Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Thursday, April 3, 2014 6:12 am

Phil Berger and Thom Tillis think they’ve found themselves some voter fraud. Fine. Let’s see if they’re right.

Fred sent me this link (thank you, sir), which purports to claim “widespread” voter fraud in North Carolina during the 2012 general election. That link in turn links to a news release issued jointly on Wednesday by Phil Berger, the state Senate GOP leader and father of one of the Republicans trying to succeed Howard Coble in the 6th Congressional District race, and Thom Tillis, the state House speaker and one of the Republicans seeking Kay Hagan’s U.S. Senate seat this year. They write:

[We have learned of] more alarming evidence of voter error and fraud discovered by the North Carolina State Board of Elections.

Initial findings from the Board presented to the Joint Legislative Elections Oversight Committee today show:

  • 765 voters with an exact match of first and last name, DOB and last four digits of SSN were registered in N.C. and another state and voted in N.C. and the other state in the 2012 general election.
  • 35,750 voters with the same first and last name and DOB were registered in N.C. and another state and voted in both states in the 2012 general election.
  • 155,692 voters with the same first and last name, DOB and last four digits of SSN were registered in N.C. and another state – and the latest date of registration or voter activity did not take place within N.C.

These findings only take into account data from the 28 states who participated in the 2014 Interstate Crosscheck, leaving out potential voter error and fraud in the 22 states that do not participate in the consortium.

My first reaction, which I admit is kind of geeky and inside-baseballish, is: Show your work, guys. Post the board’s findings online even if it’s in hard-to-search .pdf format. (As of now, the State Board of Elections itself hasn’t done it.) Otherwise, you’re asking me to trust a couple of demonstrably untrustworthy pols, although I’m gonna  set that point aside and examine this argument as if it were being made by someone with no obvious political interest one way or the other.

That said, the massive gap between the number reported in point 1 (with SocSec numbers) and the number reported in point 2 (no SSNs) leaves an awful lot of room for speculation and even more for  mismatched records. Cops have access to info that I didn’t have as a reporter, but when I was doing investigative stuff, particularly on people with very common names, I always tried to get an SSN. That’s the gold standard of unique identifiers.

All point 3 says — allowing for the elision between being registered and casting a ballot, which is actually enormous; I wonder why? — is, “and the latest date of registration or voter activity did not take place within N.C.” That’s a big-ass loophole, considering that “voter activity” can be as simple as changing a phone number and that N.C. counties, last I checked (which I admit was years ago),  purge their voters rolls typically only once every four years — immediately after a presidential election.

But, OK, let’s put this in the light most favorable to the authors: Even with all my caveats, no fewer than 765 voters appear to have voted in both N.C. and another state in the 2012 general election, per elections data. Voter fraud is a felony, and if that report is true, all 765 should go to prison. I’d be happy to be the person to slam the door on ‘em.

Problem is, it won’t be true, because — and this is a national shame and embarrassment, but a topic for another time — voter-registration data is some of the dirtiest mass public info out there. (The reason is that it attempts to gather a large amount of basic information about a lot of people, and in a society as dynamic and mobile as ours, that pool of data is changing in small but measurable ways thousands of times a day, on average.) Now, our friends Berger and Tillis claim to have attempted to “clean up” voter rolls, but they have done so in ways that give advantages to likely Republican voters while creating barriers for the young, the very old, racial and ethnic minorities, women, convicted felons and other likely Democratic voters. But that’s also an issue for another day, as is the Republicans’ reluctance to look into voter fraud in absentee balloting, where most of the real voter fraud takes place, because absentee voters are more likely to vote Republican.)

But don’t take my word for it that the 765 alleged cases aren’t real. Examining 765 records, one at a time, to determine whether or not the registrant committed a crime would take a while, but not that long. So I encourage — nay, challenge — the State Board of Elections to refer the case to the SBI and get it done. And assuming that happens, I think you’re going to find that many, and probably most, of those 765 are paperwork errors of some kind. A person was recorded as having voted in one state or the other — or at all — when he/she in fact did not vote. Whatever. Because that’s what almost always happens. Because the data is always that dirty.

That’s what I think will happen. I might be wrong, but I doubt it.

Pro-voter ID types hop on preliminary numbers like this because they look like proof of serious undermining of the very bedrock of democracy, the vote. Unfortunately, when it gets down to proving actual voter fraud, those numbers fold like a cheap card table into something a lot less impressive, interesting or dangerous, thereby undermining their rationale for voter ID as well as their rationale for other limits on voting rights alluded to above.

The bottom line here is that 765 cases is a manageable number to check into. So let’s check. Let’s have the State Board of Elections turn these cases over to the SBI for investigation. Let’s see what we learn. I’m eager to find out.

Heck, I might even be more eager than Phil Berger and Thom Tillis.

