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Thousands of Felons on Florida Voter Rolls:

Under Florida law, individuals convicted of felonies lose their right to vote, at least temporarily. (Some felons are eligible to have their vote restored upon release from prison.) Yet while many felons in Florida are ineligible to vote, they remain on the rolls, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

More than 30,000 Florida felons who by law should have been stripped of their right to vote remain registered to cast ballots in this presidential battleground state, a Sun Sentinel investigation has found.

Many are faithful voters, with at least 4,900 turning out in past elections.

Another 5,600 are not likely to vote Nov. 4 — they're still in prison.

Of the felons who registered with a party, Democrats outnumber Republicans more than two to one.

Florida's elections chief, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, acknowledged his staff has failed to remove thousands of ineligible felons because of a shortage of workers and a crush of new registrations in this critical swing state.

Browning said he was not surprised by the newspaper's findings. "I'm kind of shocked that the number is as low as it is," he said.

Asked how many ineligible felons may be on Florida's rolls, Browning said, "We don't know."

Whether or not felony disenfranchisement is a good idea -- some would even argue that it is unconstitutional -- it seems problematic that thousands of legally ineligible voters remain on the rolls and that a not-insignificant portion of these voters appear to cast votes. Florida also seems to have a problem with double voting, particularly by seasonal residents. Let's hope the election results in Florida are not particularly close.

Obvious (mail):
Now that Bernstein has informed Florida Jews that Obama supports abortion, I don't think it will be close...
10.12.2008 11:25pm
Bama 1L:
And this is news because . . . .
10.12.2008 11:25pm
ARCraig (mail):
I'd much rather have felons wrongly allowed to vote than what Florida had in 2000, where non-felons were mistakenly turned away from the polls as such.
10.12.2008 11:26pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
ARCraig - then I think I can find lots of counterfeit $100 bills you are obligated to honor.

Allowing the ineligible to vote is as bad as preventing the eligible. But the latter has a face to it, so we think it's much worse. That is a primitive moral reasoning left over from out hunter-gatherer days. We all have it and understand it. It feels the same way to me, too. But that should not be the foundation of our decisions.
10.12.2008 11:33pm
NI:
AssistantVillageIdiot, I disagree. While you're right in theory that one is just as bad as the other, as a practical matter wrongly turning people away has more severe consequences, both to the individuals involved and to society as a whole, than wrongly allowing felons to vote. So if a choice has to be made between the two evils, arcraig is right.
10.12.2008 11:39pm
csm:
"some would even argue that it is unconstitutional"

You make it sound as if that is an implausible position.
10.12.2008 11:45pm
MarkField (mail):

Allowing the ineligible to vote is as bad as preventing the eligible.


No, it's not. If an ineligible voter votes, society suffers because an extra vote was cast. Most likely, that extra vote had no impact on the election.

If an eligible voter is turned away, that voter has been deprived of his/her Constitutional right and the ability to participate equally in a democratic election. In addition, society has suffered because a vote which should have been cast was not (though it most likely would have had no impact on the election).

The two cases are not symmetrical.
10.12.2008 11:52pm
FantasiaWHT:

Let's hope the election results in Florida are not particularly close.


Because, of course, voter fraud doesn't matter unless it actually affects an election?
10.12.2008 11:54pm
wm13:
If an ineligible voter votes, that person has not suffered the full legal sanction for his felonious wrongdoing, as decreed by the elected legislature, so the democratically expressed will of the people has been knowingly set at naught. In contrast, if someone is wrongly turned away, it's just a meaningless government mistake, characteristic of most bureaucratic organizations, and no big deal.
10.12.2008 11:57pm
FantasiaWHT:
Re: which is worse, I think they are comparable. When someone ineligible votes, the vote of a legitimate voter has been cancelled out. Exact same net effect as if somebody had been turned away.
10.12.2008 11:59pm
Jmaie (mail):
Most likely, that extra vote had no impact on the election.

So what? Neither does a single disenfranchised vote. IMHO they are equally, if not symmetrically, bad.
10.13.2008 12:08am
just me (mail):

Florida's elections chief, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, acknowledged his staff has failed to remove thousands of ineligible felons because of a shortage of workers and a crush of new registrations in this critical swing state.


I think this may be another issue with the fake, fraudulent ACORN registration. Sorting through all those fake registrations to check their veracity distracts workers with limited hours from actually working to purge rolls of ineligible voters.

And I think the "which is worse" debate is ridiculous-both are bad, but for different reasons. And I don't think we should have to trade one for the other.
10.13.2008 12:12am
Lior:
just me: should ACORN be responsible for checking the criminal records or citizenship documents of the people they canvass? I would think that whoever signs a voter registration form is the one responsible for it -- not the courier service he uses to mail the form, or the translation service that helps him fill the form.

