Tag: Voter ID laws

The Pizza Canard

My position on voter ID is pretty straight-forward:

First, I think it is absolutely reasonable to require photo ID to vote. The claims that there is “no” vote fraud are hollow: we don’t require ID, therefore it is very hard to identify fraud. (That having been said, I don’t think there’s a lot of it, but there is some).

Second, I think it needs to be easy for law-abiding citizens to get photo ID. Many states have made it difficult to get voter IDs and for many poor people, especially minorities, acquiring documentation like birth certificates can be difficult. One of the Popehat bloggers recently tweeted about a client, a war veteran, who can’t vote because he can’t produce a birth certificate. Hospitals were segregated when he was born, his certificate was destroyed in a fire and computer records are unacceptable. I’ve heard a number of similar stories.

All that having been said, the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard about this issue was just uttered by our President:

We’re the only advanced democracy in the world that makes it harder for people to vote,” Obama said. “You’re laughing, but it’s sad.” Obama noted that it was “easier to order a pizza than vote. How do we redesign our systems so we don’t have 50% voter participation?” he asked.

First of all, we are not the only democracy in the world that makes it harder for people to vote, not by a longshot. And for photo ID, in particular, it’s not even close. Most countries require photo ID. The vast majority of Americans support it. The Supreme Court decided, 6-3, that this was not a huge burden on voters so long as it was easy to obtain the ID.

But easier to order a pizza than to vote? I fucking hope so. A pizza is a $10 commitment that feeds me for one day; a vote is a multi-trillion dollar commitment that can get us all taxed, regulated or killed for four years. I don’t give a rat’s ass if an illegal alien or a convicted felon or a 15-year-old buy a pizza. I do care if they vote.

(I watched the video and Obama wasn’t joking when he said this. He was being serious.)

He went on to suggest that we need to make it easier to vote, maybe even make it possible to vote online (because we all saw how well Healthcare.gov went). Look, I want to make it reasonably easy for people to vote. But I’ve never understood this burning desire to drag people kicking and screaming to the polls. If someone doesn’t want to vote, the most likely reason is the crappy choices they are presented with.

The Dubious Menace of Voter ID

Voter ID laws have been a point of heavy contention over the last few years. Republicans think that Democrats are only winning because of massive voter fraud and want strict ID laws. Democrats think ID laws are a conspiracy to disenfranchise poor people, minorities and students. It sure would be nice to have some data to constrain their imaginations.

Oh, look!

North Carolina is considering a strict new voter ID law, so North Carolina’s Secretary of State has conducted an analysis estimating how many voters have a state-issued photo ID. This isn’t necessarily new; states have done these sorts of analyses before. But North Carolina’s analysis overcomes many of the limitations that reduced the usefulness of previous assessments, like Pennsylvania’s. Other efforts required an exact match between voter registration and DMV databases; North Carolina expanded their matching criteria to allow for slight variations in names and data entry errors. North Carolina didn’t just look at how many registered voters didn’t have voter ID, they also looked at how many voters from the 2012 general election didn’t have voter ID. That’s very important, since it’s easy to imagine that voters without a car, or the elderly and the young would be especially likely to stay home on Election Day. And since North Carolina tracks voter registration by race and party, we have a pretty clear idea of how they would have voted.

The long and short is this. About 300,000 eligible voters don’t have ID. And about 138,000 people who voted in North Carolina in 2012 didn’t have ID. Of the voters without ID about half were non-white (compared to 30% generally) and 58% were Democrat (compared to 43%). So the impact was stronger on traditionally Democratic voters. However, even if all the people who didn’t have ID were denied the ability to vote — and in actual voter ID situation, that number would have been far less than 138,000 — the impact would have been minimal:

As a result, Obama’s share of the vote in North Carolina might have dropped from 48.3 to 48 percent, expanding Romney’s margin of victory from 92,000 to about 120,000 votes. 25,000 to 30,000 votes could flip a very close election, but nothing more. In 2012, no state was so close.

That’s Nate Cohn at the New Republic, by the way, who opposes voter ID laws and thinks they are a conspiracy to disenfranchise Democrats and steal elections. But even he is forced to acknowledge that impact would be minimal even in a state that has a large minority population and lots of students. Moreover, no voter ID law was being enforced. If it were, the number of ID-less voters would have been lower as the state and the parties made pushes to get IDs for eligible voters.

The wild claims of stolen elections were always a bit ridiculous. If massive vote fraud were occurring, we would expect participation rates to be much higher in inner cities instead of much lower. But so were the hysterical claims that elections were being stolen by Republicans. The simple fact is that 95% of the population has some form of acceptable identification.

