Voter ID and fraud

Here’s a story from the NY Times last Monday:

Republicans have expressed concern over what they call voter integrity. They say they fear that registration drives by liberal and community groups have bloated voter rolls with the dead and the undocumented and have created loose monitoring of who votes and low public confidence in the system. They have instituted voter identification rules, cut back on early voting and sought to purge voter lists by comparing them with others, including those of the Department of Homeland Security.

Judicial Watch, a conservative organization aimed at reducing voter fraud, says it has found that voter rolls last year in 12 states seemed to contain an ineligible number of voting-age residents when compared with 2010 census data. It is suing both Indiana and Ohio for failing to clean up their rolls in keeping with their obligations under the National Voter Registration Act.

Democrats worry about what they call voter suppression. They say that voter fraud is largely a myth and that the goal of the Republican-led laws and lawsuits is to reduce voting by minorities, the poor and the young, who tend to vote more for Democrats.

Courts have taken a mixed view of the two sides’ claims. Voter ID laws have been both upheld as fair and struck down as discriminatory. In Pennsylvania, a state judge upheld the voter ID law, and the State Supreme Court will hear appeal arguments on Thursday.

Elsewhere recently, Democrats have won more than they have lost, but appeals are forthcoming.

If you understand the issue, you might notice a bit of sleight of hand and a big piece of information that’s missing. Part of that is discussed here:

Several who wrote to me thought there was an element of false balance in a recent front-page article in The Times on the legal battles over allegations of voter fraud and vote suppression — hot topics that may affect the presidential race.

In his article, which led last Monday’s paper, the national reporter Ethan Bronner made every effort to provide balance. Some readers say the piece, in so doing, wrongly suggested that there was enough voter fraud to justify strict voter identification requirements — rules that some Democrats believe amount to vote suppression. Ben Somberg of the Center for Progressive Reform said The Times itself had established in multiple stories that there was little evidence of voter fraud.

“I hope it’s not The Times’s policy to move this matter back into the ‘he said she said’ realm,” he wrote.

The national editor, Sam Sifton, rejected the argument. “There’s a lot of reasonable disagreement on both sides,” he said. One side says there’s not significant voter fraud; the other side says there’s not significant voter suppression.

“It’s not our job to litigate it in the paper,” Mr. Sifton said. “We need to state what each side says.”

Mr. Bronner agreed. “Both sides have become very angry and very suspicious about the other,” he said. “The purpose of this story was to step back and look at both sides, to lay it out.” While he agreed that there was “no known evidence of in-person voter fraud,” and that could have been included in this story, “I don’t think that’s the core issue here.”

There’s the big piece of information: there is little to no evidence of in-person voter fraud. But the sleight of hand is still there, as Kevin Drum notes:

by far the main focus of the voter access battle is stringent photo ID laws — and the only real justification for stringent photo ID laws is that it stops in-person voter fraud. (That is, the kind of fraud where people show up in person at a polling place and pretend to be someone they aren’t. Even in theory, photo ID laws can’t stop any other kind of fraud.) This means that the existence of in-person voter fraud is exactly the core issue.

There you go, notice the article in the Times says voter fraud but the main issue on the need for voter ID laws is if there is in-person voter fraud and there really isn’t any. Also note the sleight of hand in the sentence ‘Courts have taken a mixed view of the two sides’ claims.’ Democrats say that voter ID laws are not needed and can lead to voter suppression, while Republicans say voter ID laws are needed to prevent voter fraud, but that’s not what the courts have ruled on. They have ruled on whether the law is constitutional, in Indiana they only talked about one case of in-person voter fraud and Republicans didn’t bother trying to show any in-person voting fraud in Pennsylvania (as this link notes, the initial ruling in Pennsylvania was based on an old court case that was blatantly bigoted and endorsed the possible effect of making it more difficult for some people to vote). That’s some good reporting there.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Voter rights | Petunias

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