Prof. Adler: the Constitution charges every state with sending a delegation of electors to the electoral college, appointed in the manner the state sees fit. Thus I don't understand what is your problem with double voting. The states of Florida and New York, for example, are free to determine who can vote in their respective electoral college election, as long as each state uses non-discriminatory criteria. In particular, I don't understand why both states can't extend the franchise to the same person if they so choose, or why we should think it a problem.
10.13.2008 12:28am
Dr. Weevil (mail) (www):
just me:
You think it may be an issue with ACORN? So does the Secretary of State of Florida, quoted above, who says they can't prune all the felons "because of a shortage of workers and a crush of new registrations".
10.13.2008 12:30am
just me (mail):
hould ACORN be responsible for checking the criminal records or citizenship documents of the people they canvass?

No, you are putting words into my mouth.

What ACORN should be doing is making it so that their employees do not sit down and fill out registration cards listing the starting line up of the Dallas Cowboys starting line up, or other fictious people, so that the registers office isn't inundated with a bunch of bogus registrations to sort through.

When you flood the office with lots of easily noticed registrations, the answer for ACORN is to stop paying people to register voters, or at the very least to fire the person faking the registrations for the paycheck-or better yet call the cops and have them charged with voter registration fraud.

But if I take 25 legitimate registrations of real people, or sit down and fill out 25 bogus registrations for a paycheck, the 25 known bogus ones will gum up the system and suck up the time of people who could be going through the others.

If these offices are short of man power, thousands of bogus registrations aren't going to make their jobs easier, and they only have a finite amount of time to do it in.
10.13.2008 12:36am
Tavi:
just me --

Why do you believe that ACORN does not fire people who fake registrations, or does not assist police in any prosecutions, or does not attempt to identify which registrations are suspect when they are submitted?
10.13.2008 12:46am
just me (mail):
You think it may be an issue with ACORN?

Not necessarily, although there have been complaints in Florida, but my point is more meant in the broader sense.

A lot of comments have been made regarding the charges that ACORN employees are filling out intentionally faked forms (most likely for their paycheck, not necessarily because they intend to actually vote)-my point is only that if a group is going to take 100,000 registrations with 1/3 of them bogus, then those bogus registrations will suck up time from registers who are checking registrations against other lists to the point that you end up with the "we are short handed and don't have time to sort through the felon list" so that what happens is all those fake applications keep them from doing their jobs and ineligible voters get to vote.

And I am not actually saying this is intentionally on the part of ACORN, just that over burdening an office with bogus forms that is apparently already short handed isn't going to make their jobs any easier and in the end may make it impossible and result in inelgible voters being left on the roles and able to vote.
10.13.2008 12:47am
Oren:

I'd much rather have felons wrongly allowed to vote than what Florida had in 2000, where non-felons were mistakenly turned away from the polls as such.

We need a version of Blackstone's maxim for votes. It is better to turn away X eligible voters in order to prevent Y fraudulent/ineligible votes from being counted.

In all truth, I don't know how to answer that question. What I do know is that, until I answer it and understand why I answered it the way I did, I cannot possibly judge whether a particular policy has net positive benefit.
10.13.2008 12:48am
just me (mail):
Why do you believe that ACORN does not fire people who fake registrations, or does not assist police in any prosecutions, or does not attempt to identify which registrations are suspect when they are submitted?

Because it is a rampant and continuous problem year after year election cycle after election cycle. There is something very rotten in this organization if they haven't figured out how to fix it yet.

What they need to do is stop paying people, that would probably go a long way from keeping the lazy worker from sitting down and making names up or leafing through the phone book or the starting line up of a football team.
10.13.2008 12:49am
Oren:


You think it may be an issue with ACORN? So does the Secretary of State of Florida, quoted above, who says they can't prune all the felons "because of a shortage of workers and a crush of new registrations".

I would say it's a problem with the FL state legislature that can't or won't appropriate enough money to do a proper job implementing the law that they wrote. That's justice for you -- they write the laws, they ought to provide enough for their enforcement.
10.13.2008 12:49am
Lior:
Oren: the analogue of Blackstone's maxim is the one implicitly proposed by ARCraig:
it is better that ten ineligible felons get away with voting than one eligible voter be turned away in error
10.13.2008 12:51am
Oren:
Lior, he made the claim but he didn't really support it. Economists would say that the disutility of convicting an innocent man far exceeds the utility of convicting a guilty one -- there is no analogous weight or value on legitimate/illegitimate voters.

So I'm still stuck on why I should support a 10:1 or a 1:10 ratio for votes. It's really just a personal failing since everyone else seems quite certain that their favorite policies have gains outweighing the costs (either that, or they are delusional and think you can decrease false-positives without increasing false-negatives).
10.13.2008 12:57am
winstontwo (mail):
Since many of these felons are black and/or poor, we need to zealously guard against voter fraud like this.
10.13.2008 1:28am
Tavi:

Because it is a rampant and continuous problem year after year election cycle after election cycle. There is something very rotten in this organization if they haven't figured out how to fix it yet.


