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What Happened to ACVR?

Rick Hasen investigates the strange disappearance of the American Center for Voting Rights. As Hasen recounts, ACVR appears to have been a fly-by-night election reform organization that pushed voter ID laws in order to benefit Republicans.

In addition to exposing ACVR, Hasen argues that voter identification laws are unnecessary because polling-place voter fraud is rare and unlikely to affect many, if any, election results. While documented cases of polling place fraud are few and far between, Hasen acknowledges that documented cases of absentee-ballot voter fraud are more common. Yet some voter ID proposals would exempt those who cast absentee ballots. Another possibility, of course, would be to require IDs for both polling place and absentee voting.

No doubt some form their views on various election law questions, such as whether to require IDs to vote, whether to deny felons the franchise, or whether to facilitate early voting, based upon their expected practical consequences. Political partisans seek election laws that will benefit their party (as it appears ACVR did).

One can also approach these questions from the standpoint of what is, or should be, required of citizens, and what (if anything) should disqualify citizens from participating in elections. For instance, one may believe that an ID requirement is not a serious imposition on voters when IDs are required for everything from getting on a plane to renting a video. One might also believe that an ID requirement, especially if applied to absentee ballots, may help ensure future election integrity and (no less important) help maintain the appearance of election integrity. So, while some may support voter ID laws for partisan reasons, this does not (yet) convince me that voter ID laws are inherently unreasonable or unwise.

Crunchy Frog:
Isn't it state law here in Cali that everyone must have either a driver's license or a state-issued ID card?

I've never understood the argument that an ID requirement would disenfranchise anyone except for those illegally voting. Which is most likely the point.
5.18.2007 7:20pm
TCO:
Theft is infrequent so let's get rid of those stolen book detectors at libraries. Oh...and cheating on contracts is infrequent so let's get rid of all that GAO paperwork for contractors.

But...a more interesting point: I think that part of the issue is detection of fraud. If you look at how many panthers are seen in Colorado, you would say they are incredibly rare. But that's not how you count them. You go and do a sampling that is very exact (and takes a lot of work) in a subset of the state and than use statistics to imply the overall occurrence (and it's not just multiplication by land area, you factor in habitat type, so it is a weighted multiplication). Same thing can be done with any other partially hidden occurence. This is just basic common sense. So has such an analysis been done for voter fraud?
5.18.2007 7:30pm
MikeM (mail):
It would be very easy for a person who has two residences to vote twice, once in person and once absentee. In investigating voting irregularities, has anyone looked into the voting habits of snowbirds?
5.18.2007 7:31pm
A.S.:
In addition to exposing ACVR, Hasen argues that voter identification laws are unnecessary because polling-place voter fraud is rare and unlikely to affect many, if any, election results.

Yes, apparently Hasen, like the NYTimes and the rest of the left, believes that if you can't get a conviction, it must not exist.
5.18.2007 7:39pm
Bernie Shearon (mail):
I hate to sound dumb, but how do you get an ID from an absentee voter? I used absentee voting for my entire career in the Air Force. You submitted a postcard signed by your unit voting officer, got the ballot, then mailed it in.
Of course, there were additional technical requirements, as Al Gore's lawyers successfully argued in Florida in 2000. (which only proves that you're for or against voting depending on whether it benfits you or not)
5.18.2007 7:40pm
Owen Hutchins (mail):
Bernie- you have to show ID to get the forms in the first place. You are then marked in the rolls as voting absentee, so you can't vote twice.
5.18.2007 7:46pm
Waldensian (mail):

(which only proves that you're for or against voting depending on whether it benfits you or not)

True. It's exactly equivalent to international trade disputes.
5.18.2007 7:56pm
JoeNik:
I am generally in favor of voter ID laws, but have reservations due to a few issues:

1) Most people rely on a driver's license as their ID. However, this card is taken away if the driver gets a ticket. Do we want to disenfranchise a voter for speeding, or trust that no cop will step up enforcement before election day?

2) Most people don't need to show their IDs on a daily basis, so it is common to let the ID expire before renewing. I find it unfair to disenfranchise a voter if his ID has recently expired and there is no doubt as to his identity.

3) The state agencies that issue IDs tend to be closed on election day. This makes it impossible to correct any problems with IDs in a timely manner.

4) ID laws will be unequally enforced. Governors speed and will be able to vote with expired IDs. I will not be so lucky.

Until I see a plan that addresses these concerns, I can't support voter ID laws.
5.18.2007 7:58pm
Steve:
It's kind of interesting how nobody wants to confront Prof. Hasen's well-stated arguments on the merits.
5.18.2007 8:03pm
Crunchy Frog:
When Prof. Hasen makes some well-stated arguments, we'll be sure to confront them on whatever merits they might have.

I'm not holding my breath.
5.18.2007 8:13pm
Henri LeCompte (mail):
I honestly never understood the hoopla over this issue. It just seems so common sensical and expected that you would have to show ID for this purpose, that I was a bit taken aback by the vehemence of those who insisted that it was some racist Republican plot.

Also, it seemed that the potential for mischief that attended "no ID" voting would clearly outweigh any reasonable expectation of public good from it. But, I suppose that is just my gut reaction. I actually have no idea how many people get turned away at the polls for not having ID.

It just seems strange and incongruous to expect that people who are so entirely "off the grid" as to have no ID, would be hell-bent on voting. I mean "no ID" means no bank account, no domicile, no electricity, no running water, no nothing. A grey-market job that is paid in cash. No checks, no health insurance, no credit cards... heck, I don't think you can even rent a room in a Motel 6 without ID.

Anyway, the whole issue seemed fabricated, to get people excited over nothing.
5.18.2007 8:17pm
EH:
Henri LeComte seems to be describing the image of society illustrated in the movie (and probably the book) "Starship Troopers," where citizenship is conferred through services rendered to the government. In this case, $10 (or whatever the ID cost is these days) shall be remitted to the state in order to receive your voting rights. Why not just charge the fee at the voting booth and be done with it?
5.18.2007 8:23pm
A.S.:
Hasen argues that voter identification laws are unnecessary because polling-place voter fraud is rare and unlikely to affect many, if any, election results

The other thing, of course, is that cases of "disenfranchisement" as a result of voter identification laws are even rarer. Non-existent, actually.
5.18.2007 8:24pm
Dick King:
Don't the same sorts of people who argue against voter ID laws by claiming they solve a virtually non-existent problem also point to one or two examples of people being erroneously disenfranchised and say this represents an enourmous problem?