UPDATE, 4/3: Commenter George Barnett below wisely adds, “Keep in mind too that even if this does turn out to be true voter IDs would not have prevented it.” No, they wouldn’t have.

Friday, July 19, 2013 7:05 pm

Retired SCOTUS justice John Paul Stevens rips Chief Justice Roberts a new orifice on voting rights …

and you could drive a Hummer through it as long as you kept the wipers going to clear the windshield of blood. Stevens doesn’t just mock Roberts’s “fundamental principle of equal sovereignty among the States,” he demonstrates that at no time in U.S. history has it existed anywhere outside John Roberts’s rear end. (Yet the Court majority in Shelby County are all, all honorable originalists.)

Stevens continues:

The statistics set forth in Roberts’s recent opinion persuasively explain why a neutral decision-maker could reasonably conclude that at long last the imposition of the preclearance requirement on the states that lost the Civil War—or more precisely continuing to use the formula that in 1965 identified those states—is not justified by the conditions that prevail today. The opinion fails, however, to explain why such a decision should be made by the members of the Supreme Court. The members of Congress, representing the millions of voters who elected them, are far more likely to evaluate correctly the risk that the interest in maintaining the supremacy of the white race still plays a significant role in the politics of those states. After all, that interest was responsible for creating the slave bonus when the Constitution was framed, and in motivating the violent behavior that denied blacks access to the polls in those states for decades prior to the enactment of the VRA.

The several congressional decisions to preserve the preclearance requirement—including its 2006 decision—were preceded by thorough evidentiary hearings that have consistently disclosed more voting violations in those states than in other parts of the country. Those decisions have had the support of strong majority votes by members of both major political parties. Not only is Congress better able to evaluate the issue than the Court, but it is also the branch of government designated by the Fifteenth Amendment to make decisions of this kind.

In her eloquent thirty-seven-page dissent, Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, described the extensive deliberations in Congress over the preclearance requirement, the precedents holding that the Court has a duty to respect Congress’s decisions, and the reasons why the preclearance remedy should be preserved. Indeed, she captured the majority’s principal error concisely and clearly when she explained that “throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

I hope everyone who wrote all the crap about Roberts being concerned about his Court’s place in history after it upheld the Affordable Care Act will now take it back, but I’m not optimistic.

Sunday, November 18, 2012 9:24 pm

A short explanation of why Samuel Alito is too farking stupid to be on the Supreme Court

He doesn’t understand the difference between creating speech and buying an audience:

Alito said the real issue is whether free speech rights “should be limited to certain preferred corporations, namely those media organizations.” And with the proliferation of the Internet and social media, the line is getting more blurry between individuals and media, he said.

Give Sam credit: No conservative has ever gone broke bashing the media, particularly in front of audiences like the Federalist Society. Nonetheless, I’ll try to help Sam out here.

My local newspaper or USA Today or the Huffington Post or whoever does not have a monopoly on free-speech rights. Nowhere in this dimension are free speeech rights “limited to certain preferred corporations, namely those media organizations.” Any corporation except for certain tax-exempt ones can create a website, buy or rent hosting, and endorse or attack any candidate it chooses, just as media organizations do. (And if the tax-exempt corporations decide they want to, then they should just give up their tax exemptions and go buck-wild. Yeah, Roman Catholic church, I’m looking at you.)

What Alito’s vote in the Citizens United case made it possible for corporations to do, and what “media organizations” as he defined them do NOT do, is to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on the creation and dissemination of advertising for or against candidates. (It also made it possible for corporations to try to tell their employees how to vote; fortunately, most Americans still don’t negotiate with terrorists.) That’s a pretty simple and very obvious distinction, not to mention a clear and present danger to continuing our form of representative government.

OK, I take it back. Maybe Alito isn’t stupid. Maybe he just thinks you and I are.

Saturday, November 3, 2012 7:43 pm

Memo to Mitt and the GOP

I honestly don’t know who’s going to win the presidential election on Tuesday. The New York Times’s much-praised and much maligned Nate Silver gives Obama something like an 80 percent chance, but as Silver himself will tell you, that’s probability only and the other  20 percent — i.e., Romney’s chances — is not trivial.

But I think that the Republicans think they know who’s going to win on Tuesday, and they’re acting like they’re pretty sure it’s not their guy. Consider:

  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott — who, in a nation governed by the rule of law, would have gone to prison for defrauding the government during his previous life as CEO of a for-profit health concern — has tried as hard as he can to limit and harass early voting in Florida. I’m sure the fact that early voters there — as in most of the rest of the country — are predominantly Democratic has nothing to do with it.
  • Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, who already has gotten in trouble with the federal courts over his messing around with voting, has imposed new rules that essentially require the voter to act as his own elections official or else his vote won’t count. Voting rights activists sued last name night, claiming that Husted’s action violates a previous court order, statements by Husted’s own attorneys and Ohio state law as well. Were I the judge in the previous case, I’d have had his ass in jail on a 6-month contempt-of-court sentence before the sun set today, because this is exactly the kind of behavior that contempt-of-court citations — and impeachments — were created to address.

