"This reduces the likelihood for irreparable injury...."
September 13, 2014 11:52 AM   Subscribe

An appeals panel of the Seventh Circuit ruled yesterday (pdf) that Wisconsin may immediately implement a photo ID law, for the November 4th election.

There are approximately 300,000 voters in Wisconsin without the required ID. The original complaint, filed by the ACLU, was written on behalf of Ruthelle Frank is an 86-year-old resident of Brokaw, Wisconsin; the only record of her birth has an incorrect spelling of her maiden name: Wedepohl, and is therefore an unacceptable form of identification. Ms. Frank has voted in every election since 1948.

Another plaintiff in the case is Eddie Holloway; Mr. Holloway is no longer able to vote in Wisconsin because his birth certificate lists "Junior" as his middle name, instead of "Eddie Lee Holloway Junior."

"The panel... noted that Wisconsin had introduced new procedures to make it easier to obtain photo identification cards, reducing concerns raised months ago by a federal court judge who had blocked Wisconsin’s law, saying that it disproportionately affected blacks and Latinos."

A similar law was upheld in Indiana in 2008.

Voter ID laws in North Carolina and Arkansas are also set go to trial before the end of September.

A recent study done by Harvard Professor Justin Levitt surveyed more than a billion votes cast in general, primary, special, and municipal elections across the US from 2000 through 2014, and found only 31 credible instances of voter impersonation. And many of those 31 were never confirmed and prosecuted.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (67 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
There should also be laws requiring photo-id inspection for anyone going to prison. It would cause irreparable injury to send the wrong person to prison, after all.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 12:11 PM on September 13, 2014 [38 favorites]


Cue a bunch of republican trolls getting caught illegally getting fake ID's to show how easy the system is to game.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 12:16 PM on September 13, 2014 [5 favorites]


I wonder if Missouri is going to jump on this.
posted by rhizome at 12:32 PM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


If you have to discourage voting to win you're probably not representing your electorate very well.
posted by downtohisturtles at 12:35 PM on September 13, 2014 [15 favorites]


If you have to discourage voting to win you're probably not representing your electorate very well.

Feature, not a bug.
posted by T.D. Strange at 12:44 PM on September 13, 2014 [11 favorites]


A taxable but unrepresented population, like Fergusson, is very much the model they are going for.
posted by Artw at 12:46 PM on September 13, 2014 [14 favorites]


A taxable but unrepresented population, like Fergusson, is very much the model they are going for.

Huh. What is it, I wonder, about that formulation that seems so familiar?
posted by clockzero at 12:58 PM on September 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


It can be extremely difficult to get a photo ID if you don't have one yet or don't have a birth certificate. I recently had all my ID stolen, and the ONLY way I was able to get a replacement was due to the fact that I personally know a notary, who could vouch for my identity on the form I needed to get a birth certificate. Plus, between notary fees, fees for the birth certificate and postage, and fees for the photo ID, I think I paid at least $80. Not everyone has that lying around.

According to one of the linked articles, Wisconsin has made some changes in fees and no longer requires a birth certificate, but will accept other forms of identification like a Social Security card. But getting a Social Security card requires ... you guessed it, a birth certificate.
posted by yarly at 1:01 PM on September 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


Why is it not treason-level illegal to disenfranchise eligible voters?
posted by clockzero at 1:04 PM on September 13, 2014 [33 favorites]


Why is it not treason-level illegal to disenfranchise eligible voters?

I have been wondering that a lot, lately. I suppose the short answer is: it's too popular.
posted by mordax at 1:13 PM on September 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


Why is it not treason-level illegal to disenfranchise eligible voters?

A lot of lawyers could have long and productive careers parsing out the word "eligible" from that sentence.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:15 PM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I wrote this back in 2011. I haven't double-checked the numbers since then, but if anything I'd think the cost would be higher.
Voting is a right. It shouldn’t cost $73.

Why am I opposed to the new Voter ID bill in Wisconsin? Here’s one reason: it shouldn't have to cost you money to exercise your constitutional rights. In the case of a poor person, it can be a significant amount of money just to get a state ID.

Let’s walk through this. Here are my assumptions: a person working for minimum wage who lives on the north side of Milwaukee and was born in Milwaukee County.