-dk
5.18.2007 8:25pm
A.S.:
In this case, $10 (or whatever the ID cost is these days) shall be remitted to the state in order to receive your voting rights. Why not just charge the fee at the voting booth and be done with it?

Well, they already charge me the cost of the gas to get to the polling place as well as parking. Poll tax?
5.18.2007 8:26pm
Charlie B. (mail):
** MikeM on Snowbirds: yes. The State of Florida has found literally thousands of folks registered in both Florida and their northern home state.

Some wags has suggested that Gore would have been elected in 2000 if he had made the effort to get out the snowbird vote with such things a election day round trip flights from JFK to FLL.

During one of the recent election cycles, women with homes in Michigan (?) and Florida sent both the Michigan and Florida absentee ballots in the same envelope to the Florida Supervisor of elections.

** Owen Hutchins on ID for absentee ballots -- many states allow absentee ballot requests by mail.
5.18.2007 8:26pm
Nathan_M (mail):
Henri, I'll admit I was surprised too that this is an issue, but doesn't the intensity of the reaction prove it is? Neither the Democrats or Republicans in Texas come out looking well over this, so I don't see why they'd being doing it if it isn't actually an important issue, despite our intuition.

In the comments to the last post on this issue, someone raised the point that this issue is, essential, a trade off between allowing fraudulent voters, which we can all agree is good, and prohibiting legitimate voters, which we can all agree is bad. You have to answer "how many legitimate voters is it worth disenfranchising to prevent a fraudulent voter?"
I can't justify an answer to that higher than one, which leads me to think these laws are probably a bad idea, at least unless there is some compelling (i.e. not anecdotal) evidence of actual fraud.
5.18.2007 8:29pm
Steve:
When Prof. Hasen makes some well-stated arguments, we'll be sure to confront them on whatever merits they might have.

You read the entire article, then, and didn't find a single well-stated argument?

That strikes me as quite implausible. I note the usage of the royal "we," as well, suggesting that you don't believe anyone else would be likely to find any well-stated arguments in the article, either. It couldn't just be that you choose to ignore Prof. Hasen because he disagrees with your preconceived notions, right?
5.18.2007 8:39pm
A.S.:
I note the usage of the royal "we," as well, suggesting that you don't believe anyone else would be likely to find any well-stated arguments in the article, either.

You'd have to be pretty gullible to think that any of Hasen's "arguments" are well stated.

In any event, when Hasen (and the NY Times) finally figure out that the number of convictions doesn't necessarily tell us much about whether the problem exists, give me a shout.
5.18.2007 8:44pm
M. Lederman (mail):
No, they're not inherently unreasonable or unwise. But they are in fact unreasonable and unwise (at best), because in this day and age they are intended to, and do, result in disenfranchisement while not providing any measurable benefits.

P.S. If one sincerely believes that the appearance of election integrity is as important as actual election integrity -- and worth preventing even where there is no actual problem w/r/t election integrity -- then instead of taking steps that disenfranchise people, one should shout from the rooftops, as often and as loudly as possible, that people are being sold a bill of goods about "voter fraud" that creates a false "appearance" of a problem with election integrity.
5.18.2007 8:52pm
M. Lederman (mail):
Sorry, I meant "worth protecting." Also, please note that, per Rick Hasen, my comments are directed at so-called polling place fraud, not at any problem related to fraudulent absentee ballots.
5.18.2007 8:58pm
Andrew Okun:
Well, anyway, hats off for an interesting and informative post. This is a very cool blog. Opinionated and pointed, but reasoned and thoughtful and not shilling for anyone.
5.18.2007 9:04pm
Connie (mail):
JoeNik: where do you live that your license is physically taken for speeding? This is not generally the case that I'm aware of. Also, in the case of an expired license, I've been told by DMV employees (I know, they aren't lawyers) that an expired drivers license is still valid for ID, specifically for boarding a plane. The expiration part is for driving.
5.18.2007 9:16pm
Jonathan H. Adler (mail) (www):
Marty -

I recognize that claims of polling-place voter fraud is over stated, but that does not mean that there is no voter fraud. Indeed, coming from a city where local elections were stolen through absentee ballots and dead people voting (Philadelphia), and having family in another city where an election was stolen (Miami), I know full well that voter fraud occurs. Therefore, I don't think that minimal efforts to ensure that voters are who they say are inherently unreasonable, and I see no reason why an ID requirement for all ballots is necessarily an unreasonable component of such efforts.

Arguments about disenfranchisement, without more, are not compelling to me either. Among other things, many claims of "disenfranchisement" are as overstated and unsubstantiated as many arguments about polling-place voter fraud. Second, there is a difference between adopting a policy for the purpose of disenfranchising people based upon their race or some other suspect reason and adopting a policy for legitimate, neutral reasons that nonetheless has a disparate effect on one group or another. I think one can condemn the former without condemning the latter. Thus, for instance, I think courts should apply exacting scrutiny to felon disenfrancisement laws where there is evidence they were adopted with discriminatory intent, but leave such laws alone where they were adopted for legitimate, neutral reasons.

Based on the evidence I have seen to date, I am not convinced that a minimal ID requirement is inherently discriminatory, nor am I convinced that there are not ways to minimize the potentially disparate impacts of such requirements (such as waiving fees for IDs, etc.). I also do not see a problem with an electoral system that requires citizens to have enough interest and concern about electoral outcomes to invest time and energy so they can vote.

There may well be -- and probably are -- superior policy alternatives, but that does not make voter ID requirements inherently unreasonable.