And that’s just government. Here in the Republican-exalted private sector, things are even peachier for representative democracy:

WASHINGTON — The Mitt Romney campaign and its business allies are driving home a final message unlike one we’ve seen in past presidential campaigns: Vote Romney, or you’re fired.

The pressure on workers in swing states to toe the GOP line hasn’t been restricted to any particular industry. Corporate apparel makers in Ohio, truck stop attendants in Ohio and Virginia, casino employees in Nevada, construction workers in Florida, gift-card purveyors in Colorado and Florida, car-parts makers in Michigan, software technicians in Florida and Colorado, coal miners in Ohio, dock manufacturers in Wisconsin, frozen-food packers in Michigan, resort staff in Florida, Virginia and Nevada, and people all over the country who work — or used to work — for Koch Industries or another Koch-owned company have all been given notice by their boss that an Obama victory could lead to layoffs or otherwise harm the company and its workers.

Even workers who’d already been laid off by the Kochs were mailed letters urging them to vote Republican or else “suffer the consequences” of Obama policies that would harm the company.

Romney himself urged conservative business leaders this June to “make it very clear to your employees what you believe is in the best interest of your enterprise and therefore their job and their future in the upcoming elections.”

Before the Supreme Court’s 5-4 Citizens United decision, it would have been illegal for a boss to tell an employee that “their job and their future” was on the ballot on Election Day. But the court now considers such electoral pressure an expression of free speech.

A few observations and opinions:

As I said earlier, this is not the behavior of a party that expects to win on the merits.

More particularly, if you have to engage in conspiracy to deny American voters their civil rights — which carries up to 10 years and a $10,000 fine, Rick Scott and Jon Husted — you’re not only acting like you don’t expect to win, you’re acting like you don’t want to be an American anymore. Well, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, because keeping legal voters from voting is about as un-American as it gets.

Americans let the GOP steal the election in 2000, and by a large majority, they think we got the worst president in modern times out of that deal. I doubt they’ll be so willing to let it happen again, particularly when, as is the case this time, it’s so blatant and out in the open.

And finally, for the moron CEOs who are threatening their employees if they don’t vote for Romney — despite the fact that under Obama they’ve posted record profits, amassed record cash reserves, watched the Dow double since this president took office, avoided any punishment for blowing up the whole economy in 2008 AND enjoyed the lowest top marginal income tax rates and corporate income tax rates since the Korean freakin’ War and the greatest income inequality since the days of Jay and Daisy — here’s our response to you:

  • We already had the feudalism-vs.-democracy argument. In 1776. Your side lost. Get the hell over it.
  • The U.S. abolished peonage a long time ago. Get the hell over it.
  • WE ARE AMERICANS. WE DO NOT NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS.

Monday, June 4, 2012 8:02 pm

This is a simple story. It’s not that the media can’t tell it. It’s that they don’t want to.

The Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election is tomorrow.

Charlie Pierce, last week:

A lot happened over the holiday weekend, including the first debate between Walker and his Democratic opponent, Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee, who is a very nice fellow, but who doesn’t yet seem to realize exactly what kind of a fight he’s in. In Friday’s debate, he kept banging on Walker’s responsibility for “the civil war” in the state, as though the primary goal of this whole business has been to get people to be nice to each other again. This is, of course, not remotely the case. The primary goal of this whole business has been to rid Wisconsin of Scott Walker, and of the corporate pirates and mountebanks to whom he is prepared to sell the rest of the state. The reason there’s a recall at all is not that Wisconsinites wanted more civility. It’s that they wanted less of Scott Walker.

There’s more to it than that, but it’s still pretty simple, as Athenae explains:

In the past several weeks I’ve had conversations about the election with family and friends, some of whom agree with me. Some of whom don’t. And what I keep coming back to is fear, among the Walker supporters, among those who say things like “we can’t afford to keep paying for pensions” and “we can’t afford anything but the lowest of low taxes for corporations” and “we can’t do anything we did 40 years ago because of reasons I don’t understand but I know, in my bones, that we can’t, we just can’t.” And I’m being reminded of how radical a message it really is, how radical it always is, to say we can achieve what we want to achieve.

Because it’s not just the cavalier “I don’t wanna, I got mine, screw you,” not from all of them. Not from those who aren’t billionaires but from those who’ve listened to what the billionaires have to say. Who’ve been fed hate and fear for months now, hate and fear of their neighbors, hate and fear of their own futures, and worst of all, hate and fear of their own history.