I think this just shifts the question. Why do you believe it's a 'rampant and continuous problem'? From the news stories I've read, ACORN already takes the kinds of steps you've suggested (short of not paying people). For example, in 2006, four ACORN workers were indicted for voter registration fraud -- a news report is here which includes this:

ACORN officials in Kansas City said they turned in the four people who were indicted.

"We're very happy that they were indicted," said Claudie Harris with ACORN.

Harris said ACORN workers are paid by the hour and not by the number of voter registration cards they turn in.

"When you fraudulently defraud this, that gives us a bad name and what we're trying to do a bad name," Harris said.

ACORN officials said the four indicted have been fired.

Harris said ACORN workers check every voter registration card before sending it to the Election Board.


More recently is the Nevada case you alluded to. Here, too, we find that ACORN claims to be proactive with respect to weeding out fraud:


Bertha Lewis, interim chief organizer for ACORN, said the group has been working with election officials to weed out fraudulent forms from those submitted by the canvassers it hires.
"Today's raid by the secretary of state's office is a stunt that serves no useful purpose other than to discredit our work registering Nevadans," Lewis said.
"For the past 10 months, anytime ACORN has identified a potentially fraudulent application, we turn that application in to election officials separately and offer to provide election officials with the information they would need to pursue an investigation or prosecution of the individual," Lewis said.
She said ACORN had turned in 46 problem applications submitted by 33 former employees to election officials in the Las Vegas area, where it has registered 80,000 people.


It appears to me that the problem registrations filed by ACORN are a small fraction of the overall number of forms and are usually flagged by ACORN prior to submission (thus improving overall quality and cutting down on processing time). Moreover, I've not seen evidence that ACORN is anything other than cooperative with law enforcement, even to the point of turning in its own workers who are suspected of voter-registration fraud.

I also have not seen evidence for your claim that these problems are 'rampant'. What I have seen leads me to believe that ACORN is a responsible organization that is not engaged in, nor condones, election fraud. Its officials are mindful of the problems inherent in hiring people to register voters and take steps to mitigate those problems.

Not paying its workers is, I suppose, one possible step they could take -- I agree that it would cut down dramatically on the problem registrations. However, I think it would do so by simply reducing the number of new registrations to almost zero. So far, I think the plusses of the current system outweigh the minuses.
10.13.2008 1:35am
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
NI and Mark Field

I see the asymmetry and do not dispute it in the context. An evil borne by a single individual has worse social effect than one that is spread throughout a population. But an election by its definition counts votes. An unknown legitimate voter has his vote nullified - we just don't see it. In aggregate, legitimate voters who support non-machine candidates are discouraged from voting, which is also a social evil. To an election commission, which acts in a narrow sphere, the two must be regarded as equal.
10.13.2008 1:49am
Harry Eagar (mail):
'a crush of new registrations'

He says that like it's a bad thing. I thought we were worried about low participation.
10.13.2008 2:33am
cirby (mail):

He says that like it's a bad thing


When you start getting 105% of the adult population in a city registered to vote, yeah, it really is.

...and the part that keeps being ignored? Those extra registrations are overwhelmingly for one political party, and are created by a group (ACORN) that, despite its claims of neutrality, is completely aligned with the Democrats.

Those "harmless" extra registrations have a number of interesting effects. First, they create a huge opportunity for vote fraud for ONE party (they have access to the lists of those tens of thousands of nonexistent voters, which makes vote fraud easier). Second, they make it harder to detect and prove vote fraud when it does occur (the workers are too busy checking thousands of fraudulent registrations to catch more than a few of them). Third, when massive vote fraud does skew an election, the Democrats can just say, "hey, there's a lot more Democrats in this city than there were four years back - which is why we got the extra ten thousand votes that won this state for us."

There's also the dark side that nobody seems to mention: if ACORN is allowing so many faked Democrat registrations, what are they doing with the REAL Republican registrations they get? Democratic election officials have already tried to disallow thousands of Republican registrations on a technicality that they knew wasn't valid. What makes you think they'd blink if someone suggested that a lot of GOP registrations went missing?
10.13.2008 3:02am
David M. Nieporent (www):
No, it's not. If an ineligible voter votes, society suffers because an extra vote was cast. Most likely, that extra vote had no impact on the election.

If an eligible voter is turned away, that voter has been deprived of his/her Constitutional right and the ability to participate equally in a democratic election. In addition, society has suffered because a vote which should have been cast was not (though it most likely would have had no impact on the election).

The two cases are not symmetrical.
Sure they are, unless one views voting as primarily a means of self-expression rather than as a means of selecting an officeholder. If it's the latter, then they're identical. I can negate your vote equally by not letting you cast it or by adding a fake vote for the opposite party. The only difference between the two is that in the first case you're aware that your vote has been negated and in the second case you're not -- in other words, a psychological issue.
10.13.2008 3:31am
Arkady:
Well, there's this story from USATODAY.com (2007):


Fla. scraps flawed felon voting list

MIAMI (AP) — Florida elections officials said Saturday they will not use a disputed list that was designed to keep felons from voting, acknowledging a flaw that could have allowed convicted Hispanic felons to cast ballots in November.