JHA
5.18.2007 9:22pm
BC (mail):
Voter fraud is very rare indeed: "Hundreds of Illegals Have Registered to Vote in Bexar County" see link below.

http://radio.woai.com/cccommon/news/
sections/newsarticle.html?feed=119078&article=2138213
5.18.2007 9:24pm
Tollhouse:
You have to answer "how many legitimate voters is it worth disenfranchising to prevent a fraudulent voter?"

I don't think that's an accurate representation of the situation.

If you go to vote, and there is a problem with your registration, you still get to vote, but on a provisional ballot.

So restated, "How many legitimate voters is it worth to temporarily inconvenience someone to prevent a fraudulent voter?"
5.18.2007 9:42pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
It's an understatement to suggest that FL has had problems with elections. It gets one thing right though: you must provide a photo ID prior to voting, at least in person.

The last time I voted absentee from FL, I simply requested the form by mail, stating that I would be overseas on election day. The ballot return envelope, however, required the signatures of two, unrelated witnesses to my signature verifying that I was who I claimed to be.
5.18.2007 10:35pm
DougA (mail):
"For instance, one may believe that an ID requirement is not a serious imposition on voters when IDs are required for everything from getting on a plane to renting a video."

I don't know about renting video's but the ID requirement for getting on a plane isn't true. I know because I flew without one. I lost lost my license (and just my license as I didn't put it away when I left the rental car lot and I think I must have dropped it when I got to my destination) while away from home and still had to fly home. To get on the plane, all I had to do was go through the full security screen. So it true that you need a photo ID to go through the normal security screening, it is not true that it is required to get onto an airplane.
5.18.2007 10:45pm
glangston (mail):
The excuses that Voter ID is an imposition rival "my dog ate my homework"....not in originality, but in ambition.
5.18.2007 11:31pm
Viscus (mail) (www):

So, while some may support voter ID laws for partisan reasons, this does not (yet) convince me that voter ID laws are inherently unreasonable or unwise. (bold added).


Whether I agree or not depends on how big the "some" is. My view is that many (not merely some) Republicans were big on this simply because they wanted to reinforce their power with policy measures they know will disproportionately disenfranchise Democrats. Basically, as a way to stay in power with less of a popular mandate.

In general, one sees a pattern of Republicans pursuing meritless voter cases for purely partisan reasons (i.e. the U.S. Attorney dismissals where Republican Attorney's with integrity were replaced for not bring frivolous voter fraud cases.)

Too bad for Republicans. They are in the minority now. They will not be able to disenfranchise Democrats to maintain their majority.

One thing is actually good about Republicans attempts to disenfranchise minorities and other Democrats. It should allow us to mobilize minorities who will be more anxious to exercise voting rights that are under assault. Republicans are foolish for not recognizing the backlash and mobilization potential that their attempts to disenfranchise minorities for partisan political gain create.
5.18.2007 11:36pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
A statute or ordinance that required a government license to rent a video or buy a bible would be found unconstitutional under the first amendment, if the buyer could afford a competent lawyer. Zenger, Penn.
There is no law that requires a government issued flying license. See Gilmore v Ashcroft and papersplease.org. When my roommate Joell Palmer was stopped (and assaulted) at a drug roadblock, he pointed out that the 4th Amendment requires probable cause. Edmonds v Indianapolis.
Today the Marion County election board met and decided which provisional votes to count. They didn't count mine, because I decline to show a voting license unless they have a warrant or some such showing of reasonable suspicion. They know it's me. We go through this every time.
http://joellpalmer.blogspot.com has more about the facts and law of the dispute. I'm not a competent lawyer, and I haven't been able to find one to take the case pro bono, and Palmer doesn't have money to hire one, so I expect we'll lose, but I'm convinced we are right on the law and policy aspects.
I do think that Hasen's article understates the genuine problem of in person voter fraud, which historically existed in Philadephia and Boston and Texas and elsewhere, and probably continues to some extent in some of these places.
But disenfranchising me and and unknown number of other people, and conducting unwarranted searches on those who do bother to vote, does not solve the problem,and meanwhile makes things much worse. Those who want to cast fraudulent votes will move on to some other technique for doing so.
It's a bit like banning guns in the hope of stopping murder - it doesn't fix the problem, and it creates other problems, in a manner which is unconstitutional. I very strongly object to having my right to vote taken away,and I want to encourage Mr. Adler to rethink his position. Maybe the folks here can come up with creative ways of actually deterring or discovering actual voting fraud, that don't involve this sort of collateral damage.
5.18.2007 11:48pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
My view is that many (not merely some) Republicans were big on this simply because they wanted to reinforce their power with policy measures they know will disproportionately disenfranchise Democrats. Basically, as a way to stay in power with less of a popular mandate.


Proof?
5.19.2007 12:02am
Jim Harper (mail) (www):
It's an interesting reflection of a widespread mental habit to see all this focus on whether or not to require ID for voting. Just like in a bar, where the issue is a person's age, and they ask for ID (often as required by law).

Qualifications for voting are citizenship, residence in the jurisdiction, absence of felonies, and, I suppose, not having voted before in that particular election. Anyone want to consider proof of these things rather than defaulting to ID?

Going forward into our exciting digital future, it will be increasingly important to avoid uniform identification systems (as would generally be required by voter ID laws) because of the surveillance capability of those systems.

I have a book on this stuff: Identity Crisis: How Identification is Overused and Misunderstood.
5.19.2007 12:59am
Taltos:
Today the Marion County election board met and decided which provisional votes to count. They didn't count mine, because I decline to show a voting license unless they have a warrant or some such showing of reasonable suspicion. They know it's me. We go through this every time.

Out of all the nonsensical arguments against requiring ID, I think that's the most ridiculous thus far.
5.19.2007 1:29am
a n o n y m o u s:
I'm totally convinced by the arguments presented here -- we should definitely implement the voter ID system. It's sure to work. And when we're done, we should implement an ID system whereby underage drinkers are kept out of bars. It's *sure* to work, too. I mean, how hard would it be to get a fake ID?
5.19.2007 2:47am
SpenceB:
...apparently, the U.S. Congress and most state legislatures consider the risk of 'vote-fraud' to be significant -- according to their own internal voting procedures for legislation.