Their parents or grandparents lived lives we now think of as anachronistic or idealized: Union jobs at a factory, pensions through retirement, health insurance, Social Security and Medicare that actually took care of them when they were very old. Schoolteacher and police officer being occupations that allowed you to own a home, a car, perhaps even send your children to nice schools if you saved very carefully. Possibly a vacation, nowhere fancy, maybe a road trip memorable for anything but the destination.

When you retired, your pension allowed you to keep spending money at the local grocery and dime stores, to stay in your house and maintain it, to enjoy your neighborhood restaurants and attend your neighborhood church and donate to your local Lions Club or VFW. You could rest easy in extreme old age knowing that even if you didn’t leave your children an inheritance, at least you wouldn’t bankrupt them with debt and thus hinder their own starts in life.

These aren’t fancy things, that we’re now told are too much for us to handle, are luxurious and out of hand. These aren’t outrageous expectations. This isn’t Free Purebred Kitten Day, or foot massages from film stars. These are reasonable rewards for living a reasonable, upright, decent life. Used to be, we could afford as a country large numbers of people living just like this if they so chose. This used to be something we could do with ease. And now we’re being told no, we can’t have that anymore, and in fact we have to make sure people don’t have that anymore, we have to make sure nobody even dreams about that anymore, because it’s too expensive and everything’s going to hell. And we’re so, so angry at anybody who tells us different, so, so afraid.

I say it’s fear because: If those things aren’t out of reach, if it isn’t true that “we” can’t afford them anymore, then we have to ask ourselves the question: Why don’t we have them? In answering that there is no earthly reason we can’t have lives just like our parents and grandparents led, but for the bastards we enable in power, we have to admit that we allowed this to be done to us, that we let hucksters and thieves turn us against each other while they ran away with the piggy bank. In really looking at how much money there is and what it goes for, we have to admit that we just didn’t want to question our politicians and fight our bosses and resist our every human urge to not make a fuss in order to get the very least of what is owed to people who teach children and put out fires and arrest that one [jerk] who keeps ripping up the library’s rhododendrons.

That’s too much to look full in the face. In answering it we have to own up to just how much of our own power we’ve been willing to give up. We have to admit that what teachers and public workers and nurses and cops are asking for isn’t some outrageous thing, not if for one second we’d stop undervaluing ourselves, and start demanding what we’ve had to demand so many times before.

We think this is some insurmountable problem, some terrible divide, that we’ve never seen before. We have always had people saying sit down, shut up, don’t rock the boat, while some slick-talking jerk in a shiny suit was pouring fire and brimstone about how the company was gonna mess you for your own damn good. We have always had the jerk, too, and his bosses, and the company will always be with us. This is how this has always worked. What we haven’t always had is an entire pseudo-middle-class establishment media, especially on 24-hour cable news, appealing to ignorant-ass ‘necks reinforcing the message to lay back and think of Wall Street, or else they’ll come for you next, but even that’s not a total excuse.

They’re always coming for you, is what I want to tell everybody who’s angry and everybody who’s scared. The jerk, the company, they’re always out there, and the only thing you can’t afford is to think they’re on your side. When they’re done with the teachers and the steelworkers and the cops, they’ll come for you, too, and no racist sign or hat with teabags glued on gonna save your soul then. The only thing to fear is fear itself, said the last person who understood this well enough to make a case, so up you get.

There’s no reason to be scared, when the scariest thing is that it’s all up to you, and you decide what “we” can and cannot do. And the things we cannot do just melt away, once we really start taking them apart, and seeing what they’re made of. We can do anything if we want it bad enough. We can afford what we want to afford.

We can afford what we can get enough votes to afford.

You want to know why Republicans are working so hard to scratch eligible voters from the voter rolls, in Florida and elsewhere? This right here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012 8:05 pm

Citizens United and this other thing; or, How to steal an election

Filed under: Evil,Hold! Them! Accountable!,Voting — Lex Alexander @ 8:05 pm
Tags: , ,

This short post by Charlie Pierce at Esquire on a World War II veteran who was denied the right to vote on Tuesday because elections officials refused his government issued Department of Veterans Affairs card is a model of providing context, a key function that journalists now more or less refuse to do because it’s hard and they might get called a bad name or something:

As the election year goes on, these kind of stories are going to become a staple of campaign coverage, like watching the candidates try to eat corn dogs in Iowa, flip pancakes in New Hampshire, and pretend to care about baseball in Florida. There is going to be a story like this in every media market. Some ambitious young reporter is going to be assigned to the Old Guy Who Voted In Every Election Since FDR But Who Couldn’t Vote This Time Because Of The New Law beat. There will be pathos. There will be drama. But the fundamental fact that these laws are an organized national assault on the right of the people to elect their own leaders, because sometimes the people elect leadersof whom the rat******s of the organized right do not approve, like Kenyan Muslim Usurpers Of The Alinsky Underground, will get lost in all the pathos and drama. These people will be treated as sob stories, not cautionary tales. They will be used as background election-day “color.” They will be depicted as individual figures of pity and not of what they are: American citizens cheated out of the most precious right they have by a nationwide conspiracy to defraud. See the trees. See the forest, too.

