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April 12, 2007

Comments

I'm too tired to say anything intelligent about it just now, but I'm quite sorry to report that Kurt Vonnegut has died.

In Wisconsin, where prosecutors have lost almost twice as many cases as they won, charges were brought against voters who filled out more than one registration form and felons seemingly unaware that they were barred from voting.

There's been a reason I've suggested people refrain from invoking Wisconsin's supposedly shady elections, on either side of the aisle.

I honestly thought I had gotten past being shocked by anything this administration, party, and ideology could do. But the sheer petty vindictiveness of those stories proved me wrong.

In Wisconsin, where prosecutors have lost almost twice as many cases as they won....
The Wisconsin prosecutors lost every case on double voting.

If these are federal prosecuters, which it appears they are from the article (though it's not exactly clear, then this is, quite frankly, stunning. Federal prosecuters just do not have this sort of track record, especially not against people who were most likely represented by federal public defenders. Someone must have been pushing them, hard.

"So we have convicted someone who voted because she didn't realize she was ineligible, and promptly called City Hall to rescind her vote when she realized her mistake"

Moreover we have someone convicted of violating probation by voting. Isn't voting supposed to be a manifestation of good citizenship?

Either vote fraud is serious or it is not. Pick one.

It's wrong to claim vote fraud or intimidation and then to turn around and complain about investigations.

I'm all for scanned paper ballots. That's what I use now. Punch cards are ok, but have been disputed in the past (2000).

Same day voter registration seems to me to be associated with a lot of these problems. If there is same day registration, then there must be some enforced standard for identification.

Closing tags

italics off

Italics begone!

Isn't voting supposed to be a manifestation of good citizenship?

You'd think so.

I have half a mind to leave an open tag just for the fun of it. Nah.

It's wrong to claim vote fraud or intimidation and then to turn around and complain about investigations.

I don't see anyone complaining about investigations, I see people complaining about what appears to be prosecutions based on little or no evidence (or prosecutions for things that U.S. Attys shouldn't be concerned with - there was a reason why the former guidelines at DOJ advised only prosecuted concerted efforts at election fraud, rather than people voting by mistake).

DaveC

Vote fraud *is* serious and should be investigated when and where it occurs -- which is apparently a lot rarer than has been suggested.

The DOJ used to have a rule that you don't prosecute "vote fraud" if there was no "clear intent" to tamper with an election. In other words, if the person was not obviously trying to cheat the system, s/he gets the benefit of the doubt.

In 2002, the DOJ removed that rule so that it would be easier to drum up "vote fraud" cases. And such cases were made a priority at DOJ.

What the NYTimes has found out -- by good old investigation -- is that many of the cases which were brought were due to honest mistakes by people trying to vote. And the DOJ prosecuted them anyway. And got some convictions.

In the cases cited above, and in many of the cases -- only 120 in four years with only 86 convictions, nationwide -- the prosecutors went out of their way to "get" people who really hadn't done anything wrong.

So, you have to ask -- why did the DOJ change the rules on bringing vote fraud cases, and why was it made such a high priority in 2002 (so soon after 9/11)?

And yes, I'll mention Karl Rove and the politicization of the Executive Branch....

Nobody is arguing that real vote fraud should be prosecuted. I seem to have a disagreement with the DOJ as to what constitutes real vote fraud problems....

"Either vote fraud is serious or it is not. Pick one."

O.K.

I wish I had voted more than once in the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections. Little did I know how serious the consequences of my honesty would turn out to be.

It sure looks like voter intimidation and racism.

I think the Democrats made a mistake in fighting against voter ID. It would have been far better for them to endorse it, if and only if the ID was paid for by the Federal government (Sensenbrenner's ID card should not go into effect until the Feds pony up the cash for that one, either). They should also have made it a requirement that no state could disenfranchise anyone who was not in prison. Not only is there a disproportionate effect, but many of the disenfranchisement laws were directly related to unconstitutionally race-based laws.

It's nice to see that the Bush effort was pretty much wasted, though. Too bad they don't have enough FBI agents to actually convict real criminals. Chasing voters and nonexistent terrorists seems to be all they can handle.

Same day voter registration seems to me to be associated with a lot of these problems. If there is same day registration, then there must be some enforced standard for identification.

Wisconsin is same day and, after spending a huge amount of money and FBI resources, the Feds pretty well proved by their failures that same day registration is trustworthy. The attack on same day was another propaganda stunt by the current admininistration. Ignore them. It is becoming increasingly clear that everything they tell us is a lie.

DaveC: Of course voter fraud is serious. But normally, prosecutors make decisions about which crimes to prosecute. They try to prosecute the major ones, but not those that are trivial. Moreover, in theory, they try to distinguish between those crimes that manifest some sort of evil intent or recklessness, and those that are honest screwups.

Thus, for instance, if I set off the shoplifting alarm going out of the grocery store, and it turned out that I had in fact gone through the cashier line, paid for my stuff, etc., but either I or the cashier had inadvertently failed to scan something, normally I would be expected to pay for it or put it back, and so forth, but I would not be prosecuted. This is not because theft is "not serious", but because prosecutors normally do not prosecute everything.

Same here.

It'd also be because you hadn't actually committed a crime. Committing theft/larcent/whatever requires that you're knowingly or intentionally stealing something. Fraud usually requires intent to deceive too, and ought to. Perhaps the voting fraud statutes are written differently, but I wonder.

Obviously, fraudulent voting by individuals ("vote fraud") is not as prevalent as some would have us believe. What does appear to be prevalent, however, are systematic attempts to bias election results through manipulation of voter turnout and other shady tricks.

This administration has shown a complete willingness to use all government resources at its disposal to win elections, and this includes manipulation of the judicial process to interfere with political campaigns and affect voter turnout. This is a much bigger problem than some random individual who decides to vote twice.

I'd direct people to the webcast of the recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on vote suppression. The Republicans -- the xenophobic and borderline racist Steve King (R-IA) and Brian Bilbray, who benefitted from a minor kerfuffle over the issue to win his seat -- showed a disproportionate concern with a potential avalanche of non-citizen and felon voters that never seem to show up at the polls.

The not-particularly-hard-to-grasp reason that voting is one of the most scrutinized public acts one performs, and the risks far outweigh the rewards for voting illegally.

