Electoral Reform -Part 4: Expansion and Suppression

The best way to increase voter participation is to insure the integrity of the voting process. This is a concept that people on both the Left and the Right should agree upon. But, that is not the case and nowhere is liberal hypocrisy, internal inconsistency in their arguments, and just plain hubris more on display by the Left.

It is true that cases of voter fraud are few and far between. The liberal Brennan Center for Justice often cites statistics from the Justice Department illustrative of this fact. But, they tell only part of the story (a liberal tendency). For example, some of the cases of prosecuted voter fraud may have several components to it. That is, a single person may have misrepresented the votes of 100 people, yet this is counted as a single incidence of fraud. If a Chicago precinct captain registers 100 dead people, that is a single case of voter fraud. Regardless of statistical anomalies, if the tools to detect fraud are denied to officials, of course there will be less cases of discovered and prosecuted voter fraud. It is like saying that there is not carbon monoxide in a home because there was no carbon monoxide detector in the home. It does not make the homeowner any less dead. Additionally, not all of those accused or charged are convicted for a variety of reasons. A perfect example occurred in my area when a worker for a mayoral candidate had several absentee ballots in the trunk of his car. Under state law, they were charged with voter fraud. However, due to errors by the prosecutor, the case was ultimately dismissed. Does that make the reality of those absentee ballots in the trunk of his car any less real? Yet in the end, according to the Justice Department and ultimately the Brennan Center for Justice, there was no voter fraud.

To assert that election or voter fraud does not exist is to deny reality. When these assertions are made on the Left, notice how they often then attempt to explain away cited cases. These comments usually follow the word “but.” This writer asserts that even a single case sullies the entire process. The Left is proud of efforts to retire the days of political bosses and machine politics- fraud by any other name. But, all they have really done is kick the fraud further down the political food chain and diffused it through the population so that they can now claim it is non-existent or inconsequential. It would be a sad day for democracy when we can breathe a sigh of relief because an election was not close so that we can dismiss fraud as not having an effect on the outcome. That is small consolation to the losers of close elections, like Norm Coleman in Minnesota in 2008, or to the valid voter. The Left is very quick to point out the need for electoral reform by often citing Florida 2000. That was 500 some votes. A better example would be Chicago 1960- some 200,000 allegedly fraudulent votes that decided that election.

A survey by that liberal Brennan Center for Justice tells us that at the state level, 180 bills have been introduced since the beginning of 2011 which they classify as “restrictive” of voting rights. They not only involve photo identification requirements, but other areas: scaling back early voting, restricting felon voting rights, restrictions on voter registration drives by third parties and absentee voting changes. Obviously at the state level, legislators see a potential problem as this occurred across 41 states. As of now, there are still 27 bills pending in six different states not counting those already approved by states, but being held up by the courts or the Justice Department.

Most political experts believe that expanding the right to vote, or liberalizing registration and voting requirements, would be to the benefit of the Democratic Party. That is, the greater number of voters and turnout, the greater the chance a Democrat will win. However, of the 19 states which require non-photo ID, only 12 are red states. Of the 7 states that require photo ID, only three are considered red states. Hence, it would figure that photo ID requirements are not intrinsic to Republican legislatures or red states. However, looking at the three categories- no ID at all, non-photo ID, and photo ID- we see very little differences in either voter registration or voter turnout.

Among the 50 states and DC, the average percentage of the population registered is 62.2% while turnout averages around 44.1%. In terms of voter registration, the no ID states average 62.2%, the non-photo ID states 62.8% and the photo ID states 61.5%. In terms of turnout, no ID states average 44.9%, non-photo ID states average 40.4% and photo ID states average 42.8%. More importantly, since most of the objections assert that these laws are designed to disenfranchise minorities, the elderly and students (young people)- all categories that tend to vote Democratic save the elderly- several studies have found that not to be case.

One study by the Atlanta Journal Constitution looked at Georgia’s law which has been in effect now through two major statewide elections- the 2008 presidential election and the 2010 gubernatorial election. It found that both black and Hispanic registration and turnout far outpaced normal population growth of those groups. The election of 2008 would make sense, but the trend held even in the 2010 election. They compared these figures to that of Mississippi- a state comparable in their make up of blacks and Hispanics and without a voter ID law and found that Georgia vastly outperformed Mississippi. Likewise, a study of the Indiana law indicated that black turnout and registration actually increased after implementation of the law. Both studies came to the indisputable conclusion that voter ID laws have either no effect on minority participation in the electoral process or that they have an ENHANCED effect. The reason is simple: ALL groups are assured of the integrity of the process and are more apt to register and vote.

The argument by opponents is that minorities and the elderly tend to be at the lower end of the income spectrum and thus less likely to have a government-issued photo ID. However, one study found that less than one half of 1% of voting age people either actually lack, or lack the ability to get such an ID. In a previous article on this subject, a woman from Chicago noted that they have to show a photo ID to ride public transit at a reduced fare, but no such ID is required to vote in Illinois. One needs a photo ID to board an airplane or to conduct a credit card transaction, but no such ID is required for the more important ability to vote.

