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What worries me


I’m not worried about voter fraud.

Voter fraud is rare, and when it does happen it’s either extremely local, or small beans.  It’s not that it’s rare, it’s that it’s infinitesimal.  The sort of fraud being alleged… one person pretending to be someone they aren’t,  so as to vote more than once (which is the ostensible reason for the voter ID laws 12 states have tried to implement this election cycle) has been the cause of 10 arrests since 2000.

That’s 10 arrests in a dozen years, tens of millions of ballots cast and ten people charged with that specific fraud.  Which is what you would expect.  There is no benefit to it.  Get caught and it’s a felony.  For one vote.  To win an election (esp. a statewide, much less a national, election) would require thousands of people “double-dipping”.  It strains all credulity to imagine so large a conspiracy would go off without a hitch.

What worries me is election fraud.  That’s something which skews the odds of one party winning.  This is something of a republican party tradition.  In the 1960s future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, William H.  Rhenquist took part in intimidating voters.  In 2000 Florida “purged” a lot of “felons”, in a slipshod way which also disenfranchised a lot of legitimate voters, who happened to belong to strongly Democratic leaning demographics.

In 2002, a Republican operative engaged in a criminal voter suppression campaign in New Hampshire.

The Bush administration has spent a lot of time talking about mythical cases of voter fraud and election improprieties, but the New Hampshire phone jamming case was the real thing. Republican operatives hired an Idaho telemarketing firm to jam the lines to prevent people who needed help in voting from getting through. The scheme was a direct attack on American democracy.

After the guilty plea from its executive director, the New Hampshire Republican Party paid to settle a civil lawsuit filed by the state’s Democrats. There is reason to believe, however, that the phone jamming ploy may have been coordinated out of the White House. Democrats say there were 22 phone calls between New Hampshire Republican officials and the White House Office of Political Affairs on election night and early the next morning.

The Republican Party, which has been going on about how even one case of interference in an election is too many, spent millions of dollars in t defense of James Tobin, who was making calls to the White House in the days before the election.

Sometimes the use of more subtle tricks, such as posting flyers with false information for the election.

…in 2004, minority neighborhoods in Milwaukee, Wisconsin received flyers from a fictitious organization called the “Milwaukee Black Voters League,” claiming that if you had already voted in any election that year that you could not vote and if you had even minor infractions, like parking tickets, you were disqualified from voting. Flyers like these are often printed on official-looking local government letterhead with the wrong election date or other misleading information. As another example, in 2008 flyers were distributed to voters in Virginia stating, “Due to larger than expected voter turnout in this year’s electoral process,” people supporting Republican candidates vote on November 4th (actual Election Day) and Democrats vote on the following day.

In 2004 Sproul and Associates were hired to conduct voter registration drives in several states.  One of the things about such campaigns is they are supposed to be party neutral.  No matter for which party someone want to register, the form is to be accepted, and sent in.  In Calif. the person agenting a form has to fill out a receipt and hand it to the registrant.  Sproul and Associates had screening scripts which they told their employees to use before offering a registration form. Field workers were told they would be spot checked to see if they were actually letting Democrats register.  In Arizona they tore up forms which were filled out by Democratic registrants.

That, by the way is one of the most effective ways to suppress voters of any party one dislikes.  The people whom one fails to actually register will be turned away at the polls.  Since anyone who registers close to an election can be presumed to be planning to vote, it’s almost as good as getting a vote for your candidate.

A couple of weeks ago a firm, run by the same operative, (he had been chairman of the Arizona Republican Party in 2004) was fired because of irregularities in its voter registration campaigns in five states.  A month before the elections, in five swing states, they shut down their registration drives.  That’s got some serious implications.

That leaves, in the preventing people from voting tricks, things like “literacy” tests, and “grandfather” laws, both of which are categorically prohibited these days.  So too is any poll tax.

Which hasn’t stopped the Republicans who took over statehouses in 201o from managing to find a way to back-door just such a thing, to prevent the “single voter” fraud I was talking about at the top of this post.  A fraud they admit is insignificant.

The state signed a stipulation agreement with lawyers for the plaintiffs which acknowledges there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.”

Additionally, the agreement states Pennsylvania “will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania and elsewhere” or even argue “that in person voter fraud is likely to occur in November 2012 in the absense of the Photo ID law.”

The estimate for people who are lacking in the needed documents this law would require is more than 700,000.  A large number, in fact a majority, are people who demographically tend Democratic.  This isn’t a mistake, it’s the entire point..

Mike Turzai, the state’s House majority leader, made the remark Saturday at the state’s Republican State Committee meeting, according to After listing off a series of GOP legislative accomplishments involving Second Amendment rights and abortion regulations, Turzai mentioned the new voting law, which requires voters to show a photo ID, as one of those GOP victories.

“Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done,” he said, drawing applause.

Which is what these laws are all about.

I haven’t even tried to address the problems of ballot box fraud, which is much easier to do than one thinks.

We could, without too much trouble have verifiable, and secure, elections.  We choose not to.  We rather have things like the mess in Ohio in 2004.

So yeah, it’s not voter fraud I’m worried about.


4 thoughts on “What worries me

  1. Thank you Terry. This needs to be said, loudly and frequently.

  2. What’s really horrified (if not surprised) me is how brazen the whole thing has been. Of course they’re going to try to pass laws that keep historically-liberal demographics from voting, but it’s amazing that they can actually come out and say that they’re trying to prevent eligible voters from being able to vote. That ought to be political suicide!

    I remember last year when New Hampshire was trying to pass a law that would keep college students from voting and the house speaker outright said that it was because college students vote liberal.

  3. What do you think about compulsory voting? Do you think it would make any difference? Or do you think these shady tactics would still work?

  4. I don’t know. The real problem would be issues of compulsion. What is the legal justification? What happens to people who don’t vote?

    How is the precinct list maintained? I think the civil liberties aspects of it, relative to the US system would scupper any attempt to implement.

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