Sending out flyers to inform naturalized citizens that 'immigrants can't vote' or posting up notices in minority areas saying that you need to pay your parking tickets before voting? Lots of reward, minimal risk.

The NYT story seems to gloss over the convictions for 'old-fashioned vote buying' in rural areas. Obviously, Boss Hogg stuff in Hazzard County is proof that charming historical traditions survive in America.

Making an example of someone who accidentally voted while on probation also has the convenient effect of making it less likely that people on probation will dare to vote in states where it's perfectly legal for them to do so. If you can't figure out the rules and you might go to jail if you fill out the wrong form, it's best not to risk it.

Only Hazzard County hit in Google Maps appears to be in Canada. I suppose Mr Hogg is driving some hopped up sled, what with the late spring snow and all.

Hazard KY is in Perry County.

Someone must have been pushing them, hard.

Does the name "Steve Biskupic" ring any bells?

It's wrong to claim vote fraud or intimidation and then to turn around and complain about investigations.

What a joy to hear a Republican say that! I take it you're just as pleased as I am that Rep Conyers et al have subpoena powers now, and can help the DoJ get to the bottom of this? "Many hands makes light work" and so forth...

Still, the new Congress has a lot of catching up to do if they want to get into the same order of magnitude as the Clinton investigations, so it's good to know that folks like yourself are willing to set aside partisanship and encourage a comprehensive investigation and evaluation of the role of voter fraud in the past few elections.

We can only hope that the White House agrees with us about the centrality of this issue. :D

Radish:

I think DaveC. has a more checkered voting career than just Republican. ;)

It's wrong to claim vote fraud or intimidation and then to turn around and complain about investigations.

It's an even greater wrong to claim vote fraud as a pretext for tactics designed to prevent the lawful exercise of the vote. And that is exactly what Republicans are doing.

And to repeat a concept, if all of these alleged vote fraud techniques for gaming elections actually worked, I am sure Rove and company would have their swift boat allies funding a myriad of efforts to exploit it.

And its funny how Republicans are just sure that it is only Democrats allegedly engaging in bad vote behavior. Why, Republicans would never stoop so low to win elections!

Does the name "Steve Biskupic" ring any bells?

Yes, but who was pushing Steve...

The Hand Of God.

Which, coincidentally, was Karl Rove's wrestling alias.

Which, coincidentally, was Karl Rove's wrestling alias.

I thought it was The Filthy Swine.

BTW, anybody know how that voter fraud case against Ann Coulter is going?

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nellie-b/will-ann-coulter-be-prose_b_15742.html

Posted by: DaveC

"Only Hazzard County hit in Google Maps appears to be in Canada. I suppose Mr Hogg is driving some hopped up sled, what with the late spring snow and all.

Hazard KY is in Perry County."

Of course Hazzard County doesn't show up on (d*mnyankee) Google Maps.

Try Goodol'boy.com.

Another way to describe this, for those who are unclear on the concept, is if a huge, massive, multi-year program to bust huge alleged drug rings netted a couple people with a bag of weed, some people with prescription drugs borrowed from friends, and a couple of people drinking beer in the park.

It's also a lot like the Clinton Wars: $60 million and 4 years of investigating everyone the Clintons ever knew, and they wind up with a lie about a blow job.

4-6 months and $1000 in fines for voter intimidation?

This was an undisputed conviction, and the whole matter has been dismissed as "No fraud happened in Wisconsin in 2004".

Isn't slashing the tires of 25 GOTV (Get Out The Vote) vans some kind of serious matter?

One trip per van, assuming they are small 7 person vans = 25*7 = 175 Republican votes that were disenfranchised per trip, times how many trips planned for election day?

You all obviously do not get this, and do not think it is a serious matter - and THAT IS FOUR CONVICTIONS - but you say that no election fraud happened, because a sympathetic judge let them off with a slap on the wrist?

"but you say that no election fraud happened"

Feel free to point out the comment in which someone, anyone, said that.

The difference between objecting to something someone said, and objecting to an imaginary comment, turns out to be rather large.

This is not worth disenfranchising anyone over. And it's certainly not worth wasting law enforcement resources on.

8 GOTV trips for old people, or poor people without transportation would be 1400 people who were denied the right to vote. Is that worth law enforcement resources, or should we just dismiss it?

Voter Fraud post, not comment:

And the very same concern that makes me care about voter fraud also leads me to find the idea of deterring voters for no good reason unacceptable.

The vans that would transport the voters to the polls has their tires slashed, so would this qualify as a good reason to deny these people their opportunity to vote?

"Hey the tires were slahed. Tough Luck!"

Not serious enough to devote law enforcement resources!


DaveC: my comments in the post concerned the stories I cited. Of course slashing someone's tires and preventing GOTV is serious. I never said it wasn't. What I did say was that the sort of prosecution described in the post is a stupid waste of resources. If we had stuck by the old rule, according to which some evidence of intent was required, we could still have nailed the people who slashed the tires, but we could have left Ms. Prude and Mr. Ali in peace. We could also have used the law enforcement resources we saved to go after rapists or child molesters or terrorists or -- well, anyone more worth going after than them.

Er, DaveC, if you've been paying attention, "voter fraud" -- as used in the articles cited and in this discussion -- is completely different from "voter intimidation." Other than that, you're right: that case is no laughing matter. But that's not what the Bush administration has the USAs go after: they couldn't, since the Republicans are the ones more generally committing "voter intimidation," this particular case notwithstanding.

What the Bush administration wants is to take resources away from prosecuting *that* kind of crime and use it instead to nail one of those senior citizens who didn't get to vote but who accidentally filled out two registration cards.

Hilzoy slips in with a similar point.

Thanks for making the opposite case from the one I think you intended to make.

What I object to is people complaning about the Ohio election results which was 100,000, which vote fraud or intimidation was "in the noise" and not looking at Wisconsin, which the margin of victory versus possible fraud/intimidation was much more close to being "signal".

John Kerry probably carried Wisconsin, but not by that much. (I'm not a stolen election kind of guy.) What I worry about is that people now distrust the legitimacy of the entire electoral system, what with the Robert Kennedy, Jr article in "Rolling Stone" magazine. One of the good things about the electoral college, and per state voting is that fraud in one particular state or city may be mitigated in these oddball cases.

