Posted by Brad @ 5:17 pm on April 9th 2012

Fair’s Fair

James O’Keefe is an idiot, and “voter fraud” is one of the dumbest bugaboos on the right, but at least this latest stunt is vaguely clever.


  1. That’s it, dismiss something then post proof of its plausibility. Oh wait, it was just a stunt, right? I mean the DOJ said so.

    Comment by James — 4/10/2012 @ 10:51 am

  2. Worth noting that had O’Keefe actually signed for it he could have then been charged with a felony, which would be true for anybody doing it.

    As far as dismissing something, my dismissing isn’t based on it not being possible. My dismissing is based on the fact that voter fraud just isn’t a very big problem in American elections. That’s what a bugaboo is (“something that causes fear or distress out of proportion to its importance”). The idea there are waves of illegal immigrants, paid homeless people, or dead Chicago aldermen tearing apart the fabric of representative democracy in America is wildly hysterical. It’s idiotic.

    But even if you allow it, there is one simple measure of whether voter ID laws and the like will do more harm than good. Do you believe that these laws will prevent more valid, or invalid, voters from voting?

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of the people that bang on about this issue address that question directly, certainly not heard a case for the more. One would think that would be responsibility #1 for making the case for raising the bar for participating in democracy, but is there any conceivable universe in which you can imagine that requiring IDs will disallow more dastardly DNC operatives than just, you know, people who forgot or don’t have their IDs?

    And let’s also call it what it is: the fact that these laws, in practice, will disproportionally impact poor urban minority voters probably has a lot to do with their appeal to GOP electioneering operatives.

    Comment by Brad — 4/10/2012 @ 11:52 am

  3. What are you, a former Acorner?

    Comment by James — 4/10/2012 @ 11:57 am

  4. Exactly.

    Anyone who mentions ACORN or the Black Panthers in this contest, I automatically receive as code for being more interested in cultural totems and tribalism than the actual civic processes of American democracy. It’s an easy marker, and a shorthand that hasn’t failed me yet.

    Comment by Brad — 4/10/2012 @ 12:00 pm

  5. Heh, civic processes of American democracy. How quaint.

    Comment by James — 4/10/2012 @ 12:24 pm

  6. Brad, aren’t you the one who normally makes the arguments about respect for the rule of law? I find it hard to square that with the idea that we shouldn’t seek to enforce voting regulations because the consequences of doing so might be undesirable.

    The purpose of voting laws is not to increase participation at the polls. Nor do I see why this sort of regulation is more objectively racist than a requirement that drivers have a license on them at all times, or that users of public libraries have a library card.

    If the proponents of voter ID are getting too up in arms about this, I submit that you might be as well.

    Comment by Rojas — 4/10/2012 @ 6:53 pm

  7. I live in a state which has enacted a voter ID law but I’ve decided, on principle, that I will refuse to actually show ID to vote. I’m not horribly riled up about it but it pisses me off and I don’t like the spirit of the law.

    Thankfully, all I have to do is leave my wallet in my car and sign an affidavit promising that I am who I say I am, and bingo, legal voting with no ID. I’ve done it this way a few times now without problem. They did it correctly here, giving an easy and legal out of the process. I’m not sure what I’ll do if/when there’s no affidavit provision, however.

    Comment by Cameron — 4/10/2012 @ 9:23 pm

  8. Also, it makes me sad that I had to log in to the site to leave that comment. I still visit, promise! But life’s busyness compounded with not being particularly interested in this election cycle so far is kind of a drain on regular posts.

    Comment by Cameron — 4/10/2012 @ 9:24 pm

  9. I’m gonna vote a couple of times as Cameron the next election. Why not? He won’t mind.

    Comment by James — 4/10/2012 @ 10:56 pm

  10. Brad, aren’t you the one who normally makes the arguments about respect for the rule of law? I find it hard to square that with the idea that we shouldn’t seek to enforce voting regulations because the consequences of doing so might be undesirable.

    This is a political argument foul you don’t usually make.

    This is not a rule of law issue. As I mentioned in my very first line in response to James. It is ALREADY illegal to fraudulently vote. I support that, and I support upholding that law in the sense that you punish people for violating it. Entirely appropriate, and desirable.

    The question is whether you should pass ADDITIONAL laws in an attempt to further enforce the first one. And that is an entirely separate question.

    And in evaluating it, I don’t find anecdotal evidence of extreme outlier behavior to be particularly compelling. What I do find more compelling is asking the rational questions – what is the harm of a single fraudulent person voting versus the harm of a single genuine person being barred or dissuaded from doing so. Assuming that’s about equal (and I’ll entertain arguments to the contrary), which categorical harm to you help or exacerbate in passing the law? How do they weigh?

    I’ve seen very compelling arguments that the laws will bar or dissuade many legitimate people from voting. I’ve seen literally no argument saying that those same laws will prevent more of the illegitimate types than legitimates. So all else being equal, what’s the utility here?

    You can go qualitative if you like – that this shores up confidence in the election process and its results. But then you have to go the other way too – the possibility that making the voting process more complicated and providing people with more barriers to entry in the democratic process will contribute to a perception that voting isn’t worth the effort or hassle. Of the two, they’re both worth considering and are both problems, but one, I’d argue, is presently endemic in the MAJORITY if Americans, while the other is restricted to the relative fringes.

    So in the final analysis, it’s not about the rule – its about the harms or advantages of adding an additional law on top of the present one. And I can’t really think of a compelling argument in favor. I can find a damn compelling one to the contrary.

    And all that’s even pushing aside the notion that perhaps those banging the war drums on fraudulent voting might not have the best interests of the democratic process at heart.

    The fact of the matter is that voter fraud of the type and scale that might justify this measure is largely a wraith, and the vast majority of sightings of it turn out to be, upon closer examination, more spectral than corporeal. Conversely, while it’s easy to the fall into the trap of generalizing outward (“it wouldn’t be hard for me to always bring a photo ID to the polls, therefore this will not be a significant problem”), in aggregate, you really will be talking about hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of people who would did not vote and would have otherwise.

    And I find the “but if you support the law making Bad Thing X illegal, how could you possibly be against adding additional laws to make even MORE sure that doesn’t happen?” to not even rate, but as a libertarian I know you already intuitively understand that concept so I won’t belabor it here.

    Comment by Brad — 4/10/2012 @ 11:04 pm

  11. Investigation after investigation have demonstrated that voter fraud is a minuscule and very rare violation. The more common voter registration fraud has no follow on effect on actual elections, and where it occurs is almost always biproduct of monetarily incentives for registration agents: they get more money for more registrations. The fact that they registered Micky Mouse does not mean that the mouse will vote.

    Far far more common and demonstrably wide-spread is voter suppression tactics. Since vote fraud is already illegal and very rare, what is the possible motivation for putting them in place? yeah, its vote suppression. Add various and multiple barriers to entry against the demographic you think most likely to vote for your opponent, and you manufacture victories out of close races.

    Comment by Jack — 4/12/2012 @ 8:50 pm

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