting at polling stations while intentionally misrepresenting their identity. Think long-deceased voters in Chicago during the machine days and you’ll have a good picture. Election fraud, a claim often made by both Republicans and Democrats when they lose, is akin to an election on the macro scale being affected by voting procedures, ballot counting, malfunctioning machines, lost votes, no paper trail, and any other grand conspiracy we imagine these days – that’s election fraud. That’s Florida, circa 2000.

The case argued before the Supreme Court today involves an Indiana law requiring registered voters to present a government-issued photo ID (with an expiration date) when they seek to vote on Election Day – this worry and requirement falls under what I’d call the voter fraud category; we’ve got someone showing up at the polling station and either lying about his identity, or voting when they aren’t legally allowed to vote. The partisan arguments are deeply embedded. The Republican, or conservative, argument is that the integrity of the system is at risk. How easy would it be to drive a vanload of ‘voters’ from station to station in order to vote multiple times in any given election? The Democratic, or liberal, stance is that the law will keep voters away from the polls – voting is apparently so hard already that only 60% turned out for the 2004 Presidential general election. The Dems argue that this ID-requirement law, as written, specifically targets minorities, urban dwellers who may not own cars nor have a driver’s license, and lower income families – all of whom are more likely to vote Democrat.

After the attacks of 2001 there was as a drive for a national ID card which was turned away after Congressional hearings that saw uber-Republican Newt Gingrich testify that he "would not institute a national ID card because you do get into civil liberties issues." This was followed in September 2004 when then-DHS Secretary Tom Ridge reiterated, "[t]he legislation that created the Department of Homeland Security was very specific on the question of a national ID card. They said there will be no national ID card." (both quotes come from here. Nobody screams civil liberties from rooftops like Gingrich and Ridge; yet, suddenly we have state legislatures and governors, almost exclusively controlled by Republicans, deciding that if you don’t have a government-issued photo ID than you are disenfranchised. Nice.

While listening to the Diane Rehm show panel discuss this today, it was almost comedic listening to John Fund (of the Wall St. Journal) trot out nothing but confusion cloaked by poor back stories. He put forth at least three or four sets of election results that ended up in court because the losing party, a Democrat in each of his examples (surprise surprise!), claimed election fraud. One prime example he used was a mayoral race that ended up in court due to election fraud claims – no voter ID fraud claims. In fact, according to his cited numbers, 165,000 people voted and there were 32 examples of voters who were turned away due to identification issues in that election. What does that have to do with actual voter ID fraud? I’m pretty sure that the election was not decided by 1/100th of 1 percent of the ballots (that’s the 32 number) nor was the result appeal based on those 32 voters but appealed on pure election fraud: machines, no paper trail, torn paper trail, or any of the conspiracy theories from earlier. He also lamely said that there are reports of machines ‘changing votes’ as voters touched the screen, machines shutting down, power glitches and myriad other issues in closely contested and court-appealed elections. Again, what does this have to do with IDs? He added a brilliant story that involved his crack Wall St. Journal team following a vanload of ‘voters’ driven from polling station to polling station and voting illegally. Great story John. Any thought on pointing this out to election officials? He presented not one instance, beyond his ‘vanload of paid felons and fraudulent voters’, where identification was an issue. If voter identification is such a problem then the Department of Justice must certainly be all over the problem: since 2002 the DoJ has 87 convictions for ballot (voter ID) fraud. As a reference, there were 122 million votes cast in just the 2004 Presidential election. Even if I think the 2004 election results in Ohio were an issue in the final tally, and if I say that all 87 cases were in Ohio, that wouldn’t have changed the outcome. Nor would it have had any effect in Florida in 2000.

If voters are turned away from the polls because of inane voting requirements (must have registered on 80-lb forms, you must have photo ID, be careful – “ICE will be monitoring the station for immigrants”, you don’t speak English, you don’t own and drive a car, etc.) then the election process is being hijacked – and that’s fraud. And that’s where most of the argument lies on my side of the issue. There may be upwards of 20 million citizens and legal voters who don’t have government-issued photo ID in America. This isn’t an issue driven by the integrity of the system: it’s a blatant effort to keep as many voters away from the polls as possible and the ‘keeping away’ targets are almost exclusively votes that lean towards Democrats.

By the way, if I didn’t have a driver’s license I couldn’t vote in Indiana because my DoD-issued military retiree photo ID has ‘indefinite’ listed as an expiration date. That’s simply one more hole in the argument.

up and away.


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