I do worry about new developments like Maryland voting not to have electoral college members bound to vote by the state's results, but by nationwide popular vote.

I am all in favor of using paper ballots, and a computerized ballot reader, which is the method that I use, I've got no problem with that. On the other hand, I'm not a fan of same day voter registration because, as in Milwaukee, it is such a big mess that you cannot sort out legitimate voters versus anybody who has a piece of paper that looks like a phone bill.

Local elections around here are April 17. I intend to write a little post about how it is more important and more democratic to vote in these small (and some would say "unimportant") elections than the big Federal elections.

(But I'm not a reliable writer, I may just beg people to listen to the MP3 files on TiO)

"Committing theft/larcent/whatever requires that you're knowingly or intentionally stealing something. Fraud usually requires intent to deceive too, and ought to. Perhaps the voting fraud statutes are written differently, but I wonder."

This is why convictions are so hard to come by, and it isn't becuase the crimes isn't happening. Convictions for rape are much harder to come by than many other serious crimes. The fact that the case is difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt doesn't mean that rape isn't happening, it just means that some crimes are a lot harder to prove than others. Voter fraud (especially since we don't bother to use ID) is extremely hard to prove, but like rape, low conviction rates are very poor proof of low offense rates.

A lot could be done by making federal elections a truly federal thing. No special rules for individual states like different standards of eligibility etc.
Personally I am for a simple "(alive and adult) US citizens have the right to vote in US federal elections. This right may not be abridged for any reason.". Yes, that would include the Boston Strangler and Bin Laden (should he somehow achieve US citizenship). The practice of voter purges is in my view a far larger problem than the voting of criminals (that some unlike me see as an abomination).

Voter fraud (especially since we don't bother to use ID) is extremely hard to prove...

This pretty much got ground to death in the earlier thread, but: do you have actual evidence backing the claim that there are high offense rates of voter fraud? I'm not asking for anything dispositive, just something concrete to justify your concerns.

In the UK, for what it's worth, prisoners on remand can vote - though it's up to them to make sure they get a postal ballot - but anyone currently in jail after conviction or on parole cannot vote. (Though they can stand for election. You may think this is weird: I think it just speaks to the standards we expect from politicians. ;-) Bankrupts, however, can't stand for election or serve in elective office, even though it's perfectly legal to declare bankruptcy.)

Obviously if you're actually in jail you're physically prevented from voting except by postal ballot, and it would be fairly obvious if a prisoner were receiving ballots and posting them out again. I suppose a parolee could vote illegally, but I've never heard of anyone being prosecuted for it - it couldn't really be a major problem, and my impression is that investigation into voter fraud tends to focus on people voting more often than they're entitled to, because one person getting two or more votes is clearly more of a problem that one person who shouldn't legally be voting, getting to vote. But, once someone's served their sentence, including parole, they're eligible to vote again.

Iirc the once existing ban on prison inmates voting has been dropped years ago in Germany.
Even before that it had to be explicitly stated that voting rights were forfeited temporarily as part of the punishment and not necessarily bound to the time in prison (i.e. it was an add-on to certain crimes).

In Finland, we follow the "alive-and-adult" standard. You may be a lunatic or a prisoner but you still get to vote and stand for an elective office. (If you win, you start serving in the office after you are released.)

In a country with a COMPREHENSIVE population register, no voter registration is required. Everyone is sent a notice of coming election, complete with voting directions. At the voting place, you show a photo ID and get to vote. If you don't have a photo ID, you get one for free from the police station. Your having voted is registered immediately on the computer, so there is no way to vote twice. The absentee ballots may be made at post offices, libraries and city halls for about two week before election. Every such beforehand-voting place has an online connection to a central database, which prevents double voting.

Curiously enough, the ballots themselves are paper and you write the number of your candidate. The ballots are counted by hand by thousands of volunteers. It takes about 4 hours to get the final, national election result after the ballots are closed.

"low conviction rates are very poor proof of low offense rates"

I'm curious, Sebastian, because you're usually a pretty reasonable guy, despite your politics--why do you think a lot of voter fraud is going on? Low conviction rates are maybe not dispositive proof of low offense rates, but they certainly don't support an inference of high offense rates. Do you have any actual evidence, or is it just a matter of revealed truth?

I'll answer for why I think a lot of voter fraud goes on--because it was common knowledge that it did, in Richmond where I used to live. The city was divided into wards--in 5, the election was not contested, in 2, it always was. The number of people who were registered to vote in the contested wards was always higher than the number who showed up as living there by any other measure.

That's my problem with this whole discussion. Voting in an election in which you are an eligible voter, but not in the district where you voted, is a non-trivial problem; this study completely ignores that issue as far as I can tell.

Voter fraud (especially since we don't bother to use ID) is extremely hard to prove, but like rape, low conviction rates are very poor proof of low offense rates.

Heh. It may be hard to prove intent in the case of, say, a parolee voting when they're not supposed to, but those occurrences also have a trivial effect on the election process.

It's not that hard to prove intent when someone votes twice - which also has a trivial effect, for what it's worth.

But any kind of systematic scheme to change the result of an election is going to have to affect large numbers of votes, and it's positively simple to prove intent in such cases. "Oh, sorry, I accidentally voted under 100 fake identities."

The lack of convictions for any sort of significant voter fraud is, in fact, evidence suggesting that there's no significant voter fraud going on out there. "It's hard to obtain convictions" isn't applicable to any fraud of consequence.

DaveC, you keep trying to say that people don't care about things (in this instance voter supression) but I really wish you would have something to base that on. As a former Wisconsinite, I followed the particular incident you were describing.

It was wrong, and the perpetrators were discovered, tried and convicted. Rightfully so. Just like the perpetrators in NewHampshire, who blocked the phone lines of the Democtratic party's GOTV office were tried and convicted. It is interesting to note that the incident in Wisconsin appears to be people who were acting pretty much on their own, whereas in New Hampshire there is reason to believe it was done with the approval, and perhaps cooperation of the RNC and the White House.

It is difficult to justify your statement that 1400 people were denied the right to vote. There was no indication that people who wanted to vote actually were not able to get to the polls because of the incident with the buses. Perhaps some didn't, but to claim 1400 didn't is making a statement that isn't justified.