Electronic voting cards are commonplace for legislators. For example, each member of the U.S. House of Representatives is issued an encyrpted "Vote-ID Card" to cast official votes on the House floor.

- Why is any voter-identification procedure necessary in such prestigious, public, and easily-monitored government balloting ??

- What could go wrong ? What are they afraid of ? Can legislators not be trusted ? Will strangers wander in and vote ?


Legislative bodies represent a very small-scale model of the big issues of 'vote-fraud' in general elections by the citizenry...
and we can observe that our legislators are quite fussy about 'who' actually casts votes in their chambers and how they do it -- those real-world voting procedures by our highest government 'experts' instruct us that, yes, vote-fraud is a constant risk to fair & honest balloting.

Multiply those vote-fraud risks a thousand-fold in general elections by the public.
5.19.2007 8:23am
R. Richard Schweitzer (mail):
Are you kidding? Have you no memory of St Louis and East St Louis?

R. Richard Schweitzer
s24rrs@aol.com
5.19.2007 9:55am
Loren (mail) (www):
Here in Georgia, we got quite a bit of attention last year over the issue of ID at the polls. Our new photo ID requirement was attacked as being illegal, even after the state instituted a program to issue free photo IDs.

There's a distinction here that the language of a lot of comments misses. "Voter identification" is commonly required, and is constitutional. It's the specific requirement of "photo identification" that's so controversial. Existing Georgia law states states that, to vote, one must produce one of 17 forms of ID. Voter identification is already required; just not photo identification. And I've never heard the existing ID law attacked by anyone as an impediment to voting.

The new law eliminated several of those ID options (including utility bills and bank statements), reducing the number of acceptable ID options to six forms of photo ID. Critics said that this new rule was unconstitutional.

And I have yet to see a satisfactory answer as to why it's fair and acceptable for the state to require one of 17 forms of ID, but a unconstitutional and a flagrant violation of one's civil rights to require one of only 6 forms of ID.

Is it because the 6 are all government-issued IDs? 14 of the 17 forms are government-issued, and 1 of the 3 that aren't must have a photo. Only bank statements and utility bills are photoless, non-government-issued ID options, and it would presumably be legal for the state to eliminate those two and narrow the list to 15. Besides, plenty of people (e.g., elderly women) don't have bank statements or utility bills in their own names anyway.

Is it because a photo ID takes too much effort on the part of the voter to obtain? There was much criticism that a gov't-issued photo ID cost money and thus constituted a poll tax, and then after a free photo-ID program was instituted, that it was an excessive burden to require people to obtain the free ID. But of the 17 existing options, only 2 are free forms of ID that are available to any member of the public: a Social Security card, or "a government document." Of course, in the event you can't find your SS card (I don't know where mine is, to be honest), requesting a new one from the SSA requires producing either a driver's license, passport, or state-issued ID card.

So at what point does a legal and acceptable list of voter ID options become an unconstitutionally restrictive list of voter ID options? Is there a magic minimum number, like how juries can't fall below 6 members? Are there certain non-photo ID options that the state must be willing to accept? If the list of 17 is OK, but the list of 6 is not, is there a list in-between that would be legal?
5.19.2007 10:03am
loki13 (mail):
Why are so many people not addressing the main points of the OP?

1. Fraud, in registration, has been a problem (due to perverse incentives, see also numerous example of Mouse, Mickey being registered to vote and the numerous dead people added to voter rolls).

2. Fraud, in terms of actual voting, isn't a systemic problem, and despite incredible efforts by leading members of the Bushublican party* and the deployment of anecdotes, there have been close to zero prosecutions for actual voter fraud.

3. Furthermore, what voter fraud that does occur tends to occur with absentee ballots. But the Bushublican party won't talk about that, because, well, absentee ballots are an older, richer demographic (hint, hint) or an overseas/military demographic and discouraging these votes would not be in their interest.

4. Finally, the insistence on IDs at polling places is rarely about the IDs. It's about the IDs and about the intimidation. It's an added layer of 'helpful poll workers' that can demand the 'papers' of people they don't like in an aggressive way. For people from suspect minority communities, even with nothing to hide, that's a risk they don't want to take. It's difficult enough for them to find the time to vote- it's another layer of official intimidation (in addition to the helpful and wrong Republican Flyers telling immigrants that they cannot vote-- as in the recent Orange County elections).

What is the sum total of this?
a. Bushublicans are attacking a problem that doesn't exist. (Voter fraud at the polls).
b. They are ignoring the problem that does exist (absentee ballots).
c. They are doing this to rally the base (see comments here) and to depress voting overall.

Again, like many Bushublican tactics, this one will, in the long run, fail. The very minority groups that are targeted by these efforts are gaining in numbers and will not look kindly in the future upon these efforts.

*I am open to alternative suggestions for 'Bushublicans'. I cringe inside evertime I see posters deploy terms like 'Dimocrats', but I would like a term to differentiate the followers of Bush from other Republicans. I fail to see how Bush is in any way a Republican (small government, non-interventionist, government out of people's lives, upholding the rule of law etc.) and would like to reserve the term for future candidates who actually come close this definition. If, however, others believe this is a perjorative and would prefer I call them Republicans, I will do so.
5.19.2007 10:11am
Ken Arromdee:
As Hasen recounts, ACVR appears to have been a fly-by-night election reform organization that pushed voter ID laws in order to benefit Republicans.

I'm reminded of Fred Saberhagen's first Dracula story where Dracula remarks that a passage about him living in sacred ground is correct "aside from the semantic bludgeons 'hideous' and 'ghastly'."

(Incidentally, "Bushublicans" is ridiculous here. Bush likes illegal immigration. The point of the voter ID laws is to stop voting by illegal immigrants. "antiBushublicans" may be more appropriate.)
5.19.2007 10:47am
Joel Rosenberg (mail) (www):
Clearly, voter fraud happens; clearly, legitimate voters are denied their franchise. How often each of those happens should inform the discussion, but Mr. Hasen's otherwise well-written article ignores that issue, instead preferring to focus on the disappearance of a largely (perhaps entirely) Republican-sponsored operation to raise the issue of voter fraud.