A small quibble: I don’t think it’s “conspiracy to defraud” so much as “conspiracy against rights” as defined in Title 18, Section 241 of the U.S. Code:

If two or more persons conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in any State, Territory, Commonwealth, Possession, or District in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States, or because of his having so exercised the same;…

They shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and if death results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, they shall be fined under this title or imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death.

I think “oppress” covers what’s going on here, and given emails that already have been made public, there’s no lack of evidence.

Now, back to Pierce. There are, in order of increasing degree of difficulty, three types of hard-news stories.

There is the event story, such as that of our unfortunate voter.

There is the pattern story, which would note a confluence of similar events.

And, finally, there is the system story, which explains what gives rise to these patterns.

In one reasonably short paragraph, Pierce illustrates how this works. (I won’t say “shows how it’s done” because he makes assertions that, while provable, are not documented in this short blog post.)

The Republicans, given a clown car full of big red noses at the top of the ticket and a nearly unbroken string of losing issues from their economic plans to their drumbeats for war with Iran to their unconscionable defense of Rush Limbaugh to their attempts to ban contraception and shrink government enough to turn it into a transvaginal probe, know that there are only two ways to win in November: outspend their opponents overwhelmingly via the mechanisms made possible by Citizens United v. FEC, and keeping the other side from being able to vote. And if you have to break a few state and federal laws to do it, well, screw the Constitution, we’ve got an election to win.

There have been some encouraging developments along this front, but this was is not over and the good guys — by which I mean the people who believe that every eligible American citizen who wishes to vote should be enabled to do so and not frustrated by government efforts — will not stop.

Let me offer one last bit of systems reporting, or analysis of other people’s reporting, bringing in a topic that might appear mostly unrelated.

There has been a movement afoot among some conservatives lately to repeal the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was enacted to ensure that states that had been the most egregious offenders against minorities in the Jim Crow era didn’t act with respect to voting and elections in ways that would unduly burden minorities. One attractive argument for repeal is that we’re now in a “post-racial era” in which the sins of Jim Crow have been expunged.

But as the effort to enact photo-ID requirements for voting gains steam, it is clear that Jim Crow has not left the building: Racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately less able to obtain photo ID of the type some states are requiring, and requiring people to pay for. (So are the very old, the very young, the disabled, those who do not or cannot drive, ex-offenders who have had their citizenship rights restored, and other groups, all of whom share a tendency to vote disproportionately for Democrats.) Not only does requiring people to pay to get ID suitable for voting violate Supreme Court rulings banning poll taxes, it also violates the Voting Rights Act, which bans not only the intent to discriminate against minorities, but even measures that have the unintended effect of disproportionately harming minorities.

That’s why Republicans, particularly, want to repeal the Voting Rights Act: Repeal would allow them to use the most potent weapon they have to suppress the votes of people who are unlikely to vote for them. They know damn well that racism hasn’t gone away, but that’s almost beside the point. The point is that they’re trying to prevent people from voting who almost certainly will vote against them. (The claim that voting fraud is a substantial problem in the real world, for which photo ID is a practical solution, is a canard. In the real world, vote fraud is vanishingly rare, in part because of the enormous personal risk relative to the reward.)

When people engage in this kind of behavior in almost any other realm, we call it cheating. In elections, we call it a federal felony and assign a significant, meaningful punishment. It’s long past time we started punishing people.

Friday, February 10, 2012 7:20 pm

The REAL voting problem — vote suppression by the GOP — by the numbers

If you’re a regular reader, you know how I feel about voting and the bogus “voter fraud” spectre being raised by the GOP. I’ve argued, to varying degrees of belief on the part of my readers, that the real problem isn’t voter fraud — that is, someone casting a vote he is not legally entitled to cast, by virtue of his not residing where he votes or by virtue (?) of his posing as  an existing eligible voter or by virtue of using an entirely fictitious identity.

Rather, I’ve argued, the real problem is that the Republican Party, apparently believing it cannot win an honest election, is doing everything it can to prevent legally eligible voters from voting, using “voter fraud” as an excuse for measures, such as requiring photo I.D. (an unconstitutional poll tax under another name, as more than one court has found), that it knows will make voting harder for certain large populations — the elderly, very young adults, racial and ethnic minorities, those who do not or cannot drive, and ex-felons — who tend to vote disproportionately for Democrats.

It’s an anti-get-out-the-vote campaign. It’s illegal and it’s unconstitutional (and arguably a federal crime), but the Republican Party and a good bit of our mainstream media are treating it as simply one more debatable notion in the era of postmodern law and politics.