The fee for a state ID card (not a driver’s license) is $28. But to get that, you have to have a birth certificate. To get that, you have to go to the register of deeds office in the Courthouse or mail your request. The fee is $20. Many people in poor neighborhoods don’t have checking accounts, so you have to get a money order. I don’t know how much that costs at one of the check cashing places so prevalent in poor neighborhoods, but it’s $1.10 at the post office. It takes 2-3 weeks to get it. You also need to show the DMV proof of identity. We’ll just assume you have a Social Security Card. If you lost yours, well, I don’t know what you do, because they require proof of identity like a state-issued identification card or a passport, which of course you don’t have. At least the card is free, but from personal experience, you’ll have a long wait in the Social Security office.

Which brings me to another point: time. The DMV is only open during the weekdays. If you work a minimum wage job, you’re unlikely to have paid time off. So it will cost you $7.25/hr to go to the DMV. First you have to get there. You don’t have a driver’s license, so it costs you 2.25 by bus. From 35th & North, the bus takes 30 minutes to get to the Downtown DMV. I've never been in and out of the DMV in under an hour, and the downtown branch tends to be busy, so let’s allow one hour at the DMV and one hour to and from. Then, of course, you have to get to work, so let’s allow another half an hour for that. That’s a bare minimum of 2.5 hours to get your ID card, or $18.13 in lost wages.

Let’s add it up!

ID card fee $28
Birth certificate $20
Money order $1.10
Postage for birth certificate request 44c
Minimum wage $7.25/hr * 2.5 hrs = $18.13
Bus fare 2.25 each way * 2 = $5.50
Total: $73.17

That’s a lot of money if you’re poor. Didn't we outlaw poll taxes because they disenfranchised poor voters? Oh yeah, they were abolished IN THE 24th AMENDMENT TO THE CONSTITUTION.
posted by desjardins at 1:20 PM on September 13, 2014 [49 favorites]


Hi there, Wisconsin. Y'all jes' slide right in here a'twixt Gawja, Souf C'lina, and Nawth C'lina. Right in that l'il niche where they made Deliverance. Y'all being yo' cheese? We'll have cheese grits.
posted by jfuller at 1:32 PM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


I don't understand this - would photo ID laws have prevented Mitt Romney from using a false address to vote?

Do the my-rightwing dad email writers think the typical plaintiff in these cases are made up? Do they think desjardins' math is wrong?

I'll just be drinking for the rest of the evening....
posted by Lesser Shrew at 1:38 PM on September 13, 2014


A lot of lawyers could have long and productive careers parsing out the word "eligible" from that sentence.

Yeah, the Constitution's a fucking mess on this issue, it's true.

Frankly, I think we all know that we need a new Constitution. It's a very daunting prospect but there's just too much regulatory failure and corruption to continue on like this.
posted by clockzero at 1:42 PM on September 13, 2014


Frankly, I think we all know that we need a new Constitution. It's a very daunting prospect but there's just too much regulatory failure and corruption to continue on like this.

I know some Tea Party folks who would agree with you whole-heartedly. Devil/Details, of course.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:46 PM on September 13, 2014 [3 favorites]


desjardins: " So it will cost you $7.25/hr to go to the DMV."

The poor have it so easy! If it were the Kochs, they'd have to pay a LOT of money per hour just to do that... Lordy.
posted by symbioid at 1:48 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the Constitution's a fucking mess on this issue,
posted by Fizz at 1:51 PM on September 13, 2014


Huh. What is it, I wonder, about that formulation that seems so familiar?

Well, these guys would be just fine with the whiter, maler, and richer subset of voting-age adults those OG tea party folks were working so hard to enfranchise.
posted by Celsius1414 at 1:53 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Do the my-rightwing dad email writers think the typical plaintiff in these cases are made up? Do they think desjardins' math is wrong?

Some of my relatives (suburban families; middle class; white) are very much in favor of these laws. They have driven cars since the age of 16, getting to the DMV has never been a problem, and they have never had a problem getting ahold of their Social Security cards or birth certificates because their parents always had safe and secure records while growing up. Their jobs have not been in jeopardy because they needed to go to DMV appointments. They have never had to take public transportation to the DMV as far as I know.

They just don't get why it's a problem, and in general I think they dramatically overstate the possible cases of voter fraud.
posted by jetlagaddict at 1:54 PM on September 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


Our system is fucked up. We have low turnouts of people who are eligible and could have a photo ID if their state wanted that bullshit. On the other side we have a bunch of people who want to vote but have too many obstacles to being able to participate.

It seems that the list of states with voter ID laws seem to be GOP strongholds or states with a growing non-white population that might not send back a GOP senator. I'm sure that is just a coincidence though.