It is interesting to note that the incident in Wisconsin appears to be people who were acting pretty much on their own, whereas in New Hampshire there is reason to believe it was done with the approval, and perhaps cooperation of the RNC and the White House.

I'd note that even after the wrongdoing was exposed, the RNC paid millions of dollars to provide defense lawyers for the perpetrators. I'd be pretty shocked to learn that the Democratic Party paid for the tire-slashers' defense, to say the least.

I take it as a given that most ballot fraud is an inside job, committed by elections officials. They have both opportunity, and as partisan activists, motive.

What we really need, and I see no way to get it under our federalist system without a constitutional amendment, is to abolish the system of local election administration by elected, partisan officials. We need a kind of national "election corps", modeled off the National guard, perhaps, with somewhat randomized assignment of poll workers, to make coordinating fraud difficult.

But requiring voters to prove their identity is such a no brainer, my eyes start rolling when people claim it's a massive imposition. You think that's awful, try buying a gun sometime. And that's a constitutional right, too.

Brett, I agree with you on your first two paragraphs (though the best solution could be discussed/debated). On the third, the constitution refers to bearing arms, not availability (and strictly spoken not even ownership). Everything beyond that is custom or "judicial activism". No objection concerning some kind of "this shows that I am who I claim I am", provided it cannot/is not (be) used as just another disenfranchisment tool.

John Miller, the number 1400 assumes that all 25 vans would have been completely full for 8 trips over the course of the day, and that none of those people found any alternative way to get to their polling places. So clearly a wild overestimate, but that's not really the point, since the crime is outrageous regardless.

It is of course significant that voter suppression and intimidation is part of the national Republican Party's election strategy, which explains why it might not be so eager to investigate and prosecute such crimes. People involved with the suppression in New Hampshire continue to work on Republican campaigns, including McCain's. I'm not aware of anything similar happening in the Democratic Party.

"On the third, the constitution refers to bearing arms, not availability (and strictly spoken not even ownership)."

Cough, sputter. Arms were at least as available as voting rights toward the beginning of the country. It is quite likely that many men who didn't own property and thus couldn't vote had their right to bear arms protected by the Constitution.

KCinDC, I understand where DaveC came up with the number. My point was the same as yours, that assuming that meant that none of those made it to the polls is without foundation. And I agree, what was done was wrong and deserved punishment.

And I agree with you that there has been no evidence, in any of the voter supression incidents that I am aware of, of any direct involvement of the Democratic party on local, state or national levels. The same cannot be said of the Republican party.

Of course, I am open to hearing of Democratic party involvement, adn will be as quick to point out the wrongness. Unfortuantely, DaveC's only apparent response to Republican wrongdoing is to say that Democrats have done it too. And to make accusations of indifference which are not based in reality.

Since I don't mean to divert this thread into a discussion of the left's legal revisionism regarding civil liberties they happen to disapprove of, let me put it another way:

Lack of photo ID causes serious problems in the day to day life of those lacking it, of which difficulty proving who they are at a polling place is but a single, and infrequently experienced example.

Why does this concern for the IDless not surface in the form of demanding that the IDless be provided with ID, rather than demanding that people not have to prove they're that person to excercise a particular person's franchise? Maybe because it's getting the votes, rather than helping the poor, that's more important?

Brett, you will notice several comments upthread (although admittedly not unanimous) that teh concept of a photo ID would be much more palatable if a) the government paid for it, b) access to places that provide it was available across the board, and c) the government made an active effort to reach out and arrange for people to get the ID. For example, the government could, using the voter registration rolls actually contact every person on them, see if they have some form of photo ID, and if not arrange for the ID to be gotten.

There are still some legitimate concerns, but just wanted to point out that not all liberals are against it in all situations.

"Why does this concern for the IDless not surface in the form of demanding that the IDless be provided with ID, rather than demanding that people not have to prove they're that person to excercise a particular person's franchise? Maybe because it's getting the votes, rather than helping the poor, that's more important?"

If that's a reasonable argument, than why does this concern for the ID-less not surface in the form of demanding that the ID-less be provided with affordable medical insurance, and a negative income tax, rather than demanding that people be given IDs that will have minimal effects in improving their lives? Maybe because it's getting a rhetorical issue about IDs, rather than helping the poor, that's more important?

@Sam Chevre:

As discussed upthread, jurisdictions that don't purge voter registration lists routinely end up with more registered voters than residents. Show me that more people voted in District 5 or District 2 than live there, and we can have a discussion.

In my Virginia county, the registrar makes an effort to clean the voter rolls of deceased voters, but it's a small county, she's energetic and non-partisan, and her office is very convenient to the office containing the relevant records. I can imagine that things might be very different in Richmond.

"Show me that more people voted in District 5 or District 2 than live there, and we can have a discussion."

More people voted in some Wisconsin districts than were actually registered--even with same day registration.

I've seen claims to that effect, but even if true, that's not evidence that Wisconsin needs tighter procedures, it's evidence that Wisconsin needs to comply with it's own procedures in practice. Something at least sloppy happened in Wisconsin, and when things get sloppy you can't rule out fraud -- fair enough.

But their current procedures, I am morally certain, prohibit double voting and voting by unregistered voters, and involve checking voters off a list of registered voters (including those that registered that day). If that didn't happen, then they need to tighten up their practice, not change the law.

"But their current procedures, I am morally certain, prohibit double voting and voting by unregistered voters, and involve checking voters off a list of registered voters (including those that registered that day)."

How did checking voters off a list of registered voters (including those that registered that day) prohibit double voting when the same day registration doesn't require ID, and can be done by having someone vouch for someone else without any further proof? You could 'register' in multiple jurisdictions under different names so far as I can tell it would be impossible to convict you because it would be impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had done so. In fact it would be almost impossible to prove that you had done so at all, unless there was a private investigator following you around.

"How did checking voters off a list of registered voters (including those that registered that day) prohibit double voting when the same day registration doesn't require ID, and can be done by having someone vouch for someone else without any further proof?"

A problem in discussing elections in America, of course, is that there are fifty state laws (let's not even get into discussing the territorities, Puerto Rico, D.C., and other oddities than nonetheless sweep a noticeable amount of Americans into them), and then there can be differences in procedures to some degree from county to county, and so on.

