In case you were wondering

No, there’s no evidence that voting by ineligible voters is a significant problem. Therefore yes, the push for laws to make it harder to vote (say, by requiring picture IDs that many poor, elderly, and rural voters don’t have) will merely tend to suppress the Democratic vote, which is precisely what they are designed to do.

No, there’s no evidence that voting by ineligible voters is a significant problem. Therefore yes, laws to make it harder to vote by requiring picture IDs that many poor, elderly, and rural voters don’t have will merely tend to suppress the Democratic vote, which is precisely what they are designed to do.

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: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

15 thoughts on “In case you were wondering”

  1. Any evidence about fraud with absentee ballots?
    If IDs are so important for voting in person, why should absentee voting be any different? (and if I'm sticking my foot in my mouth – that id's are already required for absentee signup, mock me heartily.)

  2. I actually agree that fraud with absentee ballots is the greater problem. A person committing ballot fraud in person would be doing good to cast a half dozen criminal ballots in the course of a day, while absentee ballot fraud can be conducted on a mass production basis, and with far less risk.
    However, I've never noticed before a constitutional rule that states and Congress are obligated to address problems in declining order of importance. And I do find myself wondering what sort of burdens on voting *wouldn't* be considered a "poll tax" from this perspective? Requiring people to travel to a polling place, rather than bringing the polls to them? Requiring them to register in advance of the election, rather than when they vote? Not providing somebody to fill out the ballot for them, so they don't have to lift a finger?
    If proving you really are you is an excessive imposition, I wonder how long it will be before these obstacles to voting fall, too?

  3. I have seen newspaper coverage of the survey, but no good account of how it worked. How would it identify (what I'd expect to be) the most common 2 types of voting fraud: 1) voting in a district where you don't legally reside (e.g., voting in the tight election in VA where you go to school rather than the uncontested one in NC where you live) and 2) voting when you have a felony conviction.

  4. If people are worried about citizens showing up and voting multiple times why don't we start using the finger ink that Iraq and Afganistan use? The side benefits are that to the people in the countries we have 'liberated' voting here will physically look like voting there, which I hope would be encouraging. And on Nov 8th we can ridicule and chastize and encourage people without blue thumbs to not be lazy and vote next time.

  5. Since ID isn't required, what is meant by "there's no evidence"? In your opinion what would evidence look like?
    Would it look like 20% of the entire voting age population of Milwuakee County using same day registration in 2004(and to be eligible that would mean that 20% had moved or become newly eligible in the past four years)? Would it be strange if 12% of those (very close to the entire Kerry margin for the whole state) provided addresses which were unverifiable after the election. Would that be evidence?
    If the methods used to verify identity are transparently easy to get around (and they are) what evidence would you expect to see?

  6. What counts as a big problem? ACORN is apparently now being investigated for turning in 1500 fraudulent voter registrations, including dead people, a sixteen year old, and imaginary people. Is that a big problem, or a rounding error in a federal election? Depends on how you look at it. To my mind, 1500 voters who shouldn't be voting is a lot.

