Tuesday, June 12, 2007

More on vote fraud

The Brew City Brawler takes me to task for suggesting that there could actually be such a thing as fraud associated with voter ID. He quotes election law expert Rick Hasen who claims to have thought about it for a long time and concluded that, if he wanted to cheat, having people pretend to be someone they are not in order to cast multiple votes would not be the way to go.

It may well be that identification fraud is not the best and highest form of electoral crime. It may well be better, for example, to work through absentee ballots. That doesn't mean that it can't happen and we generally don't assume that criminals will attempt their crimes only in the most intelligent manner. Election lore involving the graveyard returns and the idea that, in Chicago, folks are encouraged to vote early suggests that phantom votes are not historically unknown. While Professor Hasen believes that it would be "better" to buy eligible voters, that requires a larger conspiracy and the more conspirators, the greater likelihood that someone will say the wrong thing to the wrong person.

But what troubles me more is that, in states like Wisconsin which permit same day registration with easily fabricated forms of identification, this form of fraud is not nearly as difficult as Hasen maintains. If you want to vote 4 or 5 times in the next election and exercise a reasonable degree of care, you have little chance of being caught. You don't have to pretend, as Hasen argues, to be someone else. All you have to do is pretend to be someone who lives at a nonexistent or nonresidential address.

Post-election "confirmation mailings" may show votes from improper addresses but you will be long gone. Election officials may conclude that fraud occurred or they may dismiss these discrepancies as clerical errors.

The reason that I do not believe this type of fraud (or, for that matter, any other) occurs in massive numbers is that I think it is unlikely that a large conspiracy could exist without someone talking about it. But is that enough comfort to ignore the fact that, absent confession, such a scheme would not be nearly as hard as it should be?

The only argument against ID has to be that acting to prevent this type of fraud will "deter" more voters than it is worth. The unstated assumption is that we should not require ID if we believe that more legitimate voters will not bother to obtain ID than fraudulent voters will be deterred from casting phony votes.

But why is that? Does it really make sense to say that voters have been "deterred" because they can't be bothered to obtain free identification? Does the state have an obligation to make voting as easy as the indifferent voter wants it to be? I would want identification to be free and available at lots of places in the community. I'd want to send people into nursing homes.

But, if after all that, you don't obtain identification, I guess you just don't want to vote. The Brawler can call me an ultramontanist (and I'm not even Roman Catholic), but this just doesn't keep me up at night.


Anonymous said...

This seems to me to be another of those "if one person..." arguments. If voter ID keeps one person from voting illegally, it is a good thing. If voter ID keeps one person from voting legally, it is a bad thing. But if voter ID keeps 1 person from voting illegally, but 2 people from voting legally, hasn't it also distorted the election? I'm actually pretty much in agreement that it shouldn't be that difficult for someone to plan ahead and get an ID, though who knows how FAR ahead you will have to plan once REAL ID kicks in. But I think much comes down to persons on each side of the argument (possibly deliberately) not understanding the other side's argument. I think if Democrats are afraid of people being turned away by not having ID, then activists should get to work right now helping people get ID. They should insist that free, relatively easy to obtain ID should be provided for in any voter ID bill. But I think the voter fraud caused by lack of ID or voter suppression caused by requiring ID focuses attention on the right hand whlie the left hand is doing much more mischief. For my part, I want assurance that if we go to on-screen voting (as we probably will at some point) there will be an auditable paper trail. I want to be sure that election officials of either party can't purge voter lists. There are certainly more sophisticated ways to steal an election than by a few people voting illegally or voting twice--and you can steal a lot more votes in those more sophisticated ways. I'm concerned about poor people being able to vote, but I'm also concerned that everyone's vote (especially mine) actually counts.

Dad29 said...

in states like Wisconsin which permit same day registration with easily fabricated forms of identification


Anonymous said...

Only 140 voter fraud cases since 2000 charged. 14 in Wisconsin, 10% of the entire nation??? One conviction.

140 from 600,000,000 votes cast.


It's a sham, a myth, a GOP diversion.