I know some places now have same-day registration; I've not looked into how that works, so I can't speak to it; I've never voted anywhere where the procedure didn't require registration weeks before the election, and one reason for that is that one has to have time to receive one's notice of registration, and one can't vote without presenting evidence of living at the registered address, or, in many cases, without either the registration notice, or being given a provisional ballot, which won't be accepted until after it's been verified.

So -- excluding whatever places have same-day registration -- I've never run into a place where your conundrum exists, Sebastian.

Do you have a list of locales where same-day registration exists, and do you have any pointers to their procedures, given that that seems to be what you're concerned about? If there are potential problems, I'm perfectly prepared to consider pointers to actual places with actual potential problems, of course.

But I'd like specifics, and not vague hypotheticals, please.

Sebastian, I have also heard the claim, but would you please provide specific districts where the official vote tally was higher than the number of registered voters. This is a serious request, because although I have heard the claim, I have not seen the actual numbers. It is not meant to discredit what you have said.

it would be almost impossible to prove that you had done so at all, unless there was a private investigator following you around.

Or unless someone blabbed, which is how most crimes get solved, and which would have happened if the scenario you posit happened on a large scale. Consider the economics: you can't affect an election very much by adding any one vote, so the value of each vote is low. For this reason, back in the old machine politics days when this sort of thing was common, multiple voters were paid very little. And therefore, the fairly-accurate stereotype was that they were skid-row bums. But people that hard-up for money don't tend to be very reliable about keeping secrets. If somebody was hiring a whole bunch of them, enough to affect an election, somebody would have talked.

Come to think of it, I recall a news story right after the last election about a Republican dirty-trickster who carried out a vote-obstruction scheme using skid-row hirees -- who then confessed. Sorry, I don't remember the details, perhaps some reader here does?

"How did checking voters off a list of registered voters (including those that registered that day) prohibit double voting when the same day registration doesn't require ID, and can be done by having someone vouch for someone else without any further proof?"

I don't know where that is allowed, but it isn't in Wisconsin. There are several forms of ID acceptable, but the word of someone else doesn't count.

You could 'register' in multiple jurisdictions under different names so far as I can tell it would be impossible to convict you because it would be impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had done so.

Even if that were true, it wouldn't have anything to do with what you said about more people voting than were registered -- a double voter of the sort you describe would show up as two registrations and two votes. You can argue that same-day-registration is unacceptably insecure, but the extra votes aren't evidence of that -- they're evidence that the current procedures were sloppily followed, or that records were improperly kept.

You can get more votes than registrations through those provisional ballots; One of the complaints about them has been that in some cases they've turned out to be less than provisional, being counted without any checking, just fed into the count like the regular ballots, and not kept segregated.

    I recall a news story right after the last election about a Republican dirty-trickster who carried out a vote-obstruction scheme using skid-row hirees

that would be Micheal Steele.

"One of the complaints about them has been that in some cases they've turned out to be less than provisional, being counted without any checking, just fed into the count like the regular ballots, and not kept segregated."

So where has that taken place, exactly?

Gary, you beat me to it. I really would be interested in some of these "complaints" if they were actual. Learning about them can perhaps help us avoid them in the future. But throwing out charges or mentioning complaints, or passing rumor as fact (see Seb's complaint about same dzay registration above) without backing it up, bothers the heck out of me. And it doesn't matter which side it comes from.

BTW, my comment about Wisconsin above comes from reading the Wisconsin SoS site which lists the forms of ID acceptable.

More people voted in some Wisconsin districts than were actually registered--even with same day registration.

I can see a bit of urban legend in this, but also an explanation. I worked at a polling place in 2004. Lots and lots of people came to the wrong place -- boundaries had moved, and people who voted at that elementary school for years were supposed to go somewhere else. Depending on the time of day, and their other committments, they could drive to the other place, or cast a provisional at my place. (Obviously, I was encouraging the former, until it got to be too late to get to the other place. Not everyone wanted/followed my advice.) This emerged as an issue pretty early in the day, and so I was asking people their precinct number and address as they were walking up to the school. Some people said they'd gotten calls telling them that was the right place, when it wasn't. Some had moved too close to the deadline for revising registrations. All manner of little glitches had occurred, and there ended up being a number of provisionals.

(There was a Republican guy there too -- we worked pretty well together, and neither of us left thinking that the election at our little precinct had been anything other than fair).

Oh, that'd make sense. I was figuring something more like screwed up record keeping; of course it's hard to tell without links to a detailed account.

Charley, that can explain why more votes were cast in a district than those registered (although there would have to be a lot of those types of votes considering the average turnout). But those votes would not be credited to that precinct, but rather to the precinct in which it would actually belong (I think.)

I got the feeling, from what Seb said (mind reading foul accepted) that th eimplication is that more votes were counted in some district than there were registered voters.

I think the myth about this happening in Wisconsin is that Milwaukee printed more ballots than there were registered voters. My guess is that this was either due to a bulk pricing discount(unlikely) or they had had experience with ballots being damaged or ruled void where a new ballot was required and wanted to make sure they didn't run out.

Thanks, cleek, that's the one I remembered, alright.

A couple of interesting threads, but I haven’t had time to play.

On the ID card question – can anyone say how it is that these poor/old folks cash checks and the like? Serious question – I honestly can’t understand how people go through life without having to present identification on a somewhat regular basis.

An older person may have had the same bank account for 30 years I guess, and never have the need to open another. And I suppose I can picture someone dealing strictly in cash. But it seems that if you are really poor you are going to be applying for benefits of some kind, and have to prove who you are. Provided that the IDs were free and readily available (have the Post Office handle it), and establishing your identity could be done using a variety of documents – I can’t see why anyone would be opposed.

On the larger point, I believe that voting is more of a privilege than a right (correct or not, that is how I feel about it). That is, I know that there are certain requirements involved for me to vote and I will always make damned sure I meet them so as not to miss my opportunity to vote. If I did somehow screw it up I would know it was because of something I failed to do and not some orchestrated disenfranchisement scheme.

I believe that the minimum requirements for voting should be:
-Register on time.
-Know where your polling place is.
-Know what time the polls open in your state.
-Know that Election Day is on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
-Know what your state requires in terms of ID and show up at the polls with it in hand.

I’d also like to require some basic knowledge of the candidates and the issues, but that gets into “and a pony” territory.