  7. Editorial: Protecting the ballot or suppressing votes?
    Minneapolis Star-Tribune, September 27th, 2006
    With a crucial U.S. election just six weeks away, the nation's electoral system faces any number of worrisome problems — low-voter turnout, antiquated ballots, partisan officials overseeing the polls, problematic new computerized voting machines.
    In the minds of Republicans in the U.S. House, however, there's a much more urgent threat: thousands of undocumented immigrants defrauding the system on election day so they can cast illegal ballots. Though they can produce no evidence that this problem actually exists, last week they passed the Federal Election Integrity Act, a piece of legislation that surely would create more problems than it would solve. It could come before the U.S. Senate this week, and the best thing senators could do is let the idea quietly die.
    The bill sounds simple enough: It would require people to prove their U.S. citizenship when registering to vote and, in 2008, require them to show a government-approved photo ID card on election day. By 2010 it would require them to show an ID card based on proof of citizenship — most likely a birth certificate or passport — on election day.
    It seems reasonable, except that a recent survey by Opinion Research Corp. shows that 11 million voting-age U.S.-born citizens don't have passports or birth certificates. That's about 6 percent of the adult population who would face costly and cumbersome paperwork requirements to exercise the franchise. Many older and rural Americans grew up in counties that didn't maintain accurate birth records, and applying for a passport costs $80 to $90 — an expensive luxury for millions of Americans who don't travel internationally. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 50 million Americans who have driver's licenses but not passports would have to visit state motor vehicle offices to have their IDs authenticated before voting in 2010.
    Worse, the share of adults without passports or birth certificates is much higher among the poor, the elderly and African-Americans — which makes the House bill suspiciously similar to other GOP efforts to suppress voter turnout among low-income and minority voters.
    This burden on citizens might be justified if there were any evidence that current voter-registration laws are inadequate or if authors of the House bill could furnish any evidence of significant voter fraud. But they have not, despite a full day of debate in the House and repeated queries by journalists.
    In fact, nonpartisan groups that actually have some expertise in voter fraud and electoral accountability have denounced the House bill. "Any proposal that raises barriers to voting is a fear-based approach instead of a fact-based solution," says Mary Wilson, president of the League of Women Voters. "We have serious systematic election problems, but people pretending to be someone else at the polls is not one of them, says Chellie Pingree, president of Common Cause.
    It's hard to say which is the more noxious outcome of this bill — inciting false fears about immigrants or suppressing voter turnout among marginalized citizens — but either one is sufficient reason to oppose it.

  8. Jane:
    There's no doubt that some of ACORN's registrars (poor people paid on a per-registration basis) have been defrauding ACORN, as paid signature-gatherers routinely defraud the outfits that push initative petitions. But no one has shown that anyone ever voted any of those non-existent registrants.

  9. Well, gosh, Sebastian, maybe the kinds of evidence they would have been looking for, and didn't find, are in the report. I think their opinions as to what good evidence would look like are maybe an order of magnitude more important than Mark's opinion. Too bad the U.S. Election Assistance Commission apparently doesn't want anyone to see the report, huh?
    Would it look like 20% of the entire voting age population of Milwuakee County using same day registration in 2004(and to be eligible that would mean that 20% had moved or become newly eligible in the past four years)?
    Or had never voted before.

  10. "Or had never voted before"
    Right, if they actually existed as real people.
    You don't have to be on the election commission to tell me what you would expect good evidence to look like.
    The system is set up in such a way that it makes fraud almost impossible to catch. It therefore isn't shocking that we don't catch it.
    If you intentionally don't track something, it isn't shocking that you don't "see good evidence" on it.

  11. So, not having seen the report, you can claim categorically that they don't make any claims as to what evidence they were pursuing? That's amazing. Can you give me the winning Lotto numbers, too?

  12. That last sentence of yours is particularly poignant, incidentally, in light of your antics over at ObWi on the Lancet thread.

  13. Sebastian's have a bad day – over on Crooked Timber, he actually used the 'more people killed in Iraq than killed by bombing in Germany' talking point.
    Sebastian's rather a party-line guy.

  14. I haven't seen any evidence of widespread voter fraud due to the lack of an ID requirement. Still, I have mixed feelings about this issue. Every time I go to the polls, I see these civic-minded volunteers who mean well but who are often completely ill-equipped to prevent someone from looking down, seeing some name and address of some person who hasn't signed in yet, and identifying him- or herself as that person. Indeed, one could go to 30 different polling places and do that on election day. And with our low turnouts, the multiple voting may never get discovered.
    As I said, I'm willing to accept the statements that this is not a problem. But on the other hand, I'm also willing to accept a photo ID requirement so long as the ID's are freely available. Why, exactly, should we make fraud so easy?

  15. If we were to take this seriously as an argument, we'd have to believe that the current arrangment, in which voter fraud surely does occur and in which voter fraud almost certainly favors Democrats, is superior to an alternative state of affairs in which there is much less voter fraud but some people with a right to vote are practically prevented from exercising their right. To find the argument persuasive, one would have to think that the "many" that Mark refers to is more significant than the current amount of voter fraud. Does anyone want to guess whether Mark has an idea about how much is "many"? I'm guessing that Mark is more concerned about the political impact–fewer legitimate Democratic voters, supposedly, and fewer illegitimate Democratic voters. For those of us who don't find the electoral impact particularly relevant, he's not offering much.

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