That's okay. It's an interesting article, but it doesn't effectively address the central issue of the costs and benefits of more stringent rules to minimize fraudulent voting and voter registration.
5.19.2007 11:27am
SP:
Just another attempt by the Dems to infantilize black people. It would just be asking too much of black people, apparently, to have personal IDs, in order that they might drive a vehicle, have a job, or rent a video from Blockbuster.
5.19.2007 12:17pm
SP:
"That strikes me as quite implausible. I note the usage of the royal "we," as well, suggesting that you don't believe anyone else would be likely to find any well-stated arguments in the article, either. It couldn't just be that you choose to ignore Prof. Hasen because he disagrees with your preconceived notions, right?"

Wellllllll, Steve, how about stating one of those arguments and expanding upon it, instead of talking down to the royal "us"?
5.19.2007 12:19pm
Dave N (mail):
The experience of obvuious fraud in the Washington state gubernatorial election (as well as other elections that were actually overturned) points to the existence of a problem.

Proving fraud is difficult and eliminating it completely is impossible. (The easiest way to "buy" votes is to have someone request an absentee ballot and then turn the ballot over to the buyer to be cast)

Frankly, my vote is diluted if even one person votes illegally. Requiring some sort of government-issued identification in order to vote is a very small step--and it is fascinating the strawmen being put up by the opponents (my favorite being the unidentified state that apparently seizes your driver's license when issuing traffic citations).
5.19.2007 12:39pm
Tom Tildrum:
"how many legitimate voters is it worth disenfranchising to prevent a fraudulent voter?"

This argument is unpersuasive, because these are exactly two sides of the same coin. Every fraudulent voter cancels out a vote for the opposite party, so every fraudulent vote disenfranchises a legitimate voter. One's willingness to tolerate voter fraud should necessarily be equivalent to one's willingness to tolerate disenfranchisement.

As far as lack of polling-place fraud goes, I don't see how the lack of evidence proves very much. If voters commonly are not asked to produce any form of identification, then what evidence of fraud could possibly exist? It's an inherently unmeasurable crime, unless and until an ID requirement is imposed. Until then, citing to the lack of evidence strikes me as largely an empty gesture.
5.19.2007 1:12pm
Dick King:
Dead people should be allowed to vote, since they run for office and occasionally win.

-dk
5.19.2007 1:48pm
Charlie B. (mail):
The lack of Federal voter fraud prosecutions is a red herring. A majority, if not all, voter fraud should be a violation of state law. Unless it is white police officers killing blacks, the Feds usually don't prosecute if the state prosecutes.
5.19.2007 2:08pm
Andrew Okun:
As far as lack of polling-place fraud goes, I don't see how the lack of evidence proves very much. If voters commonly are not asked to produce any form of identification, then what evidence of fraud could possibly exist? It's an inherently unmeasurable crime, unless and until an ID requirement is imposed. Until then, citing to the lack of evidence strikes me as largely an empty gesture.


This isn't right. Either a person should be registered or shouldn't, which is easily amenable to evidence. You can go to a person's address and knock on the door or gather other information about them that shows they are validly registered or not.

That only leaves that (a) someone is registered but someone else votes for them or (b) nobody is registered but someone casts a ballot anyway. (b) can only happen with the connivance of a poll worker, for which an ID requirement would be irrelevant.

(a) might happen and might be hard to prosecute, but evidence is easy to obtain. Ask the person who is registered whether or not they voted. The only motivation for a person to lie in that situation is that they intentionally gave another person leave to vote in their place. Such a fraud would be hard to detect, it is true, but I have not heard anyone suggest that that is the kind of fraud happening and, in any case, it would be impossible for that kind of fraud to be done systematically or on a large scale. For every fake voter, you'd need a legitimate voter at least a little sympathetic to give up their place, making it likely to be close to a wash, and for every fake voter, you'd need to seek permission from the real voter, increasing the likelihood of detection.

All the accounts I've read of alleged voter fraud seem to wind up being about people voting who really shouldn't be registered in the first place, because they're immigrants, felons, already registered or dead. All of those things can be investigated.

One way you can tell that evidence of voter fraud can exist in the absence of an ID requirement is the abundance of anecdotal reports of alleged voter fraud that the voter fraud crowd comes up with. If the phenomenon were unmeasurable, than that partial measurement would not be possible. The problem with those reports is how little they turn out to represent, not that the problem is undetectable.
5.19.2007 2:11pm
Mark Field (mail):

Frankly, my vote is diluted if even one person votes illegally.


This points out the asymmetrical nature of the problem. If someone votes illegally, that dilutes the vote of everyone else by 1/(# of voters). In a national election, with perhaps 60,000,000 voters or so, the number of fraudulent voters would have to be quite large to make any difference. Moreover, any such voters could be punished afterwards. Thus, the harm is generally de minimis and a remedy is available.

In contrast, a person denied the right to vote has suffered a clear violation of his/her constitutional right for which there is no remedy.
5.19.2007 2:40pm
Eli Rabett (www):
Well, according to an earlier thread featuring the thought of one Caplan (a descendent of H*Y*M*A*N one presumes) , Mark, your vote is not worth anything anyhow. It is a hoot how people on that thread who were bleating that yes, Caplan is right, one vote is not worth anything and therefore it is not rational for voters to care about issues, are worried here about their vote being diluted.
5.19.2007 3:27pm
Dave N (mail):
Eli Rabett:

Mark directly quoted my prior post--I do not remember commenting on any prior thread regarding rational voters.

As for the remainder of Mark's comment, I wonder if he seriously thinks the fraudulent votes cast in King County, Washington were for the Republican, Dino Rossi? Courts ruled they could not overturn the election because there was no proof that the fraudulent votes changed the outcome of the election--and while that was a logical ruling in the abstract, the fact that the bulk of fraudulent votes cast were in a Democratic stronghold suggests otherwise.
5.19.2007 3:39pm
Mark Field (mail):

As for the remainder of Mark's comment, I wonder if he seriously thinks the fraudulent votes cast in King County, Washington were for the Republican, Dino Rossi? Courts ruled they could not overturn the election because there was no proof that the fraudulent votes changed the outcome of the election--and while that was a logical ruling in the abstract, the fact that the bulk of fraudulent votes cast were in a Democratic stronghold suggests otherwise.