Unfortunately, here in the real world, facts still matter, valid data still matter. And David Rothschild, an economist for Yahoo! Research (and, boy, doesn’t the phrase “an economist for Yahoo! Research” tell you how much the world has changed) with a Ph.D. in applied economics from the Wharton School of Business, tells us that those data show that Republicans, on this issue as on so many others, are full of crap:

Based on the most conservative estimates, then, we can estimate that voter ID laws could disenfranchise between 10,000-500,000 eligible voters for every 1-100 blocked fraudulent votes. Here’s how I get there:

It may seem like a government-issued photo ID isn’t so much to ask to cast a vote—after all, you need one to drive, get on a plane, or have a beer. The fact is that many eligible voters do not have the right documents under new or proposed laws. The right-wing Heritage Foundation trumpets a paper that claims that only 1.2% registered voters lack valid a photo ID. That may seem low, but nearly 130 million votes were cast in the 2008 presidential election, so that would translate into roughly 1,560,000 voters. The Heritage Foundation’s estimate is the lowest I could find. In 2007, the Georgia Secretary of State estimated 198,000 registered voters there did not have government issued photo IDs and in South Carolina, 200,000 registered voters do not have a photo ID that would be valid for voting under the proposed law, according to the state election commission. That translates into roughly 4-5 percent of voters for Georgia and 8-10 percent of voters for South Carolina, based on 2008 registration and vote totals.

Those eligible citizens who do not have a photo ID tend towards the more disenfranchised citizens:25% of African-Americans have no photo ID, 15% of people earning less than $35,000 have no photo ID, and 18% of the elderly have no photo ID. This represents millions of citizens in each category. Such laws also penalize college students since many of these laws require in-state photo IDs, which prevents college students from voting at their college if they attend from out-of-state.

Voter ID laws do not stop people who have fraudulently registered as themselves. The vast majority of these cases are people who believed themselves to be eligible, notably felons that do not know they are ineligible to vote in a given state. States that bar felons, such as Florida, have traditionally been so vigilant in blocking felons that thousands of eligible voters have been inadvertently purged from the voter rolls in the state’s fixation to ensure that felons do not vote. Nor would these laws stop non-citizens from voting as themselves. (Even so, investigations have found voting by non-citizens to be extremely rare; a study of 370,000 votes cast in Milwaukee from 1992-2000 showed 4 votes by non-citizens.)

The main voter fraud that photo IDs would stop, then, is that of a person voting in lieu of another registered voter; this is likely someone who has died, as it is otherwise hard to estimate when a live registered voter will not be voting. Again, studies have shown very few votes by dead people in recent election cycles; this study by the FBI showed that all 89 dead voters in a Maryland election died after they voted. Many other presumed dead voters are caused by clerical errors on death certificates.

(snip)

So here’s the question: if the most conservative estimates are correct and 10,000 eligible voters are disenfranchised so that 100 non-eligible votes can be stopped, do you think that that is a fair deal for democracy?

That’s a good question. Let’s rephrase it:

So here’s the question: if the most conservative estimates are correct and 10,000 innocent people are executed so that 100 murderers can be stopped from getting off scot-free, do you think that that is a fair deal for democracy?

But wait, you say, voting and murder aren’t the same thing, and not getting to vote isn’t like being wrongly executed!

In terms of the consequences, of course, that’s absolutely correct.

But in America, we consider the right to life, absent due judicial process, to be fundamental and absolute. Guess what? We think exactly the same thing of the right to vote. Just as Americans have died over the centuries to protect their fellow citizens’ lives, so, too, have Americans died — and not just in the Jim Crow South — to protect the rights of their fellow citizens to vote. The right to vote is a Big Damn Deal and the closest thing to settled law, outside the realm of life and death, that this country has. Indeed, given our constitutional transgressions post-9/11, you could argue it is the most settled point of constitutional law.

So why are the Republicans doing what they’re doing, besides the tactical fact that if everyone who is eligible to vote does so, they’re going to lose a lot more than they’re going to win?

Because, philosophically, Republicans who support these voter-suppression efforts do not believe that every citizen has the right to vote.  And whatever else you want to call that belief, you need to call it what it is: un-American.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 8:23 pm

Why Scott Brown really won …

Filed under: I want my money back.,Voting — Lex Alexander @ 8:23 pm
Tags: , ,

… and why Democrats ought not be feeling completely comfortable about November despite their health-care win, from economist and political scientist Thomas Ferguson at UMass Boston:

A major storm is indeed blowing up. Whether this ultimately builds into a Level 5 hurricane like Katrina is not clear. But its winds are already beyond any normal gale.