The glitch in a state that President Bush won by just 537 votes could have been significant — because of the state's sizable Cuban population, Hispanics in Florida have tended to vote Republican more than Hispanics nationally. The list had about 28,000 Democrats and around 9,500 Republicans, with most of the rest unaffiliated.

"Not including Hispanic felons that may be voters on the list ... was an oversight and a mistake," Gov. Jeb Bush said. "And we accept responsibility and that's why we're pulling it back."

Gov. Bush said the mistake occurred because two databases that were merged to form the disputed list were incompatible.


Which leads me to conclude that Florida is severely effed up when it comes to the conduct of its elections.
10.13.2008 7:59am
Spoilt Victorian Child (mail):
You think it may be an issue with ACORN? So does the Secretary of State of Florida, quoted above, who says they can't prune all the felons "because of a shortage of workers and a crush of new registrations".

I would say it's a problem with the FL state legislature that can't or won't appropriate enough money to do a proper job implementing the law that they wrote. That's justice for you -- they write the laws, they ought to provide enough for their enforcement.

Thank you. I agree completely.

I am also baffled by this idea that new registrations are taking up precious man-hours that should be used for pruning felons. A working computer system makes it absolutely trivial to prevent felons from voting. If we are instead preventing them from voting by having a secretary go through voter rolls with a red pen, we have far bigger problems than a few thousand extra votes being cast.
10.13.2008 8:30am
PDXLawyer (mail):
Lior: In your response to Prof. Adler you wrote:

"The states of Florida and New York, for example, are free to determine who can vote in their respective electoral college election, as long as each state uses non-discriminatory criteria."

The idea that each state is free to define who its citizens are was actually one of the main grounds for the opinion in Dred Scott. That holding was mooted by the passage of the 14th Amendment, which provides that every US citizen is a citizen of *the* state in which they reside.
10.13.2008 9:29am
John Burgess (mail) (www):
Flooding a state's voter rolls with false voter registrations is the equivalent to a DNS attack.

A system is created to deal with a normal amount of traffic--in this case, the average amount of voter registrations. Resources are allocated; staff is hired.

When the system is flooded, which can be done rather quickly, the system bogs down if it doesn't crash entirely. Exactly what the FL Secretary of State is describing.

Building for an unanticipated surge might make good political sense, but it makes poor fiscal sense. Just how much extra capacity is needed?

Flooding the system also takes advantage of the relative inflexibility of governmental budgeting. Massive registration, inflated by bogus registrations, can be accomplished in a matter of weeks. Getting an increase in the budget for one department in a state takes months, if not years.

Given a choice between canceling all voter registrations in order to avoid fraudulent ones and permitting all registrations to avoid disenfranchising legitimate ones is a choice no court will happily accept. And you can guess which way the court will feel compelled to rule.

It's another example of asymmetric warfare on the political front.
10.13.2008 10:15am
paul lukasiak (mail):
there are some questions about the methodology used by Sun Sentinel in arriving at the 30,000 number.

First off, they started with a list of 1,700,000 people that were supposedly ineligible....but had to remove people who had never been found guilty of a felony. In other words, the list they started with wasn't a list of those convicted of felonies. (the percentage of actual "felons" in the population is probably close 100%, if you define "felon" as someone who has done something that could be defined as a "felony" at some point in their lives.)

So, the Sun Sentinel assumed that there was 100% accuracy in the database that it used -- but we know that record keeping can be amazingly sloppy in the criminal justice system, and an error rate of 1.5% gives you more than 30,000 "false positives."

And lest we forget, these 1.7 million names were compared against the 10 names on the registered voters list -- and we also know that there are serious problems with the accuracy of those voter registration lists.

As to which is worse, allowing ineligible felons to vote, or denying/impeding the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot, its clear that the right of eligible voters must take precedencce, because that right is guaranteed under the US constitution. And the issue goes further than just denial of the right to vote -- making eligible voters jump through additional hoops in order to exercise their rights because the state incorrectly removed their name is just as much an infringement.

While the Constitution allow states to deny felons their franchise, that provision does not permit a single eligible voter being caught up in whatever system is used to prevent felons from voting.
10.13.2008 10:30am
paul lukasiak (mail):
A working computer system makes it absolutely trivial to prevent felons from voting.

that's assuming that the data used by the computer is accurate and complete -- and its not.
10.13.2008 10:32am
Fedya (www):
Oren wrote:
I would say it's a problem with the FL state legislature that can't or won't appropriate enough money to do a proper job implementing the law that they wrote. That's justice for you -- they write the laws, they ought to provide enough for their enforcement.