I don't see this as at all responsive to my point. I don't want to debate McKay and the issue of voter fraud in this thread. Not because it isn't interesting, but because we'll never agree and because it sidetracks the more general point.

Yes, in smaller elections there is some chance that fraudulent voters might sway an election. I tend to look on that as less serious than national elections precisely because the harm is confined to a smaller area. And, the more likely there is an impact of fraud, the smaller the area we're talking about. That suggests that prosecution after the fact would be the better solution.

Nor am I very impressed by the anecdotal evidence which proponents of voter ID continually offer. Your argument is much like that of Dems in FL arguing that the purge of voter rolls disproportionately cost them.

Each policy has a cost. My point is that in one case the cost is borne by the individual and in the other case the cost is distributed widely. That suggests that the policy need not be and should not by symmetrical.
5.19.2007 5:15pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
So at what point does a legal and acceptable list of voter ID options become an unconstitutionally restrictive list of voter ID options?

From reading these several threads, I have to surmise that a voter ID law becomes unconstitutionally restrictive at the point it actually prevents voter fraud. One side appears to like fraudulent voting. One can only guess why that might be so.
5.19.2007 7:12pm
loki13 (mail):

Incidentally, "Bushublicans" is ridiculous here. Bush likes illegal immigration. The point of the voter ID laws is to stop voting by illegal immigrants. "antiBushublicans" may be more appropriate.


Two points here:

I do not believe this is a completely correct analysis. Bushublicans are beholden to big business, and big business likes illegal immigration (depresses wages)... but it does not follow that 'voter fraud' is not a Bush/Rove tactic. While depressing voter turnout is a (small c) conservatice standard the world over (in Europe, they correlate conservaitve victories with rainy weather) the deployment of 'wedge issues' and simple fear tactics is a hallmark of a the Bushublican camp, and voter fraud is a pet project of Karl Rove. By driving 'voter fraud', they can be against it (before they were for it)... they're against illegal immigrants voting (even though they don't- but politically it looks great!), but they're for tillegal immigrants making our economy work.

Again, I'm not sold on the term Bushublican. But I don't want to continue tarring all Republicans with my growing distate for the current administration and the few hardcore believers in this administration that populate the message boards (the 25%, the last throes of the insurgency). I'm open to less perjorative suggestions- believers in the unitary executive, perhaps? FOBs (Friends of Bush)?
5.19.2007 7:49pm
Anonymous Reader:
I love the "intimidation" by asking someone for an ID. If that's the case, all Americans are intimidated all the time! And the fact that this is a scheme of the "evil" repubs/bushpubs/etc takes the cake!! Wow, I am amazed that this subject without fail brings out the strangest contortions!!

I do agree with the poster who mentioned the fact that in our hallowed halls of Congress, they use high speed ID's in order to cast votes!! What rank hypocrisy!! If we can't trust a small subset of "honorable" men and women who are closely scrutinized to vote properly, then how in the hell can we ensure that no one casts a fraudulent vote?

Anonymous Reader
5.19.2007 8:47pm
Stuart Buck (mail) (www):
Re: Lederman's point:

It's rather impressive that a person's position on voter fraud can be predicted with near 100% accuracy by simply asking whether or not that person is a partisan Democrat. If the person is a partisan Democrat, then nothing will make them admit that voter fraud is even worth investigating (let alone trying to prevent). If the person is rational at all and is anything other than a partisan Democrat, then he or she will agree that it's troubling that between 400 and 1,000 people probably double-voted in both Florida and New York in 2000 (never mind other states), or that Democratic activist groups turned in thousands of false forms while deliberately failing to register Republicans, or that the same activist groups turned in forms with false signatures or in the names of dead people. Nothing to be suspicious about, just move on.
5.19.2007 10:16pm
Brett Bellmore:

(a) might happen and might be hard to prosecute, but evidence is easy to obtain. Ask the person who is registered whether or not they voted.


The last time I heard of somebody trying to contact people shown as having voted, to see if they'd really voted, Demcrats went absolutely berserk, labeling it "voter harrasment".
5.19.2007 10:34pm
loki13 (mail):

It's rather impressive that a person's position on voter fraud can be predicted with near 100% accuracy by simply asking whether or not that person is a partisan Democrat.


Hmmm.... most rational observers would say that the better predictor is if you think voter fraud is a problem, then you're a partisan Republican.

Because there is no study, or convictions (this is called evidence in the real world) that indicates that it voter fraud is a problem. Anecdotes are just that- anecdotes. Voter enrollment fraud? Mmmkay. Kool-aid: not just for Guyana.
5.19.2007 11:24pm
Anonymous Reader:
Of course Loki13 is right, instead of ENSURING all votes that are cast are correct, we need proof of a conviction in order to even debate voter fraud.

In my mind, if we feel that the franchise is so important, it is one of our basic rights so by default it is, then we should be doing everything we can to ensure that it is free of any possible corruption. Loki13 - if you have a better recommendation to ensure that all votes are counted fairly and legally, what do you suggest?

Anonymous Reader
5.20.2007 12:15am
wuzzagrunt (mail):
Democrats have been consistant on this subject. They have said, for years, that every vote should count.

I'm having a little trouble following the Democrat logic, though. Nobody has been convicted of murdering Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. Does that mean they are still alive, or just that no crime was committed?
5.20.2007 12:39am
Jeremy T:
Anyone with Westlaw access can readily gain access to lots of election protest and contest cases from all across the country where voters knowingly cast illegal votes and committed vote fraud. These cases are rarely prosecuted criminally, so trolling for criminal convictions is the wrong place to look.

