Concerning capital punishment and torture

The Republican National Committee is paying to have voter registration forms collected at shopping centers and the forms of those who register as Democrats shredded, depriving the victims of their right to vote.

I know that some of my liberal friends disapprove of capital punishment, and most of them dogmatically refuse to consider the possibility that torture might ever be justified.

But that seems to me to reflect a failure of imagination. Once you truly confront the nature of absolute evil, and the fact that some human beings are capable of it, a firing squad seems quite merciful, and breaking on the wheel no more than appropriate severity.

Consider, for example, Ed Gillespie of the Republican National Committee, standing there smiling in his $1500 suit. And then consider that the RNC has been paying an outfit called Voters Outreach of America, alias America Votes, to collect voter registration forms in shopping centers, leaving people under the impression that they have registered to vote, and then trash the voter registration forms of all the Democrats who sign up. The victims going to show up at the polls on election day and find that they were, in fact, never registered to vote at all. A Las Vegas TV station has the story. (Hat tip: Progressive Blogs Digest.)

Of course this is criminal, and equally of course no one will actually ever go to jail for it, much less get the rack-and-hot-pincers they actually deserve. And short of administering judicial torture (or the equivalent in the form of extremely long prison sentences) to the people actually trashing the registration forms, it would be impossible to prove the complicity of Gillespie and the other RNC top dogs.

Apparently the group, having decamped from Nevada, is now at work in Oregon. Has someone alerted the local papers and law enforcement authorities?

And no, I’m not really in favor of torture. But I do think that, if there’s a ten-year federal mandatory minimum sentence for selling a kilogram of cocaine, a ten-year mandatory for fraudulently depriving someone of the right to vote would be just about right.

And yes, facing that sort of prison time, some of the lower-downs would “roll” on the higher-ups in return for a downward departure in sentencing. Law enforcement can be a nasty business sometimes, especially when dealing with conspiratorial crime, and that’s one of the ways it works.

Of course, stiff sentences wouldn’t do any good unless we had an FBI Director, an Attorney General, and a group of U.S. Attorneys who wanted to make vote deprivation a law enforcement priority. Since the activity involves interstate travel, it’s arguably already covered under Federal fraud statutes.

Update here: It’s national.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

Comments are closed.