Voter fraud is such a non-issue and this is clearly a way to suppress people who might vote in a way that other people might not agree with. If elderly black ladies voted GOP there would be no photo ID laws.

I live in a state that does not have voter ID laws and will (someday) implement election day registration. When the politicians say the reason they passed the law was to maximize participation in the law I actually believe it. The state to the east of want photo voting laws because reasons.
posted by birdherder at 1:58 PM on September 13, 2014


What I don't understand is how voter fraud is supposed to work in any meaningful fashion (at least the kind that could conceivably be prevented with ID). The way I've always voted in Wisconsin is this - you stand in the correct line for your ward. You tell the poll worker your address, and then your name. S/he confirms it in his/her book, and a second poll worker confirms it in his/her book. One of them hands you a ballot, and both mark down the ballot number. As long as you're already registered, no one looks at an ID.

So, if I claim that I'm Jane Smith from 123 Main Street (when I'm not), and I vote as Ms. Smith, what happens when the real Smith comes to vote? Presumably there is an inquiry to find out which one of us is the real Smith, and my fraudulent vote will be invalidated. So, in order to commit voter fraud you have to know that a person is registered and that they are for sure not going to vote. How is that going to happen in any meaningful numbers to sway the election? You'd need to enlist hundreds or thousands of people in various wards across the voting district to make any difference, and I really don't think there's any way that would be kept quiet.

Is there something I'm missing?
posted by desjardins at 2:18 PM on September 13, 2014 [6 favorites]


> how voter fraud is supposed to work in any meaningful fashion

An argument I've heard (that I do not agree with) is that fraud sullies the process. It's not that it actually swings elections, but that by knowing that voting is tainted, upstanding moral citizens might feel bad.
posted by morganw at 2:26 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


Voting is a right. It shouldn’t cost $73.

Well, $73 isn't much for the peers of the elected officials, right? After all, the rich are in power, so $73 for a millionaire isn't much.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:37 PM on September 13, 2014


But getting a Social Security card requires ... you guessed it, a birth certificate.

Not always. 20 CFR 422.107 requires proof of age, identity and citizenship. Age and identity can be established by documents including medical, religious, marriage or school records. Documentary proof of citizenship may not be required where a person was born in the US and has previously had a SSN. So yes, you need some documents, but no, you don't HAVE to provide a birth certificate.
posted by T.D. Strange at 2:39 PM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Is there something I'm missing?

You're missing the racist desire to pretend to care about a nonexistent problem in order to rules lawyer your way into oppressing minorities who would vote for your opponents.
posted by poffin boffin at 2:55 PM on September 13, 2014 [29 favorites]


I more concerned about SHA-256 checksums on the voting machine code than I am about photo ID.
posted by mikelieman at 3:39 PM on September 13, 2014 [4 favorites]


Celsius 1414 >

Well, these guys would be just fine with the whiter, maler, and richer subset of voting-age adults those OG tea party folks were working so hard to enfranchise.

I'm sure you're right, but that seems tangential to the question of how widely applicable the generalized principle can be or how worthwhile it is in some other sense.

Thorzdad >

I know some Tea Party folks who would agree with you whole-heartedly. Devil/Details, of course.

Of course. There would be fierce competition for control over that process. But it isn't as though we who don't worship power and domination, unlike the tea party types, aren't risking anything through inaction, either.
posted by clockzero at 4:17 PM on September 13, 2014


One of the reasons the court allowed the law is that the ID is free and doesn't require a birth certificate.
posted by jpe at 4:23 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's only free if your time is worth nothing. And it doesn't require a birth certificate, only forms of ID that themselves require a birth certificate.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 4:26 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


No, no ID is needed. You just fill out a form.
posted by jpe at 4:29 PM on September 13, 2014


From jsonline:
On Wednesday, the state Division of Motor Vehicles responded to the ruling by announcing its new system for issuing IDs. People who do not have birth certificates or certain other documents will be able to apply for IDs by filling out paperwork that includes their names, date and city of birth and parent's names.

State officials will then search databases to confirm the person's identity and review other documents if necessary.

While people will not have to show birth certificates, they will have to produce documents proving residency, such as utility bills, and proving identity, such as Social Security cards...
Guess what you have to show in order to get a Social Security card?
posted by TheNewWazoo at 4:35 PM on September 13, 2014


Or you can present a W2, 1099, paystub, marriage certificate, etc.
posted by jpe at 4:37 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


W2 requires an I-9 which requires...
1099 requires an I-9 which requires...
Paystub requires an I-9 which requires...
Marriage certificate (at least, in FL, where mine is from) requires...