I agree with Hasen that the vast majority of the fraud takes place in the realm of absentee ballots, along with undue influence and intimidation, but that's no argument that we shouldn't do what we reasonably can to contest in-person fraud on election day.
5.20.2007 3:48am
Mike S.:
I am neither a partisan Republican, nor a partisan Democrat. And I have no idea how much of a problem voter fraud may be. But as a regular voter, it is obvious to me that in my precinct anyone who wanted to vote fraudulently could easily do so. Multiple times. It seems utterly commonsensical to require some form of hard to forge ID.
5.20.2007 9:59am
johnt (mail):
Someone may want to investigate the strange conclusions of Prof. Hansen. Just how does requiring ID from everybody rig matters to benefit only Republicans? A professional scholar surely is not alleging that only they are capable of voter fraud. If not, then the protection that ID provides works for both parties, unless Hansen is a cheap, dishonest hack.

Speaking of conclusions I may have just arrived at one.
5.20.2007 11:48am
Montie (mail):

My view is that many (not merely some) Republicans were big on this simply because they wanted to reinforce their power with policy measures they know will disproportionately disenfranchise Democrats.


If the disenfranchised are illegal voters, then what is the problem?

The goal should be an honest voting system. If one party is harmed dispropotionately, what is the big deal?

I find it a bit bizarre that Democrats act like voter IDs are such a huge threat to democracy when most democracies around the world require them.
5.20.2007 12:09pm
byomtov (mail):
If the disenfranchised are illegal voters, then what is the problem?

The problem is that your assumption is too simple. Some of the disenfranchised will be illegal voters. Others will not be. The false positive/false negative tradeoff is pretty common in a great many contexts, and applies here as well.
5.20.2007 12:51pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
How much of a problem is in-person voter fraud? Well, David Iglesias led up a task force devoted to voter fraud for over a year and couldn't find a single case to prosecute. (That's one reason he was fired.) Do we believe that this is the best-concealed type of crime in history, or that in-person fraud is rare? In Wisconsin, where the US Attorney went on a similar crusade, he got all of five convictions.

Nevertheless, I wouldn't object to an ID requirement if the sponsors made a serious effort to bring ID to the poor, elderly, disabled and others easily disenfranchised. The State of Georgia was forced to admit that there were 100,000 voters who do not have a license and another 180,000 whose licenses are expired, suspended, or revoked. [warning, fat pdf link] These numbers dwarf by three or four orders of magnitude the number of illegal votes that can be caught by photo ID. (Double voting across jurisdictions can't be stopped with ID, for example.)

Why don't the Republicans compromise by agreeing to such an effort to help legitimate voters actually vote? The conclusion is simple: these voters are generally Democrats, and the entire purpose is to disenfranchise them. All the rest is pretext generated by a focused PR campaign. This is not the first time a non-existent problem has been created and then hyped for a nefarious purpose: We needed Jim Crow laws to protect us from the Negro Conspiracy to Debauch White Women and we needed the Nuremberg Laws to protect us from the Jewish Conspiracy to Enslave Europe. That's the sort of company Rove keeps.
5.20.2007 1:03pm
byomtov (mail):


Let's not ignore another version of disenfranchisement. When some precincts are so underequiped with voting machines that voters face long waits, while voters in other precincts can vote quickly, then there is a serious practical problem of disenfranchisement. Let's fix that too, while we're at it.
5.20.2007 1:21pm
Fred Thompson (mail):
AH, notice how it is always the democrats who want to eliminate laws that might even arguably help to prevent mutliple voting or illegal voting? Not to mention the fact that California Democrats have recently come out in favor of allowing 14 year olds to vote? I wonder why that is? Anyone who is against ID laws is in favor of Democrat voter fraud, period.
5.20.2007 2:32pm
Andrew Okun:


(a) might happen and might be hard to prosecute, but evidence is easy to obtain. Ask the person who is registered whether or not they voted.





The last time I heard of somebody trying to contact people shown as having voted, to see if they'd really voted, Demcrats went absolutely berserk, labeling it "voter harrasment".


Do you have any sort of link to a story about this, cause I'd like to read it? I assume that the various SAs, USAs and AUSAs who've been investigating alleged voter fraud in these various jurisdications have been reviewing voter files and contacting the people involved to find out who they are, whether they are eligible and whether or not they voted. Don't recall hearing that called harassment. Also, I cannot imagine it being called harassment if done by a registrar.

Now, if one side's local party committee starts doing it, I can see the other side's local party committee having a news conference and acting outraged. But a government investigator doing it, no. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. When public officials purge huge numbers of people from voter lists without getting in touch to find out if they should be purged, a la Florida, people act all outraged. Rightly.
5.20.2007 5:37pm
Jeremy T:
The Help America Vote Act prevents anyone presenting at the polls from being disenfranchised due to a lack of ID when they vote in federal elections. The provisions of HAVA require that any person presenting be offered a provisional ballot; with a provisional ballot comes a chance to prove they are who they say they are at a future time so that their provisional ballot will count.

Anyone who says that requiring photo ID will disenfranchise anyone is either lying or stupid. Anyone who wishes to vote and is legally qualified to vote can vote even if photo ID is required. It is of course possible that some people may say the hell with it and choose not to vote, but that is not disenfranchisement.
5.20.2007 7:09pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):

The Help America Vote Act prevents anyone presenting at the polls from being disenfranchised due to a lack of ID when they vote in federal elections. [emphasis added]

Ah, what about those pesky state and local elections? And how exactly will the people who don't have Photo ID prove their identity later, and how much hassle will it take? And for the trifecta, where is all this fraud, anyway?

Pretext, pretext, pretext.
5.20.2007 8:58pm
KBM:
I live in CA and by statute we are required to have at all times, in public, a government issued ID (driver's license or state ID), yet when I go to my polling place I am not required to show any ID whatsoever. All I am required to do is state my name and then they ask my address (as they are searching the sheet that is in plain sight to me). To me, it makes no sense. How can it be against the law to walk from my home to my polling place without ID yet be unconstitutional to be required to show ID to vote? I really don't understand any argument againt requiring someone to present photo ID (even expired) or a photocopy of an ID for absentee ballots. It won't prevent all voter fraud but it would be a deterrent.
5.21.2007 12:19am
bertram (mail):
What CA statute is that? I live in CA and never heard of it. Now it's a good idea if you are close to the Mexican border and look Hispanic.
5.21.2007 1:22am
Philistine (mail):

If voters commonly are not asked to produce any form of identification, then what evidence of fraud could possibly exist?