I hope you oppose unfunded mandates now, too.
10.13.2008 10:33am
PDXLawyer (mail):
It is disturbing that a number of double-voters really don't see any problem with it. Maybe some, like Lior, hold idiosyncratic Constitutional views, but the linked stories seem to indicate that most of them just haven't thought about it much, and figure that since voting is good, voting more must be better.

I don't see this as being the end of the Repbulic, because right now I can't imagine the fraud vote is over 5% (my guess is its still well under 1%) so it will only make a difference in very close races. Before it reaches the point of being a frequent election-changer, I suspect it will becomea serious liability to the party which it nominally benefits. Which brings me to my question to the committed Democrats on this blog.

Do you really want your party to become known as the party of election fraud? Right now, your main thrust seems to be creating and maintaining plausible deniability rather than, you know, taking actual steps to fix the problem. And, if a Republican tries to fix the problem, your response is to cry "vote suppression." That'll work during this election cycle (which you aregoing to win anyhow). But, as the problem gets worse, under Democratic sponsorship, do you really think the "vote" gains will exceed the losses from backlash?

What *could* Democrats do? Well, for example, a Democratic New York Secretary of State *could* go talk to the retired transit worker featured in the linked story. He *could* explain to the guy that it was really only legal to vote in one place, and that people who vote in multiple places undermine public confidence in he voting system. They *could* then hold a press conference (or better yet, make a public service ad, using public money) explaining these things to the public. Even if you believe the actual incidence of such fraud is very low, doing something like this would take away an issue which galvanizes the tin hat wearing red meat eating Republican base.
10.13.2008 10:43am
Martha:

"It is disturbing that a number of double-voters really don't see any problem with it. . . . Before it reaches the point of being a frequent election-changer, I suspect it will becomea serious liability to the party which it nominally benefits. Which brings me to my question to the committed Democrats on this blog.

Do you really want your party to become known as the party of election fraud?"

Where is your evidence that double voting predominantly benefits Democrats? I don't see any in the linked article. I see that "A couple of years ago, the Republican National Committee compiled a list of 3,273 Democrats who had supposedly voted twice"--wonder how carefully the RNC screened the Republican votes? And I see that "right-wing bloggers. . . have been on fire since the Daily News story, since 68 percent of the News' double-registrants were Democrats" but "double-registrants" are not "double voters." In fact, the article points out that people unwittingly become double-registrants when they move and their new state doesn't bother to report the new registration to the old state.

As someone who lives in Florida, I've heard of people deliberately double voting: invariably people wealthy enough to own 2 or more homes. Last I heard, wealth made one more likely to vote R, not D.
10.13.2008 11:03am
gasman (mail):

Lior: In your response to Prof. Adler you wrote:

"The states of Florida and New York, for example, are free to determine who can vote in their respective electoral college election, as long as each state uses non-discriminatory criteria."

The idea that each state is free to define who its citizens are was actually one of the main grounds for the opinion in Dred Scott. That holding was mooted by the passage of the 14th Amendment, which provides that every US citizen is a citizen of *the* state in which they reside.

PDXLawyer.
I hardly think Lior's views are idiosyncratic. You should not confuse citizenship in a state with being necessary for having met any state's federal constitutional requirement for setting voting qualifications. If a state wishes to set as a voting criteria anything non-discriminatory then so be it. This should be a wake up call to each of the states that they should not want to be viewed as a being rediculously lax.

Nothing in the constitution links voting rights to citizenship. You should recognize that your arguments then about state citizenship and voting just don't hold water.
10.13.2008 11:25am
Ben P:

Where is your evidence that double voting predominantly benefits Democrats?


I maintain that the evidence for this, and indeed most of the reason why ACORN is a big deal to republicans, is an accident of demographics.

The people most likely to not vote are the extremely poor.

When these people do vote they tend to vote democratic.

Although it's a greater stretch, I feel safe saying that these are also two other categories.

1. they are the people most likely to have changed addresses multiple times

2. They are statistically more likely to have a felony record.

So they're naturally the groups that democrats are most likely to be interested in targeting for get out the vote efforts, and are also the most troublesome groups to register properly.

I know for a fact that a lot of Republican GoTV efforts in 00 and 04 were propogated through church affiliated groups.

I submit that if you were to attempt to register 100 random people from your average evangelical church, and simultaneously attempt to register 100 people from an inner city just by going door to door. You'll find a much higher rejection rate on the applications from the inner city cohort.
10.13.2008 11:54am
Oren:


While the Constitution allow states to deny felons their franchise, that provision does not permit a single eligible voter being caught up in whatever system is used to prevent felons from voting.


A ratio of infinity? It is better to allow an infinite number of fraudulent votes than to turn away one eligible voter?
10.13.2008 11:54am
just me (mail):
Last I heard, wealth made one more likely to vote R, not D.

Depends on the definition of wealth.

Democrats tend to own the extremes, while republicans own the middle as far as who is most likely to vote for which party.

