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thoughts on voter fraud

Over at FB, my friend Judy posted this meme:



I've never met one of these quotes that I didn't want to react to, especially if they're for a viewpoint I disagree with. And Judy's a good sort. While our political leanings are different, she's always happy to hear my reactions and considers them well. It's actually pretty refreshing! We have good thoughts, and her posts make me think. Anyway, by the time I was finished explaining why I disagreed with Ben Stein's quote, it was practically a blog-length musing. So I thought I'd throw it up here.

*******************

[I had asked what the context of this quote was, wondering if it was Obama's citizenship, or immigration, or voter ID laws, or what exactly. One of Judy's other friends clarified it was voter ID laws, so I focused in on that.]

Thanks, Dan, for focusing it in on the voter registration thing. He obviously was talking about the ACA's requirement to show you had health insurance.

For me, there are two big differences between the two situations. First, there's the fact that people being uninsured is a real problem where we *know* loads of people being uninsured. Or take a less controversial example: the government's requiring you to prove you have car insurance before you can get a license. Now, we could quibble over whether these two situations are the same thing, whether the govt has any right to require you to carry life insurance, but I think the issue at hand is really much simpler. The question isn't so much should you be required to be a citizen to vote, but should you be required to PROVE you're a citizen to vote.

So on the one hand you have two situations where if you don't have insurance (car or health) you hurt other people. Because people get into car accidents through no fault of their own, and those accidents involve other drivers. And when you're that other driver, you're often on your own financially. At a minimum it drives up everyone else's insurance premiums. Or take health care. People get sick whether they're insured or not, and we either have to deny them healthcare (which affects society in other ways, like my kid getting your kid's communicable disease, or your broken foot meaning you can't work so have to go on welfare or requiring some sort of charity) or else everyone else has to pay for it indirectly. People going to emergency rooms and getting treated but not being able to pay for it just means the hospital has to charge me more. These are real problems.

But voter fraud? Not so much, or at least I can't see it. It's not just that the incidence of actual voter fraud is so low. It's that the *kind* of voter fraud these bills are going after just isn't the kind that's going to sway an election - because even really close elections are swayed by hundreds of votes. What's more likely - you'd get hundreds of people willing to risk jail time (to say nothing of deportation if they aren't legal residents) - or that one election official would forge hundreds of ballots for his preferred candidates and slip them in with the legitimate ones? *If* election fraud is a problem - and I haven't seen nearly enough cases of voter fraud that it would make a difference in an election - then this approach of requiring ID cards idn't the way to go.

The other issue is side consequences. I don't know enough about auto or health insurance to know what the side consequences there are. Perhaps people being less proactive with their health or driving more recklessly? I doubt it, because insurance doesn't cover so much (and with poor health, there's the added pain - who wants to be sick or injured?). But with the voting laws there's a pretty well-established pattern that some proportion of people that would have voted otherwise, won't vote under these restrictions.

I recently had to get a state photo ID in New York. This wasn't for voting purposes; I had sent in my passport to get it renewed and in the same week I misplaced my wallet, and so I was looking at six weeks with no ID. Because I didn't have my birth certificate I had to get a copy. It took me *easily* three days of running around to different state offices to get this worked out - and the only reason I was doing it was my bank wouldn't let me withdraw funds without photo ID. I know lots of people in my neighborhood who don't use banks and simply cash their paychecks, and if I had new checks coming in (this was the summer, when I live off savings) I almost certainly wouldn't have bothered. I *certainly* wouldn't have if I was used to living my life without official ID and I only needed it to vote. I like voting, but I don't think it makes such a difference I'd give three days of my life over to that.

So with voter ID laws, you have a certain proportion of people who just won't bother. Say just for arg's sake that number is 20%. That means 20% of the people affected by these votes who had a right to vote *won't* be voting - and it's because there's a new law making it harder for them. Given that these laws tend to affect certain demographics more than others (it's poorer city-dwellers that tend to not have driver's licenses, or out-of-state college students who lack local ID), that means 20% (or however many) OF THOSE GROUPS won't be voting when they would have otherwise. You might say it's the voters' faults; I think there's enough blame to go around. But whatever you think, that means the voter pool is less representative than it was before these laws.

Whew, that's a long answer! And it just deals with one of these issues. Those are my thoughts in any case, mellon. I hope it shows why I at least see a difference between these two situations; you can of course disagree. :-)

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
gwynnyd
Aug. 21st, 2012 04:10 pm (UTC)
And you still have to *register* to vote in any case. Usually well in advance. If you are ON the voter rolls, show up and say, I'm so-and-so at this address in this voting precinct, please give me a ballot, why *shouldn't* they take your word for it?

marta_bee
Aug. 21st, 2012 09:08 pm (UTC)
Some states are laxer about things than other states. My NY voter's registration just required a utility or phone bill, or a student ID (which I could have fakeed given a good laserjet printer), but I don't think anyone's taking advantage of them simply because the payoff's too low. Even if I thought this was really about voter fraud, it still isn't worth the tradeoff of disenfrnchising people, particularly poor people, to beat back the fraud.

Of course, I don't think those are the real motives. But since those voter ID laws aren't okay in any case I don't really need to get into that whole conversation. :-)

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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