In situations where there is widespread fraud that would have been curbed by ID laws, I'd expect there to be a number of occasions where a legitimate voter came in and was told he had already voted.

No idea whether this type of thing has been happening much.
5.21.2007 10:25am
rarango (mail):
Does anyone have any feel for how many voting irregularities are due to outright fraud, or rather due to bureaucratic failurers. While I generally endorse the idea of a voter photo ID, might that add yet another layer to the bureaucratic process and increase the chance for those types of errors?
5.21.2007 11:50am
Loren (another on in MN) (mail):
I have often wondered while in line to sign the book at the polling place, to get my ballot, what would happen if there was a signature there already? The book at the polling place has no example signature to compare to.

How would I be able to assert that I had not already voted, and that someone else had forged my signature? Or for that matter, how about if I forged my own signature in the morning, returned in the evening and with ID to prove that the signature in the book was not my own?

It has always seemed nonsensical that there was no ID requirement or example signature to compare to. The poll workers never know me personally, and I have lived in the same house, ward and precinct for 20 years. So how does a poll worker have any idea that the voter who signs the book, is the person shown in the book?

Whenever I get something notarized, by a notary who has worked with me for 15 years, I am still required to show ID for her records. Why not to vote?

Loren in MN not the previous Loren in this thread.
5.21.2007 3:43pm
Andrew Okun:
In situations where there is widespread fraud that would have been curbed by ID laws, I'd expect there to be a number of occasions where a legitimate voter came in and was told he had already voted.

Quite right. Unless the cheaters were fairly sophisticated, the number of voters told this ought to be about the number of bogus votes times the proportional turnout.

Of course, there could be other reasons why a legit voter is told he's already voted.
5.21.2007 3:59pm
Andrew Okun:
I have often wondered while in line to sign the book at the polling place, to get my ballot, what would happen if there was a signature there already?

And yet, election after election, you turn up at the polls and nobody has signed your name in the register and used your ballot.
5.21.2007 4:02pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Andrew Okun - Do you have any idea of the manpower it would take to go to the address of each registered voter who voted and make sure that there was an eligible voter there to match to that vote? There's one operation in the country that tries to do something like that - and they go once every 10 years. It takes months to complete, with a staff peaking at well over 800,000 people - and they end up having to rely on "neighbor's best guess" for many of the people unwilling to make personal contact. Considering that unlike the Census, this information would be shared with other government agencies, how much tougher would it be (not to mention more expensive) to try to get such information about voting?

It is obvious from many of the comments about how sophisticated people committing vote fraud would have to be that many of the commenters here have never actually worked in the voter contact or get out the vote parts of an election campaign. Campaigns have the data on who votes and who is on the rolls but doesn't vote. In fact, any politically involved organization can readily buy this data.

Of course, if you really want to make sure you don't get caught because of a stroke of bad luck (anecdotal example following shortly), voting the phony registrations, especially if you yourself submitted them, is a great way to go, at least if you're registering realistic names rather than Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck. While that can be done by absentee ballot too, absentee ballots leave a mailing trace and there is a signature matching attempt (of varying validity). In most dense suburban and urban areas, voting at 20 to 30 different precincts during a day could readily be done by someone motivated to cheat and prepared with a list of where to go and who to be. Most campaigns have a coterie of supporters who would do anything, regardless of legality, to help their candidate win - these are the people (often college-age) who deface/tear down opponents signs, vandalize opposing campaign offices, make harassing phone calls, etc.

Now for the anecdotal example. An elderly friend of mine was on the precinct board for her precinct last Tuesday (L.A. municipal runoff election). A young man got caught trying to vote under someone else's name because the precinct board chair heard him announce his name and shouted out "You're not Dave." I use the word caught loosely here - he ran out of the precinct and got away, but he was not able to cast that illegal vote. The police were called and his description was given, but I don't think anyone will ever find and arrest him. It turns out that the precinct board chair's husband was golfing buddies with Dave before Dave moved to Arizona. Without that stroke of luck (pun intended), the crook would have gotten away with an illegal vote.

Nick
5.21.2007 5:52pm
Andrew Okun:
NickM,

You would not have to check every registered in the country against every vote either to measure or prevent voter fraud.

The conversation here has been going something like this.

A: We should have voters present ID to solve the problem of voter fraud.

B: There is no evidence of a voter fraud problem. Without such evidence, imposing a new condition on voting is not justified.

A: Until we require voters to show ID, it is in principle impossible for there to be evidence of voter fraud.

B: Rubbish! It is perfectly possible to gather such evidence, if there is any actual voter fraud.

I, in the role of B, suggested that a way of measuring or investigating voter fraud would be to review the lists of people who voted, asking them if they voted and checking their signatures and the like. If there were complaints in a precinct, you could investigate that precinct. You could do a large random sampling to determine the scope of the problem, if any. "Dave," your anecdotal cheater, is evidence that (a) it is possible to have evidence of people cheating at the polling place and (b) if you cheat at the polling place there is a chance you can get caught.

I suspect, not having done any studies, that if you did studies of this you would find no statistically significant cheating on a large scale, but would find significant cheating on rare occasions on a small scale, election for town donut inspector and the like, where a few votes might make the difference.

Aside from the lack of evidence of polling place fraud, evidence which _can_ be gathered if it is there, there is also the question of motive. Why in blazes would someone wanting to cheat systematically do so by getting many different people to pretend to be other people at polling places? As you point out, they could just register a zillion John Smiths or Joe Joneses or Mickey Ducks or Donald Mouses and vote absentee. Insisting on ID in the polling place would do little to prevent anything, except the poor, the confused and the disorganized from voting.
5.21.2007 10:32pm