The funniest argument in this writer’s mind is that opponents say these requirements are akin to a poll tax. They spend more money fighting these laws in court rather than doing the more commonsense thing. If they would divert that litigation money into boarding all these allegedly disenfranchised people onto a bus and taking them on a predetermined day to get the necessary ID and maybe even pay the nominal fee (poll tax in their heads), then this would not be an issue. It is also rather hypocritical to lump the elderly or disabled in this category since a lot of cases of actual voter fraud actually involve the elderly and disabled. There are documented cases of campaign workers and special interest groups impersonating these people at the polls knowing full well the actual person will not show up and vote.

With a national voter photo ID law, this can be solved and there would be consistency. There would be no recounts where fraud was alleged. Judges would not be as involved in elections and outcomes as they are now. Provided those allegedly the “targets” of disenfranchisement were provided the means and the ability to get the photo ID, there should be no problems. In fact, that exact option and the use of provisional balloting is what makes the laws in Indiana and Georgia and Idaho, Louisiana, Florida, New Hampshire and even Hawaii so effective.

As for students, they can either vote in their hometown or in the town in which they are attending college. Assuming the student is attending college in-state and they wish to vote in their hometown’s election- that is, not lose residency in their hometown- they have two choices: the absentee ballot or travel home. If, however, they are attending college out-of-state, travel back home to vote may be out of the question. In that case, they have three choices- travel home, the absentee ballot, or vote in your college town (but lose residency at home). And what exactly is the problem with this? How is this putting a burden on their right to vote? Absentee ballots have been around for some time now and one would assume that if someone is smart enough to get into college, they should be smart enough to know how to get an absentee ballot, or find the means to do so. Here’s a novel idea: maybe groups like Rock the Vote could actually tell students how to get the absentee ballot.

Some of the worst ideas this writer has heard involves Internet registration. One could only imagine that it would not take long for some genius to devise an on-line voter registration application that could be easily hacked, or that the phrase robo-registration would enter the political lexicon. As an example of liberal hypocrisy and internal inconsistency in their argument, the people who argue for this are usually the same people who argue against the use of E-Verify in employment over “privacy issues” or false positives. It would appear they are more concerned about employment for illegal immigrants than they are for the integrity of the electoral process. On-line registration or voting would be a debacle of the highest order.

There are suggestions that state and local governments should utilize the private sector to create better, more reliable, and up- to-date voter lists. In effect, they are encouraging the privatization of voter registration. Again, these are generally the people who also rail against the privatization of things like roads, airports, their motor vehicle office, their state lottery, Amtrak, and the list goes on. Talk about your misplaced priorities! Essentially, they argue that the onus of responsibility for updating one’s voting records in an increasingly mobile society falls too heavily on the individual when it should rightfully fall on the government. Why that should be the government’s responsibility is never satisfactorily explained.

Finally, another idea floated and one that I hear with increasing regularity is that voting should be compulsory. That is, if you are registered, you must vote. If you do not, then you face the possibility of a fine or community service and failing that, possible jail time. They usually point to Australia as if Australia is the shining beacon of democracy in the free world. Their failure to vote is usually accompanied by a fine equivalent to about $15. Interestingly, these are the same people who claim that requiring someone to have a photo ID is akin to a poll tax. But what is the fine for not voting anything but a poll tax in reverse? Of course Australia has high voter turnout because it comes under the threat of financial penalty. It is a mandate by any other name. The proponents argue that they can cast a ballot for “no preference” in elections. Nevada has that option here in the United States and their registration and turnout figures are below the national average. Can one imagine if there was this 100% turnout the results we would get? Uninformed voters can make some really dumb choices, the choice of President in 2008 and 2012 being a prime example.

Most of these ideas regarding expanding the right to vote or means to vote and/or register is predicated upon the belief that the more fringe elements will be marginalized and that more centrist candidates will emerge. Of course, they then denounce the closed primary system which they claim encourages the nomination of extreme candidates. But, they fail to note that if the overall electorate is informed, during the general election that candidate will lose, unless the people really are extreme. It is true that candidates generally “play to the audience” in primary elections. It is also equally true that these same candidates generally “moderate” during the general election campaign. And, it should be noted, this is not a tendency of only the Republican Party. There are numerous examples of Democrats trying to “out-liberal” one another. Obama, in his unsuccessful run against Bobby Rush in the 2000 House Democratic primary, tried this very tactic. And the Sherman-Berman match up almost coming to blows this year will make one of this past election season’s highlight reel.

Barack Obama did not win in 2008 or 2012 because of voter fraud being perpetrated. He simply had a better ground game. Accusations among conservatives that he stole the election through a vast conspiracy of fraud are about as rational as liberal assertions that Bush stole the election in 2000. Even if there was voter ID requirements nationally, these people would still be yelling conspiracy from the mountain tops. However, voter ID is one of those no-brainer solutions. Liberals are quick to rant against Citizen’s United based upon the perception of possible corruption. To remove that perception, they argue stiff campaign finance laws are needed. Well, the logic for voter ID applies also- to remove the appearance or perception of voter fraud, then liberals should be open to voter ID laws to remove the perception of voting fraud (using their own logic).

In conclusion, I will begin this entry as I started it. The best way to increase turnout and registration is twofold. First, the integrity of the process must be of paramount importance. That fact has been proven in Indiana and Georgia. Second, one must have good candidates of which the electorate must be informed. Generally speaking, we cannot raise the educational level of the electorate absent literacy tests or such, but we can move to insure the integrity of the electoral process.