But my guess is that double voting-where somebody votes in two states, because they have homes in both places probably doesn't strongly favor either party, but that still doesn't make it okay or legal.

I think what I find most troublesome in all these discussions are the number or people who seem to think the fraud is so small that it shouldn't matter. Any fraud tolerated at any level is wrong because it corrupts the system, and even if it doesn't sway a race, fraud should be fully prosecuted, because it is fraud.
10.13.2008 12:07pm
PC:
And the narrative starts to solidify.
10.13.2008 12:12pm
Martha:
Ben P:

The people most likely to not vote are the extremely poor.

When these people do vote they tend to vote democratic.

Although it's a greater stretch, I feel safe saying that these are also two other categories.

1. they are the people most likely to have changed addresses multiple times

2. They are statistically more likely to have a felony record.

So they're naturally the groups that democrats are most likely to be interested in targeting for get out the vote efforts, and are also the most troublesome groups to register properly.

Your 2st two assumptions (poor not likely to vote &tend to vote D) don't lead inexorably to improper registration or double voting. In fact, enabling poor people to vote is a noble enterprise that both parties should support.

Your 3rd assumption (more likely to have changed addresses multiple times), if true, could lead to double-registration when states fail to update their records, but involuntary double-registration != double voting or voter fraud.

Your 4th assumption (felony record), if true, could lead to improper registration but not double voting. (setting aside the arguments about whether disenfranchising ex-felons is constitutional)

It's obvious that double-voting is wrong; not obvious that double-voters are likely D.
10.13.2008 12:13pm
MarkField (mail):

So what? Neither does a single disenfranchised vote. IMHO they are equally, if not symmetrically, bad.


Yes, and I made exactly that point. That's the symmetric part; you missed the asymmetry.


But an election by its definition counts votes. An unknown legitimate voter has his vote nullified - we just don't see it. In aggregate, legitimate voters who support non-machine candidates are discouraged from voting, which is also a social evil. To an election commission, which acts in a narrow sphere, the two must be regarded as equal.


I don't see that anybody has a vote "nullified". If we're focusing on the end result, it's a first past the post system. It doesn't matter to me how many people voted the other way as long as that number was less than voted my way. Thus, an election commission should be more concerned about the deprivation of constitutional rights.

I agree that there's a social evil if people reasonably believe that voter fraud is affecting the fairness of elections. This cuts both ways, of course -- both parties tend to deny the legitimacy of the other side's claim to wrongs, thereby increasing the sense of that elections are unfair. This does nobody any good. The internet, particularly, tends to be the source of fact-free claims on both sides. I'd suggest we need some actual studies to show where the problems actually exist and how best to solve them.
10.13.2008 12:28pm
paul lukasiak (mail):
A ratio of infinity? It is better to allow an infinite number of fraudulent votes than to turn away one eligible voter?

theoretically, yes. The Constitution does not allow for disenfranchisement of eligible voters in order to enforce a state's decision to disenfranchise felons.

And this is why Florida is having a hard time keeping up with removing ineligible voters from their rolls -- and it has practically nothing to do with dubious practices by Acorn employees (although I do think that, given the financial incentives that Acorn provides for "fraudulent" registration, it has an obligation to hire fewer canvassers and more "registration checkers")
10.13.2008 12:41pm
just me (mail):
Your 3rd assumption (more likely to have changed addresses multiple times), if true, could lead to double-registration when states fail to update their records, but involuntary double-registration != double voting or voter fraud.

From anecdotal experience only, I work in a very poor school district, and the poorest kids in our district do happen to move far more often than the wealthier kids.

They move for multiple reasons-some do the heat circuit-most of the rentals in our district do not provide heat as part of the rent, so they start moving out in October and move to a couple of other nearby towns that do have heat as part of their rent, then they start returning to the district in April/May. Others play games with evictions-they get into a house, and live in it until evicted, rules about evictions help them (our state does not permit evictions of families with children during the cold months). They also may live with family members and doa family member circuit.

While it is anecdotal, we do have district generated statistics that indicate was have a high transient population and many of our students attend 2-3 schools in the course of a single school year.

Here is a PDF that sort of goes into the issue, at least as it related to schools and education, but this isn't a problem limited to where I live or even one region of the country.
10.13.2008 12:43pm
Oren:

Any fraud tolerated at any level is wrong because it corrupts the system, and even if it doesn't sway a race, fraud should be fully prosecuted, because it is fraud.

So I should turn away (or implement policies that turn away) hundreds (thousands?) of legit voters to prevent a single fraudulent one?
10.13.2008 12:58pm
Oren:


theoretically, yes. The Constitution does not allow for disenfranchisement of eligible voters in order to enforce a state's decision to disenfranchise felons.

It does precisely that, in fact. Every system that makes a decision has false positives and false negatives -- the sooner we realize it and start consciously making choices, the better.
10.13.2008 12:59pm
Martha:
just me:

While it is anecdotal, we do have district generated statistics that indicate was have a high transient population and many of our students attend 2-3 schools in the course of a single school year.