You guessed it. Ultimately, a birth certificate.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 4:40 PM on September 13, 2014 [10 favorites]


Also, let me register here my overwhelming confidence that the Walker administration's numerous DMV offices which are undoubtedly staffed with highly-skilled and motivated workers who aren't at all demoralized by having a boss who thinks their function should be outsourced will have rapid and comprehensive access to the very finest data sources available to them. Yes siree.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 4:44 PM on September 13, 2014


and my fraudulent vote will be invalidated.

Not unless you'd put your name (or the name you were voting as) on it. Presumably you didn't, so they have no idea which vote was yours.

But nobody is doing this. There is effectively 0 voter fraud and this is just racist and classist BS.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 4:45 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


They don't put your name on the ballot, but they can look it up because they put the ballot number next to your name in the voter book I mentioned in my comment. So, when the real Jane Smith comes in, they see that they already gave ballot #1234 to someone (me).
posted by desjardins at 4:58 PM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


And yes, I know this is all pretense for racist and classist disenfranchisement, but I was curious if there was any logic to this at all, and the answer seems to be no.

For reference, before this law, here's what you had to show to be able to register to vote. Once you've registered, all you had to give was your name and address. I just registered here a month ago using only a utility bill because I did not have a Wisconsin ID (long story).
The following constitute acceptable Proof-of-Residence if the document contains your current name and address and is valid on Election Day (unless otherwise indicated):

-A current and valid Wisconsin driver license.
-A current and valid Wisconsin identification card.
-Any other official identification card or license issued by a Wisconsin governmental body or unit.
-Any identification card issued by an employer in the normal course of business and bearing a photo of the card holder, but not including a business card.
-A real estate tax bill or receipt for the current year or the year preceding the date of the election.
-A residential lease which is effective for a period that includes election day (NOT for first-time voters registering by mail).
-A university, college or technical institute identification card (must include photo), ONLY if the bearer provides a fee receipt dated within the last nine months or the institution provides a certified housing list to the municipal clerk.
-A gas, electric or telephone service statement (utility bill) for the period commencing not earlier than 90 days before election day.
-Bank statement
-Paycheck
-A check or other document issued by a unit of government
posted by desjardins at 5:04 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


They don't put your name on the ballot, but they can look it up because they put the ballot number next to your name in the voter book I mentioned in my comment. So, when the real Jane Smith comes in, they see that they already gave ballot #1234 to someone (me).

Are you kidding? Doesn't that completely violate the principle of the secret ballot? How is that legal?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:17 PM on September 13, 2014


According to the wikipedia page on the secret ballot, the practice you describe is used in the UK, not the US. In the US if there's a number attached to the ballot, it's torn off before depositing in the ballot box:
The United Kingdom secret ballot arrangements are sometimes criticised because it is possible to link a ballot paper to the voter who cast it. Each ballot paper is individually numbered and each elector also has a number. When an elector is given a ballot paper, their number is noted down on the counterfoil of the ballot paper (which also carries the ballot paper number). This means, of course, that the secrecy of the ballot is not guaranteed, if anyone can gain access to the counterfoils, which are locked away securely before the ballot boxes are opened at the count. Polling station officials colluding with election scrutineers may therefore determine how individual electors have voted.
....
In the United States, sometimes the number on the ballot is printed on a perforated stub which is torn off and placed on a ring (like a shower curtain ring) before the ballot is cast into the ballot box. The stubs prove that an elector has voted and ensure he can only vote once, but the ballots themselves are both secret and anonymous. At the end of voting day, the number of ballots inside the box should match the number of stubs on the ring, certifying that every ballot was cast by a registered elector, and that none of them were lost or fabricated. Sometimes the ballots themselves are numbered, making the vote trackable. This was ruled legal by Federal District Judge Christine Arguello, who ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not grant a right to a secret ballot.[19]
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 5:32 PM on September 13, 2014


Yeah, I was mistaken as to what was being written down, this is what happens: "Poll workers write the Election Day Voter Number on the poll list, and issue the voter a ballot."
posted by desjardins at 5:39 PM on September 13, 2014


Not sure if it's the same in Wisconsin but in Illinois we use a voter application to determine identity and/or fraud. The application is preprinted with the voter's information and a signature. After asking people to verify their address they sign the application and the judge then compares the two signatures to verify that they are close.

