Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Voter ID Laws - Framing the Issue

In their May 3, 2016 post on their blog, Joseph and Mark (last names not included in the bio on their site) criticize the failure of a NY Times article on voter ID laws to promptly address the absence of voter impersonation fraud until nearly the end of the piece, while introducing the voter ID law subject at the beginning in the usual "he said/she said - two sides to every issue" manner still considered the standard for objective reporting outside the cable news sphere of Foxnews/MSNBC.
To borrow from Mann and Ornstein, it's even worse than that.
First of all, any objective piece about voter ID laws -- "voter ID" - what could be more reasonable? -- any piece, to be objective, should refer to 'voter impersonation fraud" rather than the vague and more general terms "voter fraud" and "election fraud" which encompass other practices voter ID does not address. Election fraud history includes many examples of practices that voter ID does not address, like buying votes, counting nonexistent ballots as valid, not counting votes that ought to be counted, and, in fact, denying the right to vote to people who are entitled to vote, which is actually a practice that voter ID promotes by permitting peremptory challenges to eligible individuals who show up to vote. The main deterrent to voter impersonation fraud, in the absence of these new laws,  is that an individual who is not a qualified voter would risk being prosecuted and convicted of a felony when the only upside to that individual would be to increase the vote tally of their favored candidate(s) by one vote.

Even more to the point, voter ID laws emerged as one of a series of measures to suppress voter registration and voter turnout and the ability of qualified citizens to vote as a distinctly Republican Party practice.

In 2002, NH state Republican Party operatives hired an outside telemarketer to jam the phone lines of a get out the vote effort of the state Democratic Party and the firefighters union. (2002 New Hampshire Senate election phone jamming scandal.)
Only weeks after the 2006 midterm elections, in an unprecedented step, seven of the U.S. Attorneys, all Republicans, were fired by the Bush administration's Department of Justice. The reasons for the firings included the failure to prosecute allegations of voter election fraud that would "hamper Democratic voter registration." (2006 US Attorneys Dismissals Controversy) Although it had become customary for US Attorneys to submit their resignations at the end of a Presidential administration, this kind of firing of attorneys of the same party after the midterm elections had all of the appearances of political motivation. The Bush administration figures may have believed the firings would escape notice, but political followers began to notice immediately. The line of argument from the Bush administration supporters became - "this happens all the time - when Clinton became President all of the US Attorneys were replaced", deftly avoiding altogether the actual substance of the argument that politics was intruding dangerously into the administration of justice.

If you are a party trying to keep power in a democracy, but are concerned that demographic changes and the tide of popular opinion are turning away from you, then-
Eliminate practices that make it easier for broad swaths of the public to vote, such as early voting, absentee ballots, college student registration in university towns, and get out the vote drives.
Put in place practices that make registration and voting more difficult for those more likely to vote for Democrates - enacting voter ID laws and shutting down polling places in Democratic strongholds.

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