Winning an argument the hard way

The Republican Secretary of State of Indiana demonstrates that illegal voting really is a problem: by being indicted for having done so.

The right wing, pursuing its ancient agenda of reducing the number of poor people who vote, has been pushing laws to require voters to show a state-issued photo ID. That’s a significant barrier to voting for some folks; even if the DMV waives the driver’s-license fee for those willing to claim pauper status, getting to a DMV office can be a substantial problem for those who don’t drive.

Which is, of course, the point of the exercise. As liberals have tirelessly pointed out, voter fraud by voters (as opposed to voter fraud by cheating people out of their votes, or monkeying with the count) is a virtually non-existent problem, and largely confined to absentee voters not affected by photo-ID laws.

But now a bold Republican, the Secretary of State of Indiana, has demonstrated that fraudulent voting really is a problem. He was just indicted for deliberately casting an illegal vote. The story doesn’t mention whether he had his driver’s license with him at the time.

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:

18 thoughts on “Winning an argument the hard way”

  1. It’s more than that, Mark. People in big cities like New York and Chicago tend to not have cars, therefore not have driver’s licenses. They also tend to vote Democratic. Therefore Republicans are trying to stop solid Democrats from voting.

    They did this in Michigan in 2000. State Republicans passed a bill that required voters to to register to vote in the same district that their driver’s license showed as their residence. It was passed in order to keep voters in left-leaning districts like Ann Arbor and East Lansing from voting in those elections. The thought was that these campuses have a lot of out of state students and this would cause their D vote to move back out of state.

    There is a reason voter turn out in America is low.

  2. Well they could also mandate that all states go to the new DHS inspired “federally compliant drivers license”. In Delaware, the licensing offices have gone almost completely non-functional. The other day, the DELDOT webpage had an announcement that they were not issuing any new licenses or registrations due to problems. That notice seems to have been removed, but the day plus long experience getting licenses and vehicles probably will continue. Prior to the wonderful federally compliant licenses, the state offices ran relatively well.

  3. What’s interesting is that this article lists at least three different locations at which White lived, and none of them are “his new wife’s parents’ basement”, which may not have been an official residence, but was where he was actually living for a while. This guy is my good friend’s new brother in law (wife’s sister’s new husband). Apparently it’s easy enough for a Republican to win in Indiana that he spent a Saturday in late September, about five weeks before the election, getting drunk at a bar in Chicago during the Notre Dame – Michigan game. I spent the afternoon avoiding speaking to him.

  4. It’s a poll tax. Even where it’s possible to get free state-issue ID by jumping through a series of hoops, the cost in during-conventional-business-hours time is substantial. (And that trick Benny mentions is a good one: students and poor people generally move more often, so the odds that the license and actual address will match throughout the life of the license is lower.)

    And of course the driver’s license check wouldn’t have caught White (ahem) unless he had somehow updated it to show the out-of-district condo where he lived while leaving his registration records alone. (Apparently the indictment is not merely for casting a fraudulent vote, but for falsely accepting a salary for a city-council job he was not (as a non-resident) eligible to hold.

    It’s interesting that in the law and in popular discourse, the term voter fraud is limited only to false positives. Caging, felon lists, no-notice purges and other techniques for deliberately creating false negatives on the vote rolls are generally not seen as fraud. It’s as if embezzlement consisted only in creating fictitious payees for company checks, but not in diverting the checks of real payees to the embezzler.

  5. I just want to stress that there are plenty of well to do people in New York that don’t have a driver’s license. Why the focus on driver’s licenses for voter registration and polling? But we know why.

  6. “I just want to stress that there are plenty of well to do people in New York that don’t have a driver’s license.”

    Is this actually true? How do they function when asked (as happens in a variety of commercial contexts) for ID?
    I ask because for years, until my mid-30s, I could not and did not drive. But even so, I had a non-driver ID, which is just like a driver’s license except of course for the “permission to drive” part, and I can’t imagine how I would have lived my life without it.
    Especially when you state “well to do people”. Sure, people on the margins of society, I’ve no idea how they live their lives — but “well to do people” travel on planes, they use credit cards, they rent apartments…

  7. My proposal is simple – any live voting rules must have equivalent scrutiny as absentee voting.
    If you need to show id each time to vote in person, then you need to show id each time fore absentee voting.

  8. I don’t think this is a financial penalty, I think it’s a thinking-ahead-and-intending-to-vote-in-six-weeks requirement. Still probably favors the Reeps – but the barrier is not money.