The polling places I've worked were pretty average sized. We'd begin to recognize people if they came to vote more then once or twice. If there wasn't a preprinted application then there are all kinds of time consuming steps that require ID before someone gets a ballot. Judges would probably not be able to tell if someone's application had already been voted. It's pretty rare when someone comes in and doesn't have a preprinted application and they are allowed to vote normally.

A lot of people in the polling place I work voluntarily present a drivers license or id card when they come in.
posted by lester at 6:28 PM on September 13, 2014


In my state, we don't even have paper ballots; we use voting machines where you pull levers and it just increments the votes for each candidate. There is no way, even in principle, to track who cast which vote.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 7:17 PM on September 13, 2014


Marriage certificate (at least, in FL, where mine is from) requires...

Full name, address, telephone number, and $5. No birth certificate needed. Marriages are public record in Florida.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:44 PM on September 13, 2014 [1 favorite]


So, I think there are two types of people who are in favor of these laws.

Those that have been duped into thinking that voter fraud was a problem that was threatening America, and that didn't need any evidence to back up this fear.

And those that don't believe in democracy.

I wish I was a generous enough person to assume that most people have been duped. Instead my dark cynicism takes hold and thinks those behind these efforts don't believe in democracy.
posted by el io at 9:19 PM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


What I don't understand is how voter fraud is supposed to work in any meaningful fashion

It's always been ridiculous to assume that people would risk a felony conviction to cast a single extra vote, as if that one vote was going to sway the election and be worth the risk.

The only credible scheme for voting fraud would have to involve messing with how they're counted.
posted by straight at 9:59 PM on September 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


el io:
I wish I was a generous enough person to assume that most people have been duped. Instead my dark cynicism takes hold and thinks those behind these efforts don't believe in democracy.
The people promoting these measures absolutely believe that their victory is more important than the principles of democracy. They rely on the support of many who have been conned into believing in the threat of individual-level vote fraud but if that were truly their concern you would reasonably expect them to change their behavior when confronted with evidence of the almost nonexistence of the problem and the harm of their remedies' "unintended" side-effects.

straight:
The only credible scheme for voting fraud would have to involve messing with how they're counted.
If someone were caught breaking into low-income precincts at the close of voting on election day and taking boxes with 10-20% of the ballots away before they could be counted, every right-thinking person in this country would be outraged about the crime committed and the unpardonable affront to the integrity of our system. But somehow preventing the same number of voters from being able to vote in the first place is supposed to be just good strategy and not at all the same as voter fraud.. There is an obvious and huge contradiction here.
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:17 PM on September 13, 2014 [9 favorites]


Perhaps I should have clarified, in the paragraph in which I am responding to straight's comment, that I am not trying to assert that straight is a person who is arguing in favor of that position. I just was struck by how miscounting or removing a significant fraction of the votes cast would be voter fraud, while preventing them from being cast in the first place is apparently A-OK with the people who are promoting these policies.
posted by Nerd of the North at 10:35 PM on September 13, 2014


If you think voter suppression is anything now, wait 'til you see what happens when whites are at the edge of becoming a minority. The shitstains in power are going to go insane.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:18 AM on September 14, 2014


I just never understand this stuff. In New Zealand when I vote I just roll up to the voting station, tell them my name and they cross me off the electoral roll. And I get on that roll by filling in a form and sending it in. Doing either of those things fraudulently is illegal of course, but this seems to have been prosecuted once.

I'm not tied to voting at any one booth either, I can vote anywhere in the country. Outside the country too for those eligible. You can even vote early if you can't make it on the day although I think you have to give a reason. Outside my electorate I have to fill in a special vote instead of a normal one and it takes a bit longer to count those, but otherwise no big deal. It's great, voting should be this easy.

And yeah, our ballots aren't technically secret. We have the same system as the UK by the sounds of it, the ballot and the voter each have unique numbers which get recorded next to each other somehow (I can't remember the details, I didn't pay that much attention). So at the end of the day when the rolls are scanned in, if my name is crossed off in more than one polling booth then those ballots are pulled and destroyed. The reason this preserves the secret etc is because there is nothing identifying on the part where the votes are counted and you can only link the two together if you bother to go and physically look. We trust our election officials to not do this - and again it seems to work. I could decide to nullify your vote by going to a booth and pretending to be you but that's a lot of effort and doesn't seem to happen at any appreciable levels (this stuff is, of course, measured, I'm not just guessing here). NZ has one of the lowest rates of corruption in the world apparently, maybe this is why we can get away with such an easy system?