To put it bluntly, if someone calls you on the phone and tells you “Republicans vote on Wednesday this year” or hands you a pamphlet that identifies the Republican candidate as a Democrat and you fall for it – my personal preference is that you stay far away from the voting booth.

Really – why do we place more importance on getting every possible body into a voting booth than we do on educating and informing voters, at which point most will want to vote and will readily follow my handy checklist above.

Serious question – I honestly can’t understand how people go through life without having to present identification on a somewhat regular basis.

Actually, many working poor have no photo id, and simply cash their paychecks at check cashing businesses that don't require id, but charge 10% or more of the value of the check.

Such fees are illegal in New York, where only state-licensed check cashers can charge more than 99 cents - and their fees are capped at 1.64 percent of the check. There's only one such licensed operator in Western New York. That means all of those corner stores charging more than 99 cents are breaking the law.

Why would low-income people pay such fees to corner stores instead of opening a bank account?

Some, like Medina, never had a driver's license or the requisite state ID to cash checks in a bank or open an account, or they're intimidated by all the questions banks ask since the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Still others, like Rose, fear the bank will seize their money for past debts, in this case to pay off old credit card loans and student loans.

But for most, the barriers are bigger. Once consumers have financial problems - primarily bouncing checks - that land them on the ChexSystems equivalent of a banking blacklist, bank accounts can seem out of reach.

link

If the bank refuses to let them open an account (because they have had checks bounce in the past), all the ID in the world is not going to help you. So why get the ID (and put yourself in the system, especially if it makes you easier to track down for other debts and such, alimony and child support being the biggest potential) if it's not going to let you save any money?

Personally I have no ID, never use my real name, use proxy IP addresses, don't have a bank account, social security number, and pretty much have dropped out of the system, but that's because I'm running from the T-800.

LJ: cash their paychecks at check cashing businesses that don't require id

Thanks. I was honestly unaware that they did not require ID. Never having used one I just assumed that they did. I mean if it is a bad check how do they find you? Just the cost of running that kind of business?

"On the ID card question – can anyone say how it is that these poor/old folks cash checks and the like?"

Depends. But lots of poor folks can't get bank accounts (I've spent a few years in that situation, though fortunately only a few, here and there).

Some people sometimes have to make do with simply finding someone (a friend, a relative, a loan shark, whatever) to do a transaction like that for them.

Otherwise, there are "check cashing" places. In a large city, such as NYC, they'll only do government checks, and checks from certain large employers that have an account with them to cash the paychecks of their employees (charging a significant fee to the person cashing the check, of course), and that's it.

I was surprised to find when I moved to Boulder that, unlike all the large cities I'd ever lived in, the check-cashing places -- well, place -- here would also cash other kinds of checks, such as personal checks: they merely charge outrageous fees, such as 20% of the amount, or such (and also after requiring some kind of proof of residence, a signature, strict limits on amounts, and so on).

Oh, and I've spent significant portions of my life making do with the fact that the post office will cash postal money orders with no fee.

I've never had a driver's license in my life, though I've always had a State non-drivers ID, to be sure, and have had a passport for a decade (which will expire in a couple of years; I don't imagine I'll be paying the large fee to get a new one just to have a second photo ID, though I also have no idea what I might do to accomplish that useful goal).

"Serious question – I honestly can’t understand how people go through life without having to present identification on a somewhat regular basis."

There are a lot of things you can't do. This is a subset of an exceedingly long list of things one can't do when poor, or that one can do only with great difficulty, or that are in danger of falling through at any given moment, and causing a chain of disasters.

Basically, life as a really poor person means you're constantly experiencing "for want of a nail" situations, and seeing disasters come about frequently from the nail going missing, when in most people's life it would just meaning spending a penny to buy a damn nail.

People who have better lives, which is to say most people one is apt to coherently communicate with on the internets, tend to be simply unable to imagine it all, and thus tend to dismiss it as not really happening. At least not to people like them.

Or, at least, they tend to find it rather incomprehensible, and mysterious, and thus not real, anyway.

Thus one tends to get a lot of comments that pretty much are along the lines of "but poverty and hunger aren't a real problem in America any more," with exceptions kept abstractly in mind for vague categories of people, like maybe criminals, or illegal immigrants, or some set of folks that's definitely "them," and not anyone we know.

I gotta million anecdotes along all these lines, to be sure. And I've got a million things going for me that worse-off people don't, such as being literate, intelligent, good with words, culturally middle-class (though my parents never succeeded in being fully financially middle-class when I was a kid, thanks to my father's mental illness), and so on.

But they have a tendency to slip into crankiness, if I'm not careful.

"Provided that the IDs were free and readily available (have the Post Office handle it), and establishing your identity could be done using a variety of documents – I can’t see why anyone would be opposed."

If you want to vote for a program to fund free IDs for everyone in America, I'm fine with that.

That won't actually get IDs to everyone, but it seems harmless, and slightly beneficial.

There are still plenty of difficulties for lots of folks, though, and setting aside the illegal immigrants aspect.

There's a lot of quasi and semi-homelessness, for instance. Being in one place for three months, and another for four months, and then two weeks here, three more months here, and so on and so forth. It's not practical to get, or be given, a different ID with a fresh address every few weeks, or two months. And an ID that doesn't have your actual current address is sometimes useless (often not, but sometimes).

It gets much harder if you move from state to state.

Then there's getting an ID when those places you're staying in don't give leases (very common when you're really poor), and you have no electric bill (because it's included) or phone (you can't afford it, they won't let you have one there), and thus no proof of address; most states won't issue an ID without one. So that's a huge issue.

So you're still left with a significant population of people that have problems getting IDs to vote. So few would "oppose" that government program to issue free IDs, but it also won't cure the problem of requiring IDs to vote, so it's pretty much irrelevant, which is why pretty much no one cares, save people who have no clue what life is like without a nice middle-class lifestyle.

"On the larger point, I believe that voting is more of a privilege than a right (correct or not, that is how I feel about it)."

I don't know what to say to that, since that's completely antithetical to the entire democratic theory of the United States of America. Um, maybe you should try another country where that's true?

I don't know what else to say, because I'm not going to urge you to attempt to take away the right to vote, although you're certainly free, in a democratic society, to use your right to vote to try to take away that right from others.

Beyond that, there's not much engagement to be had with that opinion, that I can see, any more than an opinion like "well, I think people should have the right to murder just one person every decade."