Quite like a hurricane, this tempest has a clear dual structure. Our study suggests that in the eye of the storm – the old Democratic base – an ominous, unnatural calm is settling in that displaces the near-millenarian enthusiasm of 2008. We have seen how the surge in overall voter turnout in the 2010 Senate race disguised a drop in turnout in lower income towns that previously voted heavily Democratic. Recalling one more time the problems with inferences from aggregate data, we think it is safe to conclude that our data are consistent with the claim put forward by the Democratic campaign’s chief pollster, that Obama administration’s unwillingness to face down the banks and slowness in dealing with the recession have demoralized and outraged the party’s electoral base. The disconnect between these disaffected Democrats and the administration and party leaders looks to be deep.

What’s driving the trend? Not just the economy in general, but something a little more specific — and I haven’t seen this observation anywhere else:

Our statistical tests indicate that declines in housing values operated independently to depress the Democratic vote share. We think it is unlikely that the housing variable is merely a proxy for some other unmeasured factor, such as income. Instead, we suspect that our result drives to the heart of the “Tea Party” phenomenon. Put simply, our data are consistent with the notion that a good part of the swing toward Scott Brown came from voters who were not only frightened by high unemployment – their own, or their neighbors’ – but who also suffered large losses in wealth from the collapse of the housing bubble. For most Americans, their greatest economic asset is their house. We thus suspect that the housing collapse is also likely associated with major declines, or potential declines, in retirement incomes. Particularly for older voters, this has to be very alarming.

And how are people reacting?

But we are dubious that such [racist/anti-Semitic] groups are the heart of the Tea Party phenomenon, at least right now. They have been out in force since at least the waning days of the 2008 campaign, when their apocalyptic rhetoric eventually provoked Senator John McCain to repudiate them in public. That they should exfoliate on the scale of the Tea Party this late strikes us as implausible.

It seems more likely that the citizens rallying under the Tea Party banner are pretty much what they say they are. They are ordinary Americans hammered by the almost Biblical series of economic plagues that for most began in the fall of 2008, when the decision to let Lehman Brothers go bankrupt turned a looming economic crisis into a world historical disaster. They have been driven to the breaking point by watching their jobs and retirement savings melt away as banks hit them with steeply rising fees on their credit and debit cards while paying next to nothing on what is left of their cash holdings.

While few likely understand what Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson did with AIG, TARP, the FDIC guarantees, and the other largess they showered on the big banks, these ordinary Americans see clearly that government moved with the speed of light to rescue Wall Street. They also understand the message that the President’s decision to promote Geithner and retain Bernanke sent to Wall Street – and what it heralds for issues important to them, such as consumer finance. Looking at years of sub- or unemployment, their exasperation only increases when they hear the President or his economic advisor Lawrence Summers proclaim that the recession is ending and defend the right of bank managements to pay themselves gigantic bonuses barely a year after their institutions were rescued by taxpayers’
money.

Given the absurdity of the notion that Republicans are going to do anything to hold the banksters accountable — indeed, all available evidence strongly suggests otherwise — why are Democrats in such trouble?

You’ll love this: It’s because of the liberal media:

… democratic enlightenment and exploration of policy alternatives are hardly the principal concern
of contemporary corporate media. But all of them, especially Fox News and the network of right wing talk
radio commentators, trumpet conservative economic appeals.

At a time when real disposable per capita income minus government transfer payments (or “take home pay minus government assistance”) has sunk to its lowest levels since the giant recession of the early 1970s, most major television and radio networks continue to trumpet both efficient markets and the imagined evils of Keynesian, countercyclical programs. With only modest exceptions, so does the money-driven world of think tanks, the rest of the press, and the government itself.

We are thus driven to conclude that the sometimes wild assertions and arguments advanced by Tea Partiers largely reflect the poverty of economic and political analysis in the establishment media. Indeed, the U.S. case bears an unsettling similarity to the situation in many parts of the parts of the Middle East. Political establishments and governments refuse to countenance critical discussion of social and economic problems. They marginalize alternative views, while beating the drums unceasingly for orthodoxy. When a crisis hits, however, no one believes them.

So when the MSM doesn’t do the reporting necessary to reflect reality accurately — for whatever reason — you get the kind of crazy we have in the Tea Party once you filter out the fringe racism and anti-Semitism:

So disaffected citizens set to work with the only tools they have – bits and snatches of traditional economic and political thinking – to analyze their predicament on their own. It should not be surprising that such efforts often end up being hard to tell apart from Alice in Wonderland or even Goya’s Black Paintings.

And that’s what we have today: America is being devoured.

Goya: "Saturn Devouring His Son"

From Goya's "Black Paintings": "Saturn Devouring His Son"

Tuesday, June 30, 2009 6:00 pm

Inevitable headline: He’s good enough, he’s smart enough …

Filed under: Voting — Lex Alexander @ 6:00 pm
Tags: , ,

… and, doggoneit, 312 more people liked him than liked Norm Coleman:

Republican Norm Coleman ended his bruising eight-month court fight over Minnesota’s U.S. Senate seat this afternoon, conceding to Democrat Al Franken after the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled in Franken’s favor.