As for single votes not counting, last election one of the seats was won by only nine votes. Given there are only 120 places available in the first place that's a meaningful win. This is why everyone of legal age and residency status should be allowed, even encouraged, to vote.
posted by shelleycat at 12:51 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


I guess the Twitter soundbite is: The only voter fraud that's happening at a statistically measurable level is voter fraud legislation.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 1:00 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


Foreign election officials amazed by trust-based U.S. voting system
"...The most often noted difference between American elections among the visitors was that in most U.S. states, voters need no identification...

...Provisional ballots are also a source of puzzlement for international officials. American voters who don't find their names on the rolls can vote anyway and verify their eligibility days later..."

posted by republican at 3:55 AM on September 14, 2014


It's funny that in situations where organized voter fraud has occurred on a large scale (let's say Illinois in the '60s), a voter ID law wouldn't have made the slightest bit of difference, because one party effectively controlled the process.

Voter fraud works in these situations because you already control the registry, so when you have things like, let's say, dead people being registered to vote, and buses taking voters from poll to poll, all that would happen is that the person checking the registry (who is also part of your machine) at each polling place would ask for ID, your voters would wave a bit of psychic paper at them, and proceed to vote as normal.

Similarly, in countries where mass vote-rigging occurs, often everyone is able to vote in a relatively open, transparent way, and then the ballot boxes disappear for a bit, because the established regime controls the process.


Now who currently could be making multiple and systematic attempts to control the electoral process in the US?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:18 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


...Provisional ballots are also a source of puzzlement for international officials. American voters who don't find their names on the rolls can vote anyway and verify their eligibility days later..."

And yet when it comes to anything else, the mainstream right-wing position is that invoking foreign laws or international standards erodes American sovereignty.

Gee, I wonder what could be different here, given which blocs of legitimate voters these laws will disproportionately affect....
posted by kewb at 5:14 AM on September 14, 2014


Foreign election officials amazed by trust-based U.S. voting system

Sure, yeah, compared to fledgling democracies like Jordan, Libya, etc, the US is crazy trust-based. But the US is not a fledgling democracy, rather a developed nation that we expect to have good procedures and a sane civil society. Compare it to its normal counterparts - Australia, Canada, UK, Germany, etc. And I bet in those (I know for sure in Canada), you don't look like you're very trusting!

Except of course the trust in the voting machine manufacturers.
posted by Lemurrhea at 7:06 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


The essence of conservative politics is projection. If they are nattering on about voter fraud it means they are doing it or plan on doing it in the near future. I'd look at absentee ballots and electronic voting in closely contested races
posted by mrbigmuscles at 7:46 AM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


what happens when the real Smith comes to vote? Presumably there is an inquiry to find out which one of us is the real Smith, and my fraudulent vote will be invalidated.

At least here, all you have to do is show up with something proving your name and address. Ideally that's your voter registration card, but it's not necessary. If you don't have that, any bit of Serious Mail (anything from govt, bank, utility bill, etc) will work. And if you don't have those, you can fill out a Statutory Declaration saying who you are. We don't turn anyone away from the polls here, and groups that work to help e.g. the homeless vote aren't demonized.

In practice, most people use a piece of photo ID but it is in no way mandatory. It's virtually impossible, at least from my training in the last provincial election, to turn anyone away, and in fact poll workers are trained explicitly to help people cast their vote.

Plus every single one of our ballots goes on paper, everything in a given box gets counted by two people who both have to sign off on the numbers, and scrutineers from the various parties are standing around watching. Each set of votes from a given box is kept together, and can be recounted at any time, and are if memory serves recounted once they arrive at the returning office anyway.

Somehow we don't have a problem with voter fraud here.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:55 AM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


NZ has one of the lowest rates of corruption in the world apparently, maybe this is why we can get away with such an easy system?

As an entire nation, NZ has a population lower than just the state of Wisconsin. There are large cities in the US with higher populations than all of NZ. So maybe it's a matter of scale?
posted by poffin boffin at 8:57 AM on September 14, 2014


But surely an easier, more straight forward system scales better than a complicated one?
posted by shelleycat at 9:30 AM on September 14, 2014 [2 favorites]


Just using one part of your example, "I'm not tied to voting at any one booth either, I can vote anywhere in the country", if people in NYC could vote wherever they wanted instead of their assigned polling locations (which are assigned by residence), presumably everyone would vote wherever was closest to where they had to be that day. That might be at home before/after work, or it might be at work on a break. There are about 1.5 million residents in Manhattan alone, but the daily workforce population is a bit more than double that, around 3.1mil, which could really create a nightmare for voters.

