Jeff Jacoby doesn’t want you to vote

Jeff Jacoby has an article about voting today with an interesting slant:

What’s truly objectionable here is the goal that supposedly justifies the whole operation: the idea that states should do all they can to make registering to vote and casting a ballot as easy as possible.

This isn’t rational public policy, it’s a fetish. We have gone overboard with this notion that voting must be as effortless and convenient as possible, and that even people with no interest in voting ought to be wheedled or hectored into voting anyway.

Higher voter turnout is no proof of civic health. Voting is only a means, not the end, of democratic self-government. Of course every citizen has the right to vote, including those who are ignorant, apathetic, or indifferent. But why should Americans who take their vote seriously want to increase electoral participation by those who don’t?

Of course by interesting, I mean “are you on drugs?” A democratic society shouldn’t try to get as many people as possible to vote? Really?

That’s the main point, he thinks there are a lot of Americans that should not vote, but he, of course, says that this type of things leads to voter fraud:

Not surprisingly, voter rolls are often found to be padded with bogus or illegal registrations. In 2004, the New York Daily News reported that 46,000 registered New York City voters were simultaneously registered in Florida — and that at least 1,000 of them had voted twice in the same election. In many cities today, journalist John Fund and legal scholar Hans von Spakovsky observe in Who’s Counting? — a new book on the fraud and sloppiness that plague American elections — there are more names on the voter rolls than the total number of adults enumerated by the US Census.

You might note that he only looks at allegations, that’s because in-person voter fraud is incredibly rare:

A New York Times investigation found that between 2002 and 2005 only 96 people were indicted for federal election-related crimes, and 70 of them were convicted. Of those, 41 were campaign employees and government officials, and just five were voters who cast multiple ballots.

Incredibly rare:

Because voter fraud is essentially irrational, it is not surprising that no credible evidence suggests a voter fraud epidemic. There is no documented wave or trend of individuals voting multiple times, voting as someone else, or voting despite knowing that they are ineligible. Indeed, evidence from the microscopically scrutinized 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington State actually reveals just the opposite: though voter fraud does happen, it happens approximately 0.0009% of the time. The similarly closely-analyzed 2004 election in Ohio revealed a voter fraud rate of 0.00004%.

The same article note why people who claim voter fraud usually use matching lists:

In Missouri in 2000, for example, the Secretary of State claimed that 79 voters were registered with addresses at vacant lots, but subsequent investigation revealed that the lots in question actually housed valid and legitimate residences. Similarly, a 1995 investigation into votes allegedly cast in Baltimore by deceased voters and those with disenfranchising felony convictions revealed that the voters in question were both alive and felony-free.

Many of the inaccurate claims result from lists of voters compared to other lists – of deceased individuals, persons with felony convictions, voters in other states, etc. These attempts to match information often yield predictable errors. In Florida in 2000, a list of purged voters later became notorious when it was discovered that the “matching” process captured eligible voters with names similar to – but decidedly different from – the names of persons with felony convictions, sometimes in other states entirely. A 2005 attempt to identify supposed double voters in New Jersey mistakenly accused people with similar names but whose middle names or suffixes were clearly different, such as “J.T. Kearns, Jr.” and “J.T. Kearns, Sr.,” of being the same person. Even when names and birthdates match across lists, that does not mean there was voter fraud. Elementary statistics students are often surprised to learn that it is more likely than not that among just 23 individuals, two will share a birthday.

For example, that’s true (go to page 13) with that Daily News report:

In New York in 2002 and 2004, between 400 and 1,000 voters were alleged to have voted once in New York and once in Florida. These allegations were also prompted by a flawed attempt to match names and birthdates. We are aware of public sources substantiating only two cases, yielding an overall documented fraud rate of .000009 %.

And von Spakovsky?

In his time at the Justice Department, von Spakovsky’s actions led to mass resignations of career prosecutors serving under him at the agency – including Joseph Rich, the head of the Department’s voting rights section.

In April 2006, von Spakovsky became enmeshed in controversy when it was revealed he had anonymously published an article in the Texas Review of Law & Politics that endorsed voter ID laws like Georgia’s – while Georgia’s ID law was subject to review by the Justice Department for compliance with the Voting Rights Act.  In the article, von Spakovsky – himself a former Georgia election official – presented flawed statistics in an effort to refute the notion that voter ID laws disproportionately disenfranchise African-American voters.  Career prosecutors under von Spakovsky at Justice came to the opposite conclusion and recommended that DOJ reject Georgia’s law precisely because it would disenfranchise thousands of African-Americans.  Von Spakovsky urged the section heads to overrule the career prosecutors and approve Georgia’s law.  A federal judge later struck it down as an unlawful burden akin to the discriminatory and unconstitutional poll tax.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. silver account
    Aug 15, 2012 @ 09:58:31

    Summary* Fraud by individual voters is both irrational and extremely rare.* Many vivid anecdotes of purported voter fraud have been proven false or do not demonstrate fraud.* Voter fraud is often conflated with other forms of election misconduct.* Raising the unsubstantiated specter of mass voter fraud suits a particular policy agenda.* Claims of voter fraud should be carefully tested before they become the basis for action.


  2. Trackback: Jeff Jacoby elitist extraordinaire | Petunias

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