Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Voter ID Not About What You Think (Well, maybe it is)

This week we saw yet another effort to block Democratic votes denied, this time in Pennsylvania, where a judge blocked that state's restrictive Voter ID law.  The law would have required voters to produce a state issued ID in order to vote.  As over 700,000 Pennsylvanians do not have such an ID, most of them among constituencies that tend to vote for Democrats (minorities, the poor, students, young people) it's pretty easy to see why Republicans were so eager to shove this law through during a year when we're about to re-elect the first African-American president, and why many of them are so upset that they've been blocked...again.  But sometimes when faced with questions of motivations, gain, or possibly even some Freudian like resentment or denial, one has to dig deeper.  I'm wondering if maybe we're all missing a larger point behind Republican efforts to keep people from voting.

Republicans have been hanging on to the excuse that their voter suppression efforts -- Voter ID laws, voter purges, cutting early voting hours -- are all about protecting the integrity of the vote and preventing voter fraud.  News21, a part of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalistic Education, did a state by state study of alleged voter fraud cases since 2000.  They've found that out of hundreds of millions of votes cast over the past 12 years, there have only been 633 cases of actual voter fraud.  Even if you put voter turnout at 25% of the US population for each of the 12 general elections during that period, that number represents barely 1 thousandth of 1%.

Now consider what it takes to commit the kind of voter fraud that Republicans claim their efforts are supposed to prevent.  Particularly, impersonating someone else in order to cast additional votes.  First, you have to find the name.  You'll want this to be the name of a real person, with a real address that can be verified.  This is why you'll never see Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck show up at the polls, because they don't exist.  Ideally, you'll want the person you're attempting to impersonate to be recently deceased, as it would be awkward to say the least to have them show up at the polls while you're trying to vote in their stead.  You also want the person to have voted at least once in the recent past, since in most states if you haven't voted for a given period of time (two years in PA), you're automatically purged from the rolls.  This brings up the next requirement, making sure that this person is a REGISTERED voter.  Depending on where you live, that may not be easy, since voter records aren't available to the public in some states.  You also need to find out where that person's polling place is.  Finally, after you've gotten all of that info together and head to the polls with your stolen voter identity, you'd better hope to hell that none of the poll workers actually know the face of the person you're impersonating.  (Seriously, do I look like I could pass for a Jimmy Fong?)  These are the flaming hoops that a person would have to jump through in order to cast additional votes by impersonating someone else.  This is why this type of voter fraud, when it is done at all, is almost never perpetrated by regular citizens.  It's usually done by campaigns and their operatives trying to cheat their way into office (and if recent news stories are any indication, it's Republican campaigns that are doing the lion's share of it).

In case that's not crazy-stupid enough for you, consider this.  A look a voter turnout from 1960 - 2010 shows that the average turnout for Presidential elections for this period is 55.3%.  The average turnout for Statewide elections (non-Presidential) for the same period is 39.8%.  In essence, Republicans are accusing people of going to all kind of trouble to do twice what most folks don't even want to do once.  More people probably voted in last night's "Dancing With The Stars" than will make it to the polls this November.  Let's face it, Americans aren't the most civic minded people on the planet.  You practically have to shanghai some of us and get us to the polls at gunpoint to get us to vote for ANYONE, let alone the candidate we want.  Nonetheless conservatives want, indeed need, to hang on to the fallacy and fantasy of widespread voter fraud infecting our American politics.  It's almost pathological with them, and suppressing the vote is only a part of the reason.  The bigger reason why they need this illusion is because they've never been able to face the fact that a Black man beat out over 20 White men (and one White woman) to become the President of the United States.  It's totally unfathomable to them that "their country" would elect an African-American "community organizer" over a Vietnam war hero, or over anyone else for that matter.  To have some Black infidel run the country is just too much for their fragile racial psyche to cope with.  This is also the reason why they've taken to pretending that all of the polls, even conservative polls like FOX and Rasmussen, showing Obama in the lead over Mitt Romney are wrong and skewed toward liberals.  Because, after all, given a choice between the two, American couldn't possibly prefer being led by...THE BLACK GUY.  There has to be something else at work, whether it's Affirmative Action, phony birth certificates, liberal media bias, or voter fraud. 

Conservatives dream of a return to some 1950s American utopia that never existed.  They hang on to the idea that we're a "center-right" nation despite the fact that both culturally and demographically the nation is moving ever leftward.  The election of this nation's first African-American president served as an all too real reminder to them that they're quickly becoming a minority in a country that is both beyond them and over them.  Nonetheless, they continue to encase themselves in their FOX News echo-chamber, clinging to the hope that America will one day "come to its senses", and they can "take their country back."  The Republicans' voter suppression efforts aren't about preventing voter fraud.  What they're really about is the same thing that the Birther movement is about, and the Tea-Party movement is about, complete and utter DENIAL.

Slate Magazine - Voter ID laws: A state-by-state map reveals how much voter fraud there is in the United States -- Almost none. - National Voter Turnout in Federal Elections: 1960 - 2012.