At the last presidential election I waited almost 3h to vote, which would have been a serious financial hardship if I was an hourly worker, and that was with just local residents. If that poll site had been open to any registered voter we would have had easily 3k more people there, at that one location alone, because of the huge hospital complex that was around the corner.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:00 AM on September 14, 2014


Good point, I hadn't thought of the logistics like that. Getting the voting papers back to their original locations would also be a nightmare with a country that big, let alone providing the correct voting papers for each person since they vary based on your electorate.

But if you're already waiting three hours to vote maybe there needs to be more voting booths? Even better would be enough for all the people in that location needing to vote, since, for example, it's not exactly a surprise to anyone that the hospital is full of people? A quick look at the voting stations for Auckland shows one right in the main hospital's entrance foyer, presumably because of all the people expected to be there on election day since it's not a very residential area and the nearby offices are generally empty on Saturday.

Restricting people to voting only within their region seems reasonable but only being allowed at one place is a bit strict. There are workarounds if you care. Weren't there stories of co-incidentally poor brown people being sent to the wrong place so they ended up not being able to vote during the last US election? (I remember reading about it but that doesn't mean it happened of course.) Logistics is a good excuse for keeping control - and retaining the potential for abusing that control. This ID thing seems like more of the same.
posted by shelleycat at 11:41 AM on September 14, 2014


This is why, since every single position is voted for at the same time in the USA, I tend to think Election Day should be a national mandatory holiday. Close everything non-essential except the polling stations. July Fourth in November. Call it Patriot Day, even! You'd think this would be a conservative value, participating in the democratic process and such. Maybe the Democrats could sneak it by the Republicans by branding it that way? "Be it resolved that to ensure citizen participation in our great country's unequaled democratic process, we hereby establish a national paid holiday on every election day, to be called Patriot Day."

Or Freedom Day! "What, GOP, don't you like Freedom?"

FTR, I'd also support the same here in Canada, but our elections happen independently at the municipal/provincial/federal levels and provincially/federally aren't necessarily on fixed dates, which would make things a bit of a nightmare. And I'm adamantly against fixed election dates at anything above municipal level because of the culture of constant campaigning they engender. (This 10-month campaign process in Toronto is BEYOND brutal). Then again, Elections Ontario operates mobile polling 'stations' to assist people who are housebound, advance polling is a thing, and polls are open for twelve hours and at least in cities are within walking distance of your home. (Hell, even living in small town Ontario it was maybe a three minute drive to vote. Took longer to park than it took to go in, vote, and be out again.) Our problem, and it is a significant one, is voter apathy, not so much voter disenfranchisement. (Voting in more remote areas is problematic with regards to access; Elections Ontario at least is trying to address this, no idea about other provinces or the federal agency.) We also provide translators in a gajillion languages (admittedly you might need to wait a little while there), Braille ballots, assisted voting if you're having real trouble, all polling stations must conform to physical access laws... None of this is difficult or particularly expensive to do. And, again, it should be a conservative value to uphold and spend money on the electoral process, shouldn't it? We all know why it's not, but still.

Admittedly for the vast majority of elections in Canada you're voting for a single person. That does simplify things a lot. Some municipal elections get stickier--in Toronto, we vote for our Ward councillor, for school trustees, and for the mayor all at once. But any way I look at it, that seems to me to be a reason why the USA needs to simplify its process. There's no good reason for judges, sheriffs, prosecutors to be elected; those jobs have--or should have--actual qualifications that aren't reflected in a ballot box. Changing that alone would make things simpler, and would engage more people in the process I think.

At the end of the day, though, even though we all know why it's happening there just isn't any excuse at all for making voting an onerous chore, or something reserved for people of (relative) means--in any country, anywhere. Democrats really need to respond to this, and frankly, use the Republican spin against them: "Why do you hate democracy" would be a good start. "Why do you want to make it hard for legal citizens to vote" would be another. Putting out actual facts about voter fraud, too--there were, what, two cases? three? out of how many millions of votes cast in 2012?

Or at the very, very least, move election day to a Saturday. Or hold elections for two days. Or whatever. Anything to stop the disenfranchisement of a right guaranteed by the Constitution.

If ACORN hadn't be so thoroughly demonized, I'd have hoped there'd be some enterprising groups working to get people with ID problems to vote via advance or absentee ballots. But that way lies madness, and we all know what would happen.