  9. “I don’t think this is a financial penalty…”

    Well, you’re wrong. It cost me $50 to get my drivers licence the last time I moved. I have a very comfortable income, but I would consider having to pay $50 for something I neither wanted nor needed in order to exercise my basic right to vote to be a penalty. For people who make significantly less than me it is more than just a penalty. It is a barrier.

  10. Like a lot of people (snowbirds in particular), I have two residences — although both of mine are in the Rust Belt. And I could easily vote absentee in one (or both) cities, but haven’t. Has anyone considered tightening up the voting laws so that this isn’t possible?

  11. Maynard,

    I know a few New Yorkers that don’t have a license. What are these situations where you need one? Flying? Don’t you have a passport?

  12. I’m a carless New Yorker with a driver’s license, but in the state of New York you can get a government issued non-driver ID.

    As for needing one, it’s a good thing to have when you’re on vacation. There are still a lot of cars in NYC, far too many and the free parking on the street adds to it.

  13. In Michigan the state ID is ten bucks, good for four years (and the first renewal can be done by mail – after eight years you have to go into the Secretary of State office to get a new picture taken). And when you apply for the ID they will ask whether you want to register to vote. Now I’m sure there are people for whom the ten bucks is a big deal, but in that case wouldn’t it be worthwhile for someone to solicit donations and to organize volunteers to make sure people in the cities are registered and have IDs to back it up?

    And at least in MI unless you’re disabled and requesting an absentee ballot on that basis, you have to vote in person at your precinct at least once (and show ID) before you can vote absentee. Which in combination with the requirement that the address on your ID matches your driver’s license really kind of screws college kids who are voting for the first time. Unless they voted in the August primary previous to the general, they can’t vote absentee, and have to drive back to wherever they’re from on election day.

  14. “I know a few New Yorkers that don’t have a license. What are these situations where you need one? Flying? Don’t you have a passport?”

    I have a passport, but a drivers license (or equivalent) is so much easier to carry every day. I guess one could get a passport card, but at that point, it seems one is gratuitously trying to make some weird and incomprehensible political point. It’s not like a passport or passport card is free, for example, to address one point raised above.

    As for the situations I’m referring to, I’d say half the times I use my credit card I’m asked for ID. I assume I could simply refuse to show any ID, but presumably then at least some fraction of those transactions would be voided and I’d be unable to buy the stuff I have just chosen.
    Similarly when I deal with banks, I could presumably memorize a bunch of numbers related to my bank account, but it’s far simpler to just show ID.

  15. “i’ve no idea how they live their lives — but “well to do people” travel on planes, they use credit cards, they rent apartments…”

    I didn’t have a license for 7 years. Passport when flying, basically nobody cards for credit card usage, and I’ve rented 2 apartments in NYC without being asked for ID. Being self-employed perhaps makes this somewhat easier.

    The Hammerstein Ballroom was one exception- they appear to card everyone, and scan licenses, so they wouldn’t let me in with a passport. But I’m not big into concerts these days, anyway.

  16. “Now I’m sure there are people for whom the ten bucks is a big deal, but in that case wouldn’t it be worthwhile for someone to solicit donations and to organize volunteers to make sure people in the cities are registered and have IDs to back it up?”

    That would be an obvious solution, and would make the lives of those without ID easier, given that it’s used for so much else. But it misses the point: Opposition to voter ID isn’t really based on the idea that it’s going to make voting prohibitively hard, so much as it would make voting less than trivially easy. The Democratic party is reliant on a lot of very marginal voter groups, who can be deterred from voting by even the slightest inconvenience. While Republicans tend to be a bit more motivated to vote. This makes the two major parties view trade-offs between ballot security and ease of voting completely differently. Republicans figure there’s no issue, so long as voting isn’t much harder than, say, picking up a six-pack at the local convenience store, or other common life activities. Democrats view the fact that voters even have to so much as show up in person, at the right place, on the right day, as a terrible problem. Because a lot of their voters can’t be BOTHERED to vote if it requires them to exert themselves in any way.

    Even if they have the ID, IOW, remembering to bring it to the polling place, and hauling it out of the purse or wallet, is too much of an imposition for some people, and they’re predominantly Democrats…

    As for the Secretary of State, nail him to the wall.

  17. Now, let’s talk about absentee voters with multiple homes and the ability to vote more than once in the same election. Think that that demographic skews Democratic? Me neither.

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