Um, okay, you're entitled to an opinion. You're entitled to prefer another system than democracy, or to prefer a more limited form of democracy. After all, we don't give the vote to those under 18, or (for federal elections) to non-citizen residents, or generally to felons, and so forth, and then, of course, it's only relatively recently that darker-skinned people, and women have gotten the vote, and before that, white male adults with less, or finally no, property, and so on.

A more deliberately privileged democracy, though: I'm not sure what one would call that. Do you have any suggestions?

"Really – why do we place more importance on getting every possible body into a voting booth than we do on educating and informing voters, at which point most will want to vote and will readily follow my handy checklist above."

Um, we spend more time on defending and trying to make available constitutional rights than we do other things, basically.

And our system's promise is that it's a democracy, not an elite oligarchy -- in theory. And because political power flows from the vote (and from money, but that's a whole mess; see "campaign finance reform" and such, down the hall, for that argument).

You can't exercise political power without a vote, both as a group, or as an individual. It's that basic.

Which is why the right to vote is crucial: if you have no imput into the system, you can't do anything about other issues. It all starts with the right to vote.

Regardless of whether you're educated, or smart, or voting sensibly, or not.

And because if it isn't a right, what's our system of government?

And the point that can't be over-stated, but which you skip over, is: what's the alternative? Poll tests? Judging whose vote is worthy and whose isn't? Testing for educational levels and literacy?

You'd think that educated people would conclude that we've been there, done that, and seen the results, but, well, clearly it's possible to argue against the right to vote, and still have been smart, educated, and met all of OCSteve's tests.

So that's why we've placed such importance on the right to vote: because it's the sine qua non of our theory of government, and because there's no other possible alternative without modifying, or switching to another, theory and practice.

Mind, I'm sympathetic to your feelings, OCSTeve: I have tons of elitist impulses, myself.

So clearly the best system would be for me to be able to over-ride your vote, and that of all other folks who aren't as insightful and sensible as I am. You okay with that, while you're judging yourself qualified to speak to who should be allowed to vote, and who doesn't meet your standards?

(I don't mean this with any hostility in the slightest, since I expect your answer is "no"; I'm just asking because your comments suggest it's possible you've not thought through all the implications of what you're saying, so I'm hoping my comments help lend perspective, more than they seem like an attempt to beat on your head with drumsticks.)

"So clearly the best system would be for me to be able to over-ride your vote, and that of all other folks who aren't as insightful and sensible as I am."

Which you can do if you can get people who aren't entitled to vote to vote against my vote.

OCSteve: On the larger point, I believe that voting is more of a privilege than a right (correct or not, that is how I feel about it).

My great-aunt, who was born in 1908 and was therefore among the first women in the UK who had the right to vote equally with men, would have disagreed with you vehemently.

I think you have to take your right to vote for granted before you can start thinking of it as a privilege that people ought to earn.

Gary: My issue with “right” vs. “privilege” is that some people will literally show up at the polls, not registered, not prepared, etc. Then demand their “right”. I happen to think that some responsibility falls on the voter, that everything is not the fault of the system.

As for the rest – as you said it is just opinion. It is my opinion that if someone has so little knowledge of our election process that they fall for “Republicans vote on Wednesday” then I honestly would just as soon that person find something better to do on election day.

When I get calls around election time, the main question is “Are you going to vote” along with encouragement to be sure I get out and vote. I disagree with herding people to the polls. Time and money would be better spent on educating voters about the issues. What we have instead is huge efforts to “get out the vote” – herding people to the polls who don’t have a clue who or what they are voting for. Both sides have to do it, well, because the other side does it.

If it is elitist of me to think that efforts would be better spent educating voters about the issues than getting warm bodies into the booth to pull the handle for your party – then I am elitist.

"Which you can do if you can get people who aren't entitled to vote to vote against my vote."

Which is nice, but a non-sequitur to both OCSteve's points and mine.

Aside from the principled objection Gary and Jes are making, which is an awfully good one, doesn't it worry you a little that you're using 'ability to overcome bureaucratic difficulties and knowledge of electoral procedure' as a proxy for 'sensible person whose vote we want'? The two things seem to me to have very little to do with one another. If you think a literacy test, or a political knowledge test, would be a good idea, go ahead and advocate one: say, you'd need to demonstrate a certain amount of knowledge of our system of government to register. I'd oppose it, but it'd be a direct way of serving your goals (and IIRC, not actually unconstitutional. Currently illegal (although I can't remember if that's everywhere or just in areas covered by the VRA), but if I remember right it's illegal by statute, not under the Constitution).

But thinking that just making the process of voting difficult and confusing is a useful way to smuggle a 'literacy test' into the system is nuts. You end up with an unfairly administered and 'graded' 'literacy test', and one that has very little directly to do with knowledge of or sensibleness about policy questions.

I agree with OCSteve, however, that it would bve nice if the general electorate was actually able to define issues as the candidates see them. Unfortunately, neither party, most candidates and the media really don't care to do that.

And in terms of the criteria he mentioned, that is pretty much in place in most areas. Voting is a right, just like owning guns. It is just that there are certain rules that need to be followed to exercise that right.

And I think it would be accurate to say, that compared to some countries, we are privileged to have the right to vote.

It is my opinion that if someone has so little knowledge of our election process that they fall for “Republicans vote on Wednesday” then I honestly would just as soon that person find something better to do on election day.

Yeah, I hear you, but in practice this kind of thinking boils down to "advantage to whichever side is better at tricking the other side's voters."

There are scams in every area of life, and even though there's a Social Darwinist argument that goes something like "it's better that people get scammed and hopefully learn their lesson, or else make way for people who are smarter," the fact is we still punish scam artists. Part of the reason is that, quite simply, we want to discourage them. If you don't do anything about flyers that try to trick people into not voting - because you figure "anyone who gets fooled doesn't deserve to vote" - what you end up with are twice as many dirty tricks.

Elections shouldn't be decided by who can design the cleverest flier making the Republican out to be a Democrat. It's not that we sympathize with the foolish person who maybe "shouldn't be voting anyway"; it's just that we don't want the person responsible for these scams to get rewarded thereby.