Weren't there stories of co-incidentally poor brown people being sent to the wrong place so they ended up not being able to vote during the last US election? (I remember reading about it but that doesn't mean it happened of course.)

There were and they were substantiated, IIRC.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:34 PM on September 14, 2014


Somehow we don't have a problem with voter fraud here.

Neither do we: Voter Fraud Literally Less Likely Than Being Hit By Lightning
Justin Levitt has been tracking allegations of voter fraud for years. "To be clear," he says, "I’m not just talking about prosecutions. I track any specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix." So far, he's found 31 cases representing around 200 individuals. If every one of them turns out be a genuine case of fraud, that's a fraud rate of [0.00002%]
[...]
This compares to many thousands of voters who have been turned away from the polls for lack of ID in just the past few years.

Also worth noting: every single one of these cases involves just one or a few people. There's not a single credible case in the past 15 years of any kind of organized voter impersonation scam of the kind that might actually affect the outcome of an election. There's just no there there.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:27 PM on September 14, 2014 [1 favorite]


And just to connect the dots: Georgia GOPer Complains About Early Voting, Excessive Black Voting
A Republican state senator in Georgia has vowed to end Sunday balloting in DeKalb County due to the fact that the area is "dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches."

The news was flagged by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In a longwinded email state Sen. Frank Millar (pictured) rants that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal "appointee Interim CEO Lee May has disappointed those of us that hoped he could help bring the county together."

Millar goes on to note that DeKalb county happens to include a number of African American mega churches.

"Now we are to have Sunday voting at South DeKalb Mall just prior to the election," Millar wrote in the email. "Per Jim Galloway of the AJC, this location is dominated by African American shoppers and it is near several large African American mega churches such as New Birth Missionary Baptist. Galloway also points out the Democratic Party thinks this is a wonderful idea – what a surprise. I’m sure Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter are delighted with this blatantly partisan move in DeKalb."
Of course, as Charlie Pierce regularly reminds us, it's not about race, because it's never about race:
[T]he Secretary of State down there has been exposed as having a moderate view of the matter.
In closing I just wanted to tell you, real quick, after we get through this runoff, you know the Democrats are working hard, and all these stories about them, you know, registering all these minority voters that are out there and others that are sitting on the sidelines, if they can do that, they can win these elections in November," Kemp said in his speech. "But we've got to do the exact same thing. I would encourage all of you, if you have an Android or an Apple device, to download that app, and maybe your goal is to register one new Republican voter.
"All these minority voters" are clearly of some importance to Brian Kemp, because he knows the kind of shenanigans they've been up to in the past.
Everybody remembers ACORN right? When ACORN was out registering people to vote they were filling out applications, they were sending out stuff and you don't know who those people are, where they're from, the people they're registering, and the people that are filling those out.
ACORN! More dangerous the longer it doesn't exist!
posted by zombieflanders at 1:52 PM on September 14, 2014 [5 favorites]


desjardins: "They don't put your name on the ballot, but they can look it up because they put the ballot number next to your name in the voter book I mentioned in my comment. So, when the real Jane Smith comes in, they see that they already gave ballot #1234 to someone (me)."

Having gone through a long, messy, disgusting voter ID thing in PA over the last few years, I can tell you one way that the average voter-ID-supporting folks answer this: "They" can get away with it because Jane Smith never comes in to vote, because look at how low voter turnout is.

This makes total sense logistically in a manner of speaking? Because, there's a level of "missing the forest for the trees" that passes for "common sense." [sigh]
posted by desuetude at 10:52 PM on September 14, 2014


The Supreme Court has halted implementation of the law.
posted by TheNewWazoo at 7:18 PM on October 9, 2014 [1 favorite]


I can't get too riled up one way or the other this issue since the fix is generally in long before the man in the street becomes the man in the voting booth. At least one of the links notes in passing that plenty of vote fraud still goes on - it's just done behind closed doors at the wholesale level. Retail voter fraud (vote early, vote often, the beer is on the house) hasn't been cost effective in generations. (Or am I wrong? Evidence welcome.)

Still, cynic though I am, I go, even on off years, and still I get annoyed that they take my word that I am who I say I am. Habit, I suppose. Plus I can't be accused of not having voted when I rubbish whoever wins.

(As an aside, I think it interesting that the only independent in the senate is from Vermont, where you are required to raise your right hand and take the freeman's oath before being allowed to vote. I approve heartily of such things.)
posted by IndigoJones at 9:54 AM on October 11, 2014


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