I haven’t taken the opportunity to research the issue in much detail, but off the top of my head I can say that arguments I am hearing which attempt to defend or justify recent changes in voter registration in the state of Texas make no sense to me.
I’m oversimplifying here but in Texas individuals who with rare exceptions will be women will need to acquire original documents and potentially new identifications in order to vote. This additional step results from name changes taking place because of things like a marriage or divorce.
These articles focus on the 19th Amendment aspect of the current debate, but also provide more information than my simplification in the previous paragraph.
The figures cited within these articles are dated as the Brennan Center for Justice Report referenced is November 2006. That report can be read here:
One could reasonably expect, however, that while the numbers referenced are from 2006 that at best those findings have remained constant and not increased via the simple affirmation that any potential data pool has grown in size.
On 1 April I wrote this piece which expressed my opinion that the issues concerning the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and specifically Section 5 could be addressed by applying the questioned requirements of specific states and districts to everyone. It sounds farfetched, but it would in my opinion address concerns of both sides in regard to Voter ID and as any other “fraud” limitation proposal as well any real or perceived allegations of hindrances placed upon individual or a grouping of voters. That is it would address concerns of both sides if those sides were sincere in wanting to protect the franchise right for all legally qualified and to reduce the opportunity for fraudulent ballots being cast.
My reaction and mention of a precedent few outside of some with constitutional law and United States political history backgrounds have mentioned within the Supreme Court Decision can be found in this 26 June 2013 piece.
The issue, however, is that these identification and registration requirements taken by the state of Texas appear to focus more on disenfranchisement than any reduction of fraud. One can argue that contention from the obvious position of the limited cases of documented alleged voter fraud which has occurred in recent United States history.
One of the better resources of voter fraud comes from the “Who Can Vote?” project of News21. You can read a summary about this project here:
Information on the methodology and data collection can be found here:
A searchable database for many of the 2,068 documented alleged voter fraud cases since the year 2000 can be found here:
Of these 2,000 plus documented cases, it needs to be emphasized that approximately 10 cases of fraudulent voting may have been prevented if any of the current and proposed Voter ID laws had been in place. How many zeroes following a decimal point would be necessary to convert those 10 cases of the millions of votes cast since the year 2000 into a percentage?
Here are the counter statistics:
Yes, I am aware of the Republican National Lawyers Association’s (RNLA) arguments that massive voter fraud exists. In their 2011 survey released and in their current “Vote Fraud News,” however, the vast majority of reports are based upon newspaper articles and undocumented accusations regarding a vast number of election issues. Given that many of the locations of these “frauds” are within the jurisdictions of GOP majority legislatures, GOP governors, GOP attorney generals, and locally GOP District Attorneys, one would think that such cases would fill court dockets if the allegations of these sources cited had merit. The Party excuse which has been argued historically is no longer applicable in many of the “cases” cited. Since the court dockets are not overwhelmed by such cases, I will suggest that two possible scenarios exist. The first is that further investigation and evidence does not support the charges of these frauds. The second is that the GOP officials making these allegations are unwilling to do the work necessary to prosecute and in effect just collecting paychecks in their positions.
You can view the RNLA reports here:
Am I so naïve that I’m trying to argue that voter fraud does not exist today?
No, fraud has taken place, occurs today, and unfortunately will most likely occur tomorrow is US elections. From Southern history, C. Vann Woodward made an astute statement in Origins of the New South, 1877-1913,
“Elaborate extralegal devices of fraud and chicanery which had developed during Reconstruction became habits that lingered long after Redemption. The stuffing of ballot boxes, the use of boxes with false bottoms, the casting of tissue ballots, the doctoring of returns, the manipulation of counts, the repeating of votes, and the tampering with registration books were all highly developed arts” (56).
Who knew what the term “chads” meant before the 2000 election? The conservative Washington Times ran an article last year in a where are they now segment of Judge Robert Rosenthal who many remember as “the hanging chad guy.”
Simply the most prevalent types of voter fraud are not from an individual impersonating another at a polling precinct. Voter fraud will have a greater effect on elections outcomes when that fraud is perpetrated in either the registration process or the counting process. The plethora of the current crop of voter ID laws has no impact on reducing the potential for the most egregious types of fraud which may and can alter elections.
So what is the purpose of the current string of various Voter ID Laws?
I admit that many sound good, but in reality address a problem which does not exist. What really constitutes a valid state issued ID? Yes, some of the different laws are specific while others are vague, but still think of the still to be completely figured out Real ID hurdles and issues within certain states such as my own home state. Then consider the arguments concerning registries or the usage of any type of biometrics in creating “diabolical lists.” Many who argue in favor of an ID for others will argue vehemently against the usage of the same ID in their affairs.
In that same concept of “OK for me but not for you” rationalizing, some argue that getting such documentation as required by these new laws and obtaining whatever happens to be a valid Real ID in a particular state on a given day is not unreasonable. In many cases, I see some validity in those positions. It may be an inconvenience and a hassle to obtain the documentation and wait, wait, wait… and wait for whatever bureau or board or office to find, confirm, and issue, but you have gone through similar operations on other matters. The financial cost issues are an individual matter. For some the cost is negligible but for others the expense can be a real hardship. Likewise for some the steps for obtaining that Real ID go beyond an inconvenience and a hassle.