The justices ruled today that Franken won the U.S. Senate election and said he is entitled to an election certificate that would lead to him being seated in the Senate.

“Affirmed,” wrote the Supreme Court, unanimously rejecting Coleman’s claims that inconsistent practices by local elections officials and wrong decisions by a lower court had denied him victory.

Two hours after the decision was released, Coleman said he would “abide by the results.”

Within minutes, Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s office removed the last hurdle to Franken’s being seated in the Senate, saying he would sign Franken’s certificate of election.

I have no idea what kind of senator Al Franken will make, but I congratulate the voters of Minnesota on finally obtaining their constitutionally guaranteed second U.S. senator.

I would also point out that despite the length of time involved, Minnesota’s election laws defined this process quite clearly, and the process did exactly what it was supposed to do. It produced a result that, though narrow, was incontrovertible. Even Norm Coleman has recognized that.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004 7:08 pm

Voting news

Filed under: Black-box voting,Voting — Lex Alexander @ 7:08 pm

Locally, my friend David Allen, owner of Plan 9 Publishing in High Point, publisher and co-author of “Black Box Voting: Ballot Tampering in the 21st Century” and editor of the ThoughtCrimes blog, has been named to a legislative study commission that will be looking at voting-machine problems in North Carolina. Before starting his publishing business, David did network security for banks for a lot of years. He’s sharp, he’s skeptical and, although quite a partisan liberal, he’s reality-based and sees this issue as utterly nonpartisan. The commission is lucky to have him.

Nationally, the Government Accountability Office (formerly the General Accounting Office), the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, said today it will be looking into voting irregularities in this year’s elections, including more than 57,000 complaints received by the House Judiciary Committee, according to this news release. GAO investigations are almost alone among government investigations for their high degrees of fairness and thoroughness. I don’t expect the findings of this investigation to change history — nor should you — but I hope and expect that it will shed detailed light on the (still far too many) problems remaining in our vote-counting systems.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004 8:28 pm

Finally, Ralph Nader is good for something. Oh. Wait.

Filed under: Voting — Lex Alexander @ 8:28 pm

Ohio gets a statewide recount after all because the Ralph Nader campaign the Libertarian and Green candidates for president raised the money to pay for one. (At $10 per precinct, it’s about $113,000 for a statewide recount.)

They say they don’t expect the outcome to change. They just want to make sure all the ballots were counted accurately.

Good for them.

Volusia County, Florida, on the other hand, has some ‘splainin’ to do for the second presidential election in a row. Information here (scroll down to “Volusia County on Lockdown”).

Wednesday, November 3, 2004 10:22 pm

Election postscript

Filed under: Voting — Lex Alexander @ 10:22 pm

One thing happened in yesterday’s elections that made me very, very unhappy.

Now, understand: As a journalist, I’ve got a duty to examine a candidate’s policy proposals and report on their likely effects, without fear or favor, and I gladly accept that duty. As a citizen, I respect everyone else’s rights to their views, even if I think they’re batsh*t insane substantively flawed.

But there’s one thing in the realm of politics and government that I don’t accept, don’t respect, haven’t a single ounce of tolerance for: messing with the vote, particularly by making it harder for your fellow citizens to vote.

Teresa Nielsen Hayden put it nicely: “I don’t care what your politics are. That’s not the issue. People who mess with the vote are not your friends. If they don’t believe in government by the consent of the governed, they sure as hell don’t believe in government by the consent of you.” In fact, people who mess with the vote ought to lose their right to vote, permanently.

Don’t agree? Fine. Leave. I hear the president of Uzbekistan holds similar views. Go there. You’d probably hit it off … you know, up until the part where he boils you alive, anyway.

Folks, it’s the 21st century and we’re the greatest freaking country in the history of the planet. There is no excuse for any voting system except one that’s transparent, accurate and fraud-proof and that requires a maximum wait to vote of one hour even on days of record turnout. We know how to do this, and we do have the money.

Sunday, July 4, 2004 9:58 pm

More voter-registration shenanigans in Florida

Filed under: Voting — Lex Alexander @ 9:58 pm

More than 2,100 properly registered voters were included on a list of 47,000 names said to be ineligible to vote because of felony convictions, three reporters for The Miami Herald found. (One of them is my former colleague Erika Bolstad. Go, Erika!)

The law in Florida is that convicted felons can’t vote, period. However, Florida is required to register convicted felons from other states who had their voting rights restored in whatever state they came from. In the book “The Best Democracy Money Can Buy,” journalist Greg Palast documented how thousands of legally registered Florida voters, disproportionately black, were illegally purged from voter rolls before the 2000 election. The kindest possible interpretation of this report is that whatever Florida might have done since 2000 to fix the problem, the state still has a lot of work to do.

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