Via the Althouse-Totten-McArdle-powered Instapundit Blog-Flavored Substitute Product™, Will Wilkinson makes a point about voter fraud that I’d been meaning to make myself — I can be disenfranchised just as effectively by someone else voting fraudulently as I can by a gang of thugs blocking my way into the polling station.

Will thinks he can predict my party preference by whether I think vote fraud or voter intimidation is more serious. He may be right, in that my party preference leans Republican and I think vote fraud is more problematic than voter intimidation (although both are serious problems and should not be permitted). My reasons for thinking so don’t have anything to do with the traditional association of vote fraud with Democrats and voter intimidation with Republicans, though.

I think vote fraud is a more pernicious problem because it’s less salient. If somebody intimidates me into not voting, it’s going to be very obvious to me, and likely obvious to other people as well. Voter intimidation works by creating a climate of fear in the minds of potential voters. That does not and cannot have a significant effect unless significant numbers of voters notice and respond to the intimidation attempts.

Vote fraud, though, is more subtle. I can go to the polling place, cast my ballot, and go home blissfully unaware that three hours before I even voted someone else cast a fraudulent ballot in the name of John Q. Unreal. My vote can be neutralized — rendered as ineffective as though I’d never cast it — and I won’t even notice.

After this election, no matter who wins, I’m going to start trying to figure out how to tighten the system’s protections against vote fraud — which seem dangerously weak in many ways. The obvious question, which has been asked by other bloggers, is “Is there any reason why voters shouldn’t be required to present a photo ID before casting their ballot?” I think the answer is obviously “No”, and that’s probably the first place to start in shoring up the vote system’s protections against fraud.

4 Responses to “Fraud And Disenfranchisement”
  1. Jim S says:

    You Sir have hit the preverbal nail square on the head. I too have been very concerned about the deterioration of the integrity of the election process for quite some time and particularly since 2000. I believe that ‘We the People’ have to find some way to return ‘common sense’ to our electoral process. We have to stop the expanding corruption now! Before it becomes impossible to halt the inevitable decline into anarchy where too many people have lost faith in our democratic intuitions. I agree 100% with the need to require officially issued photo ID’s, driver licenses, state ID’s university and college ID’s. Sorry, but no library cards or check cashing cards from the local ‘FoodMart’. This leads to the number 1 question, and first goal; how to get enough people making enough noise to make our congressional critters take real action. And as an aside, we have to let our local officials know that they have to start prosecuting voter fraud RIGHT NOW!! My greatest fear is that it may already be too late, I hope not.

  2. Kyle Haight says:

    I’m not sanguine about legislators fixing this sort of problem. Fixing the vote system has to be a bipartisan issue at the grassroots level, because it’s all about voter trust. The most pernicious effects have been seen (predictably) in swing states, so that’s where the focus needs to be at least initially. I think that initiatives need to be introduced in those states by bipartisan grassroots groups.

    Legal changes may also be required at the federal level, of course, and those will require coordinated pressure on sitting Congressmen.

  3. Jim S. says:

    I agree that the grassroots activisms is going to have to do 99% of the work of convincing the parties and lawmakers the even the simplest reform is not only needed but is a good thing for them. Lawmakers really have little incentive to fool with reforming a system that they have been successful in, (that is being elected). Moreover, others not succeeding within the system (not being elected) are not holding office where they can enact the laws to reform the system. This might be a good thing as the unsuccessful may wish to reform the system for the wrong reason, as in personal gain and not real system wide reforms. It will not be easy. Nevertheless, I think that the first step will be to get the simplest reform (photo ID’s) into the state’s party platform and work it forward from there into state law. The real trick will be to get any kind of bipartisan cooperation on any reform. I live in Minnesota where we started the year off with a real nasty state legislative session where the DFL Senate refused to compromise on any thing the Republican House sent over. Therefore, we started 2004 in a real nasty mood and as Tuesday gets closer, the mood is getter meaner. I can definitely say that living in a swing state gives one a deferent view of the election campaigns.

  4. Kyle Haight says:

    I believe it about swing states. I’m in California, which is not a swing state by any stretch of the imagination, and there’s been very little campaigning here by the national party organizations. I have yet to see a Bush or Kerry ad on TV or in the mail. Everything here has been for state-level initiatives and candidates for state legislature.

    With respect to the integrity of the vote system, California has some issues that Minnesota doesn’t, mostly stemming from our large population of illegal immigrants from south of the border. The risk of non-citizens voting here is higher. It’s likely that the non-citizen vote has already changed the outcome of at least one election here, costing former Congressman Bob Dornan his seat. Dornan was kind of a nut, but the probability that non-citizen voting has already cost at least one person a legitimate electoral victory is an ominous sign for the future.

    The best reason I can see for starting with the photo ID requirement is that I honestly can’t see an argument against it that doesn’t ultimately boil down to “but it will make vote fraud harder.”

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