Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Voter ID?

In his blog post, Zach Turner argues that photo ID should be required to vote. He argues that requiring voters to have an ID would reduce voter fraud, and that everybody should just have some sort of ID, because they aren't very expensive and "would really just make everything easier." This certainly makes sense and seems reasonable. With voter fraud running rampant in both Texas and the United States as a whole, it's about time we buckled down and keep the voter ID requirement. Right?

How big of a problem is voter fraud anyway? It must be pretty darn high if laws are being enacted to stop it. Well, according to the Attorney General himself, "evidence of voter fraud abounds," with over 50 cases in recent years resulting in convictions (though according to PolitiFact, 29 of these alleged convictions weren't really convictions, and resulted in varying resolutions). Since 2002, the total number of voter fraud "convictions" is still only 62. In a state of 25 million people, 62 is completely insignificant. In fact, that means that,  on average, there is only one fraudulent vote for every four counties over the course of ten years. According to the Secretary of State's office, 39,072,039 ballots have been cast since 2004. Depending on which estimate you decide to use, our state's fraudulent voter rate lies somewhere between .00005% and .0001%. This ludicrously small number is hardly worth worrying about, but supporters of voter ID laws continue to shout "fraud!" On top of that, the same report noted that 40 of those 62 cases were found fraudulent people illegally cote using mail in ballots for somebody other than themselves, meaning that voter ID laws wouldn't do anything to stop 2/3 of the fraudulent votes. Voter fraud is simply not anywhere near as huge a problem as supporters of voter ID laws say. Hey, even Mitt Romney does it

Those who are against voter ID laws, primarily supported by Republicans, claim that they are meant to stifle the poor and minority voters, who tend to vote Democratic. This certainly seems to be the case. The law poses a huge disadvantage to the 1.4 million Texans  who are registered to vote but who lack government issued IDs, most of whom are Hispanic or African American. Approved ID's can be difficult to obtain, especially for those in West Texas, where they would have to drive 100 miles to the nearest state office, only to drive 100 miles back. Only 8% of white citizens lack an ID, compared to 25% of black citizens, and Hispanic voters are anywhere from 46% to 120% more likely than a non-Hispanic voter to lack an ID. Assuming every single person who was convicted of voter fraud also didn't have an ID, it still wouldn't justify rendering the other 1,399,938 honest voters ineligible, especially when they happen to be more likely to vote for Democrats. 

Supporters of voter ID laws claim that they are meant to combat the threat of voter fraud, but virtually no threat exists. Instead, essentially disenfranchises as many as 1.4 million honest voters (in the state of Texas alone). All of this data seems to strongly suggest that the whole voter ID scare is just a scam. There is no way that those who create and promote voter ID laws, who happen to be Republicans, genuinely believe that fraudulent voting, with such insignificant numbers, is a legitimate threat to the system, and surely it's just a coincidence that those who would be made ineligible by the law or who would otherwise be negatively affected by it happen to be much more likely to vote Democratic. It sure seems as though the GOP is using voter ID laws to suppress Democratic votes, under the guise of protection against a non-existent threat. But hey, that's just stupid.

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