Monday, June 20, 2011

Voting and politics

E. J. Dionne has a new column that accuses Republicans of trying to rig elections through changes to voting laws. This is a very disingenuous column.

Election laws have to straddle the line between making sure that everyone who is qualified to vote can cast a ballot and preventing election fraud. For the last few decades, Democrats have been trying to make it easier to vote. They are not doing this out of magnanimity. They are convinced that this will give them an advantage at the polls.

Keep in mind that many Democrats see themselves as the protector of the common man. They are convinced that most voters should recognize this and vote in their own self-interest. Their preferred voter does not care about candidates or issues. He only goes to the polls to vote a straight party ticket. If you bring issues into it then voters get confused. That is what President Obama was talking about when he referred to poor people in Pennsylvania "clinging to guns and religion".

Democratic efforts have included "get out the vote" initiatives where non-voters are rounded up and bussed to the polls where they can register and vote Democratic.

But, the reforms that the Democrats have pushed to make it easier to get people to vote also make it easier to cheat. Once the new voters have been herded onto a bus there is little to stop the organizers from taking them to multiple polling places. There are reports of this happening although it has never been verified by an outside investigator.

The reforms that the Republicans are pushing are fairly simple. You can't just show up and vote. You have to have an official ID proving that you are who you way you are and some proof that you actually live in the precinct. Democrats insist that this is fixing a non-existent problem. They point out that convictions for voter fraud are almost non-existent. Their argument is not as solid as it appears. It is almost impossible to even find someone who voted under a false id. A few years ago NBC found that tens of thousands of people voting from both their summer and winter residences at the same time. This is fairly easy to track but the states don't bother to do even that much.

Note, Dionne complains that student IDs are not accepted in Texas. He sees it as an attempt to disenfranchise a group that votes Democrat. Since many students are also listed under their parents' address, I see this as a reasonable attempt at preventing double-voting.

This is the conflict in a nutshell. Dionne rails against any barriers to voting, calling up visions of racial discrimination. It is true that our nation erected barriers to keep women and minorities from voting. At the same time, we also have a long history of election fraud. There are still people who believe that Nixon won the vote but lost Illinois due to ballot-box stuffing in Chicago.

Ironically, the movement to clean up elections was part of the Progressive movement of a century ago. The Progressives believed that they would win in open, honest elections. The modern Progressives don't have the same faith in the honest elections as their predecessors.

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