I believe you. And when adults move frequently, they're more likely to be involuntarily double-registered because states don't do a good job of updating their records.

So what? There's no evidence that frequent movers are double-voting.
10.13.2008 1:00pm
Ben P:

It's obvious that double-voting is wrong; not obvious that double-voters are likely D.


I've seen no evidence for any sort of sustained pattern of double voting, so I'm not concerned about that.

However, double registration particularly across state lines does lay the groundwork for double voting. So deliberate or even large scale accidental double registration is a matter of concern.

However, I see that as more likely to be Incompetent bureaucrats than any pattern of conduct by either government workers or outside parties.

Further, this isn't even the final safety. I don't know where everyone else gets these stories, but I've filled out at least one provisional ballot when I was in college due to confusion about my address. (when you're moving 3 times a year there's some confusion)

I filled out the ballot and got a nice letter from the secretary of state of my state a few weeks later regretfully informing me that they were unable to count my vote because they couldn't verify my address.
10.13.2008 2:19pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
This discussion is really very informative. I had no idea there were people reading legal blogs who thought that citizenship and voting should not be linked. It is true that nothing in the Constitution expressly limits voting to citizens. I just took it for granted, as I think the Framers did. I cannot think of a single country, past or present, which has allowed non-citizens to vote.

So, Martha, Lior and gasbag, you've got me curious about your Constitutional philosophy. Are there *any* legitimate grounds to deny a person the vote? Does Vladimir Putin have a right to vote in Florida? If not, why not?
10.13.2008 2:27pm
MarkField (mail):

I had no idea there were people reading legal blogs who thought that citizenship and voting should not be linked. It is true that nothing in the Constitution expressly limits voting to citizens. I just took it for granted, as I think the Framers did. I cannot think of a single country, past or present, which has allowed non-citizens to vote.


Prior to the Civil War, it was very common for non-citizens to vote. This became part of the anti-Irish sentiment of those times and the laws were eventually passed to bar it.
10.13.2008 2:28pm
MarkField (mail):
Just a follow-up. Under Dred Scott, blacks could never be citizens of the US. However, voting rights were governed by state law and some states allowed blacks to vote.
10.13.2008 2:31pm
just me (mail):
So I should turn away (or implement policies that turn away) hundreds (thousands?) of legit voters to prevent a single fraudulent one?

Depends on what the policies are.

I am not convinced all policies meant to limit fraud and to make sure voters are legal voters turn away legitimate voters.

So which policies do you oppose, and which ones do you find acceptable?
10.13.2008 2:40pm
Lior:
PDXLawyer: Article II, Clause 2 reads (emphasis added):
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.


It doesn't even say that the franchise should be limited to citizens. It would be consistent with the 14th and 15th amendments for Florida to give the vote to: "any permanent resident of the United States who is personally present in Florida on election day" or "any citizen of the United States who is a citizen of Florida or has lived in Florida at least 30% of the last year". After all, it is certainly Constitutional for the "Legislature of Florida" to direct that the the Governor of Florida shall appoint the electors, or that they shall be chosen by lot.
10.13.2008 2:43pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
Ben P.:

Surely there is enough governmental incompetence to explain much of wht is wrong with the voting system. The first problem I see, though, is that there seems to be a breakdown in the consensus of how the system *should* work. The retired New York transit worker doesn't see why he *shouldn't* vote in both New York and Florida. The Florida convicted felon figures he's paid his debt to society, and he has children, so he's justified in voting even if Florida disenfranchises felons.

I don't know how we can expect the bureaucrats to get it right if we can't tell them what "right" is.
10.13.2008 2:47pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
MarkField:

What you've identified is the fact that prior to the Civil War state citizenship and federal citizenship were thought of as different concepts. Thus people who were not US citizens could still be state citizens, and vice versa (at least according to the USSC and some state courts). Thus, in some states, immigrants who were not US citizens could still vote, because they *were* state citizens. However that might have worked, all of it was swept away by the 14th Amendment.
10.13.2008 3:00pm
Lior:
PDXLawyer: I think there's good reason for voting to be limited to US citizens, and for each state to limit voting to residents of that state. But that's about it.

You seem to think that identifying "citizen of the state" with "citizens who are residents of the state" solves the problem of who may vote. However, This merely shifts the problem to the definition of "residence". Do you think that the Federal Government should decide which state any particular citizen is a resident of? That would be an odd reading of the constitution.

Assume every state is free to define who are its "residents" (consistent with the 14th and 15th amendments), I can easily imagine two states to consider the same person a resident. What's wrong with this? It would be a bad idea for both states to decide to extend the franchise to all residents even if they are registered to vote in the other state, but if they choose to do so then its their problem.