As for the rest – as you said it is just opinion. It is my opinion that if someone has so little knowledge of our election process that they fall for “Republicans vote on Wednesday” then I honestly would just as soon that person find something better to do on election day.
Perhaps this is merely a matter of careless language. I share your preference. I have a wide variety of preferences as to who I'd like to see vote, and who I'd prefer not bother to vote.

But I'd never confuse my personal preferences as to who should vote, or how people should vote, or who people should vote for, with how our system of voting should be constructed, or with the concept that voting, in our democracy, is a right.

As it stands, I'm a little vague, from what you've said, whether, your personal preferences aside, you are equally interested in defending people's right to vote, and our system of democracy.

"I disagree with herding people to the polls."

Fortunately, you're probably not compelled to engage in that, I presume. So it works out.

And, y'know, when I hear or see people going on about "you must go vote! It doesn't matter who you vote for, it matters only that you vote!," my reaction is "no, that's entirely wrong! It matters who you vote for!"

And I, too, am more concerned about educated voting than I am about percentages of the population that vote.

But then we're back to that crucial distinction between my personal preferences, and defending our system of government.

So the issue isn't whether or not we're both elitists: we can happily both be elitists, and strictly in favor of democracy, and the the right to vote; the one has nothing to do with the other.

The question is: do you really believe in democracy, and thus believe in defending the right of everyone (who is a citizen, and 18 or above, and who isn't so mentally defective that they can't at all understand what they're doing) to vote, or not?

You're perfectly entitled to not believe in democracy, as I said before, if you like: go for monarchism, or oligarchy, or anarchy, or communism, or technocracy, or whatever you like. But it's useful to know where people stand when they're debating politics.

OCSteve: I think LizardBreath's point is key. If, God forbid, I had to design some sort of test for who gets to vote, questions like "what day of the week are elections normally held on?" would be pretty far down on my list of vital pieces of information (especially since it wouldn't just put people who have lived here forever but not bothered to vote at a disadvantage, but also e.g. recent immigrants). And making the test be "can you manage to circumvent a whole bunch of obstacles?" would be even further down.

"Can you name at least three things guaranteed by the Bill of Rights?" would be better.

OCSteve: When I get calls around election time, the main question is “Are you going to vote” along with encouragement to be sure I get out and vote. I disagree with herding people to the polls. Time and money would be better spent on educating voters about the issues. What we have instead is huge efforts to “get out the vote” – herding people to the polls who don’t have a clue who or what they are voting for. Both sides have to do it, well, because the other side does it.

It's not actually an either/or, though. You can do both.

One of the many things I remember fondly about my great-aunt is that she was a great “get out the vote” kind of person. She herself was an old-fashioned Tory, conservative in the best sense, and she and I didn't agree politically about anything - I was a fairly consistent Labour voter until the party got too right-wing for me. But it didn't matter to her what candidate I was going to vote for - what mattered to her was that I should always head along to the polls on election day and exercise my right to vote.

Not that "it doesn't matter who you vote for" - but that everyone who has the right to vote, should vote, mattered decidedly more to her than party politics - even if she herself was damned partisan.

I think (I forget which voter fraud thread I said it on) that this is something that you get not just when there are people who remember not having the right to vote, but when there's an ethos in the general culture that running elections fairly is something that the community does for itself - that ordinary people oversee the polls and count the votes, by hand, and take pride in making sure everyone can vote and that the results are correct. Which is really where electronic voting just falls over and dies.

"Can you name at least three things guaranteed by the Bill of Rights?" would be better.

If you're a believer in the Ninth Amendment, it might be hard to get this question wrong. :)

"Can you name at least three things guaranteed by the Bill of Rights?" would be better.

Truth, justice, and the American way. And an almost fanatical devotion to the pope.

More seriously, this might be fine, but a Poli Sci professor of mine recounted the test he was given in the south in order to vote and was asked exclusively questions about the constitution, such as "what does ex post facto mean?" how about "habeas corpus"? What about "due process of law"?

I mean if it is a bad check how do they find you? Just the cost of running that kind of business?

I'm not sure if your question was answered by Gary so apologies if this covers the same ground. I'm fortunate to have not been in a situation where I needed to get checks cashed in such a hurry that I had to use them, but m understanding is that most of these places cash government checks and payroll checks, which would be more certain (and one can assume they don't cash a stack of checks brought by the same person) and they then branch out and cash personal checks to someone who regularly brings their checks to such a place. I imagine that they require much more minimal id than would be the norm (such as a power bill or id that identifies the person as a family member)

I imagine the economics of it works like this. The check cashing business makes a killing off of the government and payroll checks. They also cash the checks of family members because there are, if I judge the number of these reality court TV dramas, a large enough range of situations where someone can get their son/daughter/parent/spouses government check and with grudging consent (or perhaps no consent) cash them at a place like this. That cushion of money then allows the business to engage in the risky behavior of cashing other kinds of checks, a behavior they base on their judgement of the risk potential of the customer. There are probably enough elderly poor to more than cover their losses.

Again, this is all speculation, so anyone who has used such a place, feel free to chime in.

I'd like to submit "Which party currently controls the Senate? How about the House of Representatives? And while we're at it, which party is the president from?"

"...but m understanding is that most of these places cash government checks and payroll checks,"

As I said, in places like NYC, Boston, Seattle, and so on, it's just government checks, and payroll checks only if the business has made a specific contract with that check-cashing place.

"...they then branch out and cash personal checks to someone who regularly brings their checks to such a place."

Again, in those places, never.

I'm not 100% sure why the check-cashing place here in Boulder will do more, but I suspect it's because those other states forbid charging the kind of rates/percentages that Colorado allows, and that since here one can charge 20% or 50%, or whatever, of the amount of the check, to cash it, the check-cashing place here is willing to take the risk of one bad check for a few hundred bucks.

But that's just speculation on my part, and could be wrong.

If I had a penny for every person in NY State, or Massachussetts, or Washington, who has blithely explained to me that it's no problem to not be able to get a bank account, because after all, check-cashing places will cash your paycheck, or personal check -- which they have no idea is complete nonsense, because they've never in their life even spoken to anyone who has cause to use a check-cashing place about it -- I'd probably never have needed to use a check-cashing place.

For instance,

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2002207876_logan15m.html

"King County election workers counted as many as 660 provisional ballots in the governor's election before the eligibility of those voters was checked, Elections Director Dean Logan said yesterday.

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