Now I oppose the idea of 138,000 people being denied the right to vote if they are entitled to it. I think any voter ID laws needs to come with provisions to make it easy for legitimate voters to obtain ID and exercise their rights. But this study indicates we can back away from the abyss and move the debate and the law to more reasonable terms. In my opinion, those reasonable terms are requiring ID while making it easy for voting citizens to get them (including provisional ballots for those who forget or lose their ID). It may not swing many elections. But it will diffuse an issues that has dragged on for far too long.

Voter Fraud? What Voter Fraud

This is why we need voter ID:

Patrick Moran, the son of Virginia Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and the field director for his father’s reelection bid, resigned abruptly Wednesday after a video linked him to voter fraud.

The video — released earlier in the day by Project Veritas, a conservative organization headed by the Republican activist James O’Keefe — revealed that the younger Moran had weighed options for helping an undercover operative cast votes on behalf of 100 people who allegedly weren’t planning to vote.

“There will be a lot of voter protection, so, if they just have, you know, the utility bill or bank statement — bank statement would obviously be tough … but faking a utility bill would be easy enough,” Moran says, apparently referring to options for getting around Virginia’s voter ID laws.

Isn’t it amazing how when we pass these voter ID laws, this “non-existent” voter fraud problem suddenly becomes very real?

I’ve criticized O’Keefe before, but there’s nothing to say about this. Moran Jr. isn’t being quoted out of context. He’s openly conspiring to commit fraud. And it was so obvious that his own father shitcanned him in about ten seconds. What he was conspiring to do, if I understand correctly, was a felony.

The Left will, of course, ignore this while touting election fraud stories involving Republicans. But here’s the key difference: Republicans are not opposing any and all efforts to tighten down on voter and voter registration fraud. The Republicans who are misbehaving are being caught by laws Republicans support. No one is saying that Colin Small or anyone else should be left off the hook. If any GOP operatives are committing fraud, Republicans should and will be the first to call for their scalps.

But is there comparable integrity from the Left? Are they calling for prosecution? **crickets**

In the end, I suspect that this will be resolved by both sides agreeing to a national ID card, a prospect I am opposed to. But for now, just passing laws that require an ID is a good step.

Maryland Legislator Caught


A Maryland Democratic candidate quit her congressional race Monday after her own party told state officials that she had committed fraud by voting in both Maryland and Florida in recent elections.

Wendy Rosen, a small-business owner running against freshman Rep. Andy Harris (R) in the Eastern Shore-based 1st Congressional District, released a statement saying that “with great regret, and much sorrow” she was resigning from the contest.

I post this to make a point. Voter ID laws have been proposed and passed around the country with much controversy. Democrats are decrying them as a vote-surpression measure; Republicans are praising them for rooting out fraud. Some of them have problems: here in Pennsylvania, there are people who are three or fours four hours away from the nearest place they can get an ID. In general, I don’t think voter fraud is ridiculously common. I think it happens, but the idea that millions of fraudulent votes are cast each year and entire elections are being swung by this (outside of the odd Minnesota senate race) crosses me as a bit silly. But I don’t really see the objection to voter ID requirements, as long as getting the IDs is convenient and free. Really, what’s the harm? Why shouldn’t there be an ID requirement?

But … Democrats have been insisting that, rather than voter fraud being a small problem, that it is a non-existent problem. They cite the low number of prosecutions and convictions for voter fraud as proof.

But the tale of Wendy Rosen shows the flaw in this argument: voter fraud is not identified and prosecuted very much because there is no ID requirement. It is not prosecuted because there is no national system to prevent people from being registered in multiple states (as, indeed, the college Democrats at my school encouraged students to do before the administration told them to knock it off). We don’t really know the size of the problem because we have been prohibited from even considering it.

Voter ID probably would not have stopped Rosen, since she had a valid ID. This came from an anonymous tip within the campaign (methinks she was boasting about it). The elephant in the room here is that really cracking down on voter fraud is going to require a national ID card and a national voter database. Republicans and even many Democrats are opposed (as am I).

But let’s not pretend this problem does not exist. And let’s not pretend it can’t make a difference in a very close election like Franken v. Coleman or Gregoire v. Rossi. Because it’s obvious that it can. And it’s even more obvious to me that the Democrats know it.

Update: Not minutes after I posted this, I was sent this year-old article, alleging that the 2004 election was stolen. An election that Bush won by three million votes and in a state that Bush won by 100,000 votes.

So, to sum up: Republicans worried that a lack of ID will lead to voter fraud is hysterical dementia; Democrats with conspiracy theories about electronic voting is reasonable skepticism.