The people of the US do not vote for president. They vote for electors, the elections for which are run separately and independently in each state. Just like dual citizens of Israel and the US can vote in both Israeli elections and US elections, I don't see why dual citizens of New York and Florida should not vote in both Florida Electoral College elections and New York Electoral College elections.
10.13.2008 3:55pm
MarkField (mail):

What you've identified is the fact that prior to the Civil War state citizenship and federal citizenship were thought of as different concepts. Thus people who were not US citizens could still be state citizens, and vice versa (at least according to the USSC and some state courts). Thus, in some states, immigrants who were not US citizens could still vote, because they *were* state citizens. However that might have worked, all of it was swept away by the 14th Amendment.


This is true, but only to an extent. It's also true that people who were neither US citizens nor state citizens were sometimes allowed to vote (often with minimal residency requirements).
10.13.2008 4:53pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
Lior:

If you see no problem with dual-state citizenship, do you see a problem with a situation where a US citizen who spends time in both New York and Florida being deemed a citizen of *neither* state, and therefore ineligible to vote for President at all? You posited a situation where Florida allowed a person to vote if they spent 30% of the preceeding year in the state. What if New York and Florida both adopted rules allowing a US citizen to vote in that state only if they spent more than 60% of the preceding year in the state?

Your analogy to dual US-Israeli citizenship points, I think, to the flaw in your outlook. Florida and New York are in political comity in a way that the US and Israel are not.

As to whether the interpretation of the 14th Amendment is a proper federal question, I think the answer is "yes." Moreover, I think the 14th Amendment "occupies the field" on the question of state citizenship. I admit I don't have case authority on this point. Do you?
10.13.2008 5:03pm
PDXLawyer (mail):
In Oregon v. Mitchell, 400 US 112, the Court opined:

"Acting under its broad authority to create and maintain a national government, Congress unquestionably has power under the Constitution to regulate federal elections. The Framers of our Constitution were vitally concerned with setting up a national government that could survive. Essential to the survival and to the growth of our national government is its power to fill its elective offices and to insure that the officials who fill those offices are as responsive as possible to the will of the people whom they represent."

Oregon voting law had required a person reside in Oregon for a certain period before being eligible to vote in Oregon. The Voting Rights Act prohibited such residency requirements, and the court upheld the Federal prohibition. Oregon did not, apparently, argue that the new residents were not citizens or Oregon.

I wasn't able to find any cases in which someone contended that they had a right to vote in more than one state because they were a citizen of more than one state. Federal caselaw on diversity jurisdiction does not contain a hint that a natural person (ie not a corporation, LLC or the like) may simultaneously be a citizen of more than one state. If a person is a US citizen, diversity caselaw refuses to recognize any non-US citizenship that person may claim. Sadat v. Mertes, 615 F.2d 1176, 1187
(7th Cir. 1980). I was not able to find a case involving a state law which allowed non-citizens to vote (or any indication that any state has ever had such a law).
10.13.2008 6:09pm
Aleks:
I'm a little confused about this article. I lived in Florida until this May and one of the reforms implemented by Gov Crist was the restoration of the voting rights of felons after their release from incarceration, excepting only those guilty of the most heinous crimes. So why the big to-do over registering ex-felons? Unless this is about ax-murderers and child rapists voting, and as long as these folks are US citizens, it shouldn't matter that they are registering to vote because they have the right to do so now.
10.13.2008 9:11pm
Pauldom:
@Aleks

I lived in Florida until this May and one of the reforms implemented by Gov Crist was the restoration of the voting rights of felons after their release from incarceration, excepting only those guilty of the most heinous crimes. So why the big to-do over registering ex-felons?

By gum, you're right. In fact, the Sun-Sentinel itself reported in August that

"The rights of Florida's nonviolent felons are automatically restored some time after release. Violent felons have to go through an [online in some cases] application process. Thousands of ex-convicts have had their rights restored but don't know it, or don't realize they are eligible to register as voters. The state has been unable to notify them because it has lost track of them."

So I don't get this article either.
10.13.2008 9:32pm
RPT (mail):
Noun-Verb-Ayers-ACORN-Felons! What's next!?!
10.13.2008 10:27pm
Toby:
Actually, the poorest are most likely to vote for whoever they are told to vote by the person who gives them booze and cigarettes. I have an old acquaintance who bosts of the number of black signed absentee ballots she and her friends get with a large party announced with flyers handed out to winos and homeless each election cycle.
10.13.2008 10:36pm
TruthInAdvertising:
"When you start getting 105% of the adult population in a city registered to vote, yeah, it really is."

Still repeating this claim? Someone takes a population estimate, runs some projections and acts as if the result came straight from the US Census. The same person doesn't have a clue about voter registration because they assume that registered voters only includes people physically living in the city, ignoring that people living overseas temporarily, people in the military, students at school, etc. can all be registered in their home city and vote through the city clerk but not be physically living there. Then we get people like "cirby" who mindless repeat the lie because they are too lazy to go back and actually research the facts. Thanks "cirby" for being part of the Election 2008 disinformation network.
10.14.2008 1:40am