What strikes me as hypocrisy are those who argue the ease of obtaining an ID, but are still whining about the closings of the National Parks and monuments. Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina recently in House hearings challenged National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis over the placement of barricades at the National Mall.
An aside on a personal perception:
(The fact that the House, even during the government shutdown, continues to focus on these hearings instead of working on finding ways to end this Party first partisanship and actually try to represent the best interests of the United States of America and its citizens infuriates me. Regardless of who you personally side with on the ideological differences, keep in mind that analyzing the House calendar for the year 2012 will reveal that House Members enjoyed 239 days off, no official 5 day work weeks, no working weekends, and still collected a $174,000 salary. Admittedly the docket does change and technically they had fewer days off, but how does their schedule, pay, and “repercussions” for failing to do their job compare to yours? Heck at both Dulles and Reagan airport Congressman enjoy free parking next to their terminals. Also a $900,000 annual allowance for staff salaries depends upon the quality of the employees, but add that to an annual $250,000 for office expenses and that is a lot of furniture being trashed early and how many coffee pots? Yes some office expenses are legitimate, but I have worked at large institutions and coordinated a number of events where it is practically impossible to spend exactly the same amount each year by mere chance. Even in “use it or lose it” funding situations, one can only go so far and in the case of Congress all of these expenses are paid with tax revenue).
Personal aside rant over:
Like it or not, Mr. Jarvis was doing his job. While operations of his job and that of others still fall under guidelines established back in 1870 with the Anti-Deficiency Act, those guidelines are still the law. If Mr. Gowdy and his fellow Members of the House had done their jobs, the provisions of the Anti-Deficiency Act would not have applied.
The same is true in reference to the military and Roman Catholic Priests during the shutdown.
Historically, politically, and legally, I understand the application of Anti-Deficiency in these religious cases. Emotionally, I disagree with the cancellation of any of these services. Rationally, however, I could see a case of using the same logic employed by some with obtaining an ID for voting. All Catholic Churches were not closed because of the shutdown. For some attending Mass in a neighboring parish might be an inconvenience but attendance was still possible. For others the location of the particular military institution may have made travel to another parish a true hardship and near impossible to arrange on a short notice.
Some may argue that attending a religious service and obtaining documentation and traveling to a voting precinct is an apple to orange’s type of comparison, and in many ways they are correct. Still, the point is one will view an inconvenience and a hardship differently depending upon who is affected. What might seem easy or unnecessary to me may be the most difficult obligation to you and vice versa.
In reference to voting, I don’t feel fraud is the greatest concern. All of the voter fraud which has occurred and even that which some argue has occurred would not have impacted the results of a single election beyond those at the most local of levels. That contention is based on voter apathy? Simply among registered voters, turnout has continued to digress. If a majority of those individuals registered to vote actually cast ballots, numerically the levels of fraud discovered or purported would not have changed election results.
While not the Congressional District where my father presently lives or one in which I have ever lived, the recent election for the 5th Congressional seat of Louisiana is an example of that apathy. To keep things simple, knowledge of the reasons for the opening of this particular seat or how and why the gerrymandering of this district took place will not be included here. I merely want you to view the unofficial turnout percent of 21.5. Seriously, less than 22 people for every 100 registered voters in the district took the time to cast a ballot for an individual to represent them in the United States House of Representatives. That’s a larger problem to me.
(On another aside, I compliment the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office and its current occupant Tom Schedler for a user friendly website and ease of access to other statistical information. I cannot even harbor an estimate as to the number of hours I spent making my own spreadsheets from multiple sources to analyze various elections in the state. Since it has been a few years from my last intensive Louisiana political history research, I’m not aware as to who updated the access and when but it is a nice improvement).
In summation, I believe that Texas is trying to make it more difficult for women to vote. Even if data existed to illustrate that Voter ID laws would limit voter fraud, that method of disenfranchisement is not exactly the same as that being forced upon the women in the state. While it is reasonable to argue the absurdity of these Texas requirements as violations of the 19th Amendment, I think a better Constitutional argument can be made. The state of Texas is violating the 24 Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and the Equal Protection clause within the 14th Amendment. There are multiple Supreme Court decisions tying in Equal Protection with voting such as Nixon v. Herndon (1927), Baker v. Carr (1962), and obviously Bush v. Gore (2000). While not specifically on the question, I believe aspects of Loving v. Virginia (1967) and Reed v. Reed (1971) are applicable.
Regardless of legal argument, are the laws of Texas designed to prevent voter fraud or to make the franchise rights of women more difficult? What is ironic is that in this case the political majority in TX wants to increase the size and scope of government bureaucracy as long as it shrinks the voter pool. Like too many things in today’s world, what one calls a minor inconvenience for another becomes an egregious act of putting as much pain as possible if that exact same minor inconvenience had been placed upon you. Historically, I can point to double standards in reference to gender, nationality, race, and other factors, but I’m not sure if the practice has ever been as personal as it is today.
Am I the only one who wonders what the late Texas governor Ma Ferguson might be thinking?