Friday, October 10, 2008

Fraud and Suppression

In follow-up to my previous post, Jake Tapper has a nice recap on the strange interplay between voter fraud and vote suppression:
There's a case to be made to voters that any news organization, candidate, or political party that acts as if one of these two issues is a problem, but ignores the other, is only concerned about their side winning, as opposed to caring about a clean and orderly and fair election. Most Americans, I would guess, do not see it that way. Americans are a fair-minded people who believe the election should be clean, and every eligible voter should be allowed to cast his or her ballot, without either fraud or suppression.
This is undoubtedly true, but it runs up against a major problem: anyone with an opinion on this topic is likely to be thoroughly convinced that his party has suffered more from the other side's infractions and that allegations of his compatriots' misdeeds are seriously overblown. And any reform will be seen to benefit one side or the other. Attempts to verify voter identity are always met with howls of disenfranchisement, while legislation to ensure voters' rights are seen as political cover for fraud. So far as I can tell the situation is politically intractable, and I think we can all see that we're slouching toward a massive crisis of voter confidence.

Of course, my personal position is not nearly so equitable. As I see it, if you are so marginal a participant in our society that you can't be bothered to have any sort of verifiable identification, well, I can't see how our nation is in desperate need of your input. And since the Supreme Court has decided that requiring ID is not an "undue burden" (including the liberal Justice Stevens), I hope to see Real Voter ID continue to spread. Reducing the possibility of fraud improves confidence and reduces justifications for suppression. In such an instance, community organizers could do socially valuable work helping potential voters get IDs (which would have follow-on benefits well beyond voting) rather than just sitting down with a phone book to fill out thousands of voter registration cards.


elephantschild said...

I was totally astonished at the difference between voter registration in IL and WI.

When we voted the first time in IL, we had to register ahead of time; we could not register at the polls. (allowed in WI) Not only that, you have to register a month ahead of time. (Oct. 7th was the last day to register for the presidential election.) We registered at the DMV, the so-called "motor voter" option which has been decried in Wisconsin as "racist" and "discriminatory" many times.

In IL, the poll workers actually checked our signature on the little card against the digital image of our signature which was in their registration book. We had to show our voter registration card. Can you imagine the howls of outrage if something like that was suggested for Wisconsin?

When we voted the first time at our old residence in WI, the previous TWO owners of the house were STILL on the books. We told the pollworkers. They shrugged. A hippopotamic land mass unemployed in Greenland with an IQ of 50 could commit voter fraud in WI.

Shane said...

I still maintain that it's easier to disenfranchise large numbers of voters than to cast large numbers of ineligible votes, except through electronic manipulation of vulnerable machines. Which is nothing to sneeze at. I read Freedom to Tinker and Schneier's blog (google to find them) for computer security news, and it surprises me just how poorly designed these accredited voting machines are.

Also, choice architecture (see Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler's Nudge for details) can potentially influence far more votes one way or another. A poorly designed ballot (or maliciously designed ballot) can actually sway the results of an election. The infamous butterfly ballot is the extreme example, but confusing designs can confuse just enough voters to change the outcome.

These two are the real problems with vote confidence, not disenfranchisement and fraud.

By the way, I'm for onsite same day registration, which they have in Alaska. And I'm all for widespread early voting. Tuesday is the stupidest day of the week to hold an election.