CONSCIENCE BALM

Posted in Rants on August 15th, 2012 by Ed

What those of us in the logic-based community have known for years is finally common knowledge if not exactly front page news: in-person voter fraud is not a thing that exists. It is a boogeyman made up by Republicans as a Trojan Horse for voter ID laws intended to suppress turnout among the demographics least likely to have a state-issued photo ID. Pennsylvania, one of several states embroiled in VID-related legal battles at present, has admitted that the sole type of voter fraud preventable by VID laws – voter impersonation, etc. – is nonexistent not only in PA but in any other state as well. This meshes with a more recent, comprehensive national study that uncovered all of ten verified instances of in-person voter fraud. Certainly voter fraud exists (particularly with absentee ballots, which can be filled out by god-knows-who) but none of the laws passed in recent years will do anything to stop it.

So we can officially put to rest the whole "millions of illegal voters" myth. Now that the evidence is incontrovertible, I'm curious to hear how our friends on the right will address the fact that these laws they've supported, sometimes vociferously, are really laws to stop blacks and Latinos from voting. Even in conservative circles I doubt many people would stand behind that idea with pride, so some mental gymnastics are necessary in order to keep consciences clear. There are only a few options at this point for the Big Fan of Voter ID Laws:

1. Ignore the data. This might be easy given how little coverage is devoted to this issue.
2. The always popular "I don't have to believe your facts because they're from the liberal (academia, media, etc.) and therefore 'biased' and worthless."
3. Moving goalposts; "Well, voter impersonation might not be a real thing, but Voter ID laws were necessary and positive for several other reasons…."
4. Concede past results but point to a dangerous future, i.e. the "millions of amnestied immigrants are coming to vote for Obama" argument.
5. Admit that you were wrong.

It's likely that as more VID laws end up in court and more states debate similar legislation we are about to see a lot of moving goalposts. It will turn out that VID was never about fraud at all, but actually about some deeply principled affirmation of the responsibility of all citizens to bargle bargle blah blah etc. We're likely to see the high profile Republican candidates do their best to avoid the issue altogether or continue to speak about fraud in the hypothetical, with no concessions to reality.

Having created a voter registration and turnout machine in 2008 unlike anything seen before in American politics, I see no reason why the Obama campaign can't devote similar resources to acquiring valid ID for voters who currently lack it. It's legal to drive a voter to the polls; surely it is also legal to drive someone to the courthouse to get an ID. That seems like a relatively obvious way to address this problem, albeit not one that will have a 100% success rate. The perfect is the enemy of the good in politics, and what might be a good way to minimize the effects of newly-legislated voter suppression should not be cast aside because it won't help everyone.

A lot of relatively sane people with functional moral compasses continue to vote Republican for some reason, and it will be interesting to see how they come to grips with the fact that, oh, I guess these laws Our Guys have pushed for the last four years really are about keeping Undesirables away from the polls. That doesn't seem to be in line with freedom, justice, and the American Way. Then again if they are students of history they no doubt realize that engaging in legal chicanery to prevent black people from voting is very much the American Way. This is one instance in which an appeal to the words and thoughts of the Founders will actually support the Republican position on an issue.