Exploring the connection between Voter ID laws and structural racism

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/10/07/exploring-the-connection-betwe.html


It turns out voter impersonation is rarer than getting struck by lightning.

On FUX NEWS COMEDY CHANNEL lighting strikes by the minute, thusly you have a tough sell to the tRump/TeaGOP crowd.


On the surface it seems like voter ID laws were prudent. But when I found out how rare actual fraud is, it became apparent that at best this is a waste of tax dollars and time and at worst an attempt to further disenfranchise the poor (who are disproportionately minorities).

Fun fact - I worked the polls in… 2004 I think. Spent a looonnggg day checking people in etc. Everyone had to have their Voter ID card or something like a license or utility bill. Wasn’t a single issue with that. There were a handful of people trying to vote at the wrong place, but we directed them to the correct one. And there were a handful of people who were not registered, but there was some system in place to get them registered that day if needed. At least who Missouri had it set up back then, with 2 people watching everything, fraud seemed unlikely on our watch.

If you got a day to kill, consider signing up to work the polls. Generally it is run by the over 60 crowd. Get some new blood in there.


How is this a complicated issue? These laws are intended to disenfranchise black voters, along with students, Latinos and others. This is no longer even a secret.


A lot of structural racism and agism works like this. The idea is to disenfranchise those most likely to vote against the existing power dynamic. Unsurprisingly, that group includes college students and people of color, but doesn’t include a lot of corporate CEOs.

They have to kill or neuter all parties that haven’t been wholly bought out by corporate financiers. If you work for the GOP or the Democrats, you are a part of this process, but at least you are on the inside where you might someday make a difference. Just don’t drink the Koolaide.


LOL vote for real change. Good one.


Sometimes I am subtle as a sledgehammer, eh?


I did it last in 2008. I wrote up the experience here.

In my area, elderly black ladies are the backbone of representative democracy. If it wasn’t for them, the whole system would collapse. Unfortunately they are the least likely people to spot voting machine hacking or subversion :frowning: because the internal workings of the machines are a total mystery to them. They just don’t have the technical background.


Today Trump said that illegal immigrants are pouring over the border to vote in this election. I guess that must seem like a plausible threat for people who somehow convinced themselves that an illegal immigrant is sitting in the White House.


Damn Canadians!


I agree that a big part of the intent of the laws is disenfranchisement, I read the NC transcripts. Any effort to keep eligible voters from doing so is terribly wrong.
However, I don’t think election tampering is a trivial non-issue. I am not sure that the problem can be quantified only by the number of people prosecuted for doing it. That would not include anyone who had a successful system for pulling it off. I don’t have any magic insight into any current massive voter fraud, but common sense tells me that the stakes and partisan fervor are high enough that people would do it, if they thought that they could.
It does seem to me that the solution to allow all eligible voters to vote, while preventing fraud, would be either a program of providing IDs, or allowing alternate ID methods for registered voters without traditional IDs. Just saying that no ID will be required at all seems like it would encourage fraud. From what I read of the hated Texas law, expired photo ID, Utility bills, or government check stubs could be used. There is also a pretty long list of other basic parts of life that require a photo ID, including most of the services that the poor depend on, like medicaid, social security, welfare, unemployment, and the like. But I admit that I am not an expert on the urban poor. Are a large number of people living without these things?
I do also admire the strategy of the people promoting the idea of voting without documentation. Any suggestion of questioning the idea that there could be fraud is met with accusations of racism. It seems an effective way of shutting down any conversation about actually making the system more secure.
There does seem to be some fraud being detected. I guess we will need to see how widespread it really is.


The risk to reward ratio would still be ridiculously high. How many people would be willing to risk prison just for a SINGLE VOTE? If you wanted to rig an election there are far, far more effective ways of doing so than one fraudulent vote at a time.

In-depth studies have shown that the panicky mass voting allegations made in the media like your linked TV investigation are mostly unfounded. The “dead people voting” thing usually turns out to have reasonable explanations, such as a vote by John Smith Jr. accidentally getting recorded as a vote by his deceased father.

It’s really just not a thing.


If someone wanted to affect an election, it seems to me it would be much easier to find a handful of people to fuck with the cast ballots, vs get someone to impersonate another person and vote twice.



Voter ID laws can swing elections by disenfranchising thousands of legitimate voters at a time. That’s orders of magnitude more votes than even the worst estimates of in-person voter fraud.


From an article on the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program:

The system can also mistakenly identify fathers and sons as the same voter, ignoring designations of Jr. and Sr. A whole lot of people named “James Brown” are suspected of voting or registering twice, 357 of them in Georgia alone. But according to Crosscheck, James Willie Brown is supposed to be the same voter as James Arthur Brown. James Clifford Brown is allegedly the same voter as James Lynn Brown.And those promised birth dates and Social Security numbers? The Crosscheck instruction manual says that “Social Security numbers are included for verification; the numbers might or might not match” – which leaves a crucial step in the identification process up to the states. Social Security numbers weren’t even included in the state lists we obtained. We had Mark Swedlund, a database expert whose clients include eBay and American Express, look at the data from Georgia and Virginia, and he was shocked by Crosscheck’s “childish methodology.” He added, "God forbid your name is Garcia, of which there are 858,000 in the U.S., and your first name is Joseph or Jose. You’re probably suspected of voting in 27 states."Swedlund’s statistical analysis found that African-American, Latino and Asian names predominate, a simple result of the Crosscheck matching process, which spews out little more than a bunch of common names. No surprise: The U.S. Census data shows that minorities are overrepresented in 85 of 100 of the most common last names. If your name is Washington, there’s an 89 percent chance you’re African-American. If your last name is Hernandez, there’s a 94 percent chance you’re Hispanic. If your name is Kim, there’s a 95 percent chance you’re Asian.

The Crosscheck program, started by Kris Kobach, has spread to over two dozen states, tagging more than 7 million voters as possibly suspect.This inherent bias results in an astonishing one in six Hispanics, one in seven Asian-Americans and one in nine African-Americans in Crosscheck states landing on the list. Was the program designed to target voters of color? “I’m a data guy,” Swedlund says. “I can’t tell you what the intent was. I can only tell you what the outcome is. And the outcome is discriminatory against minorities.”


I guess I’ll stay in the minority on this one and say I question the premise that it is harder for a minority to get an ID–that’s just not true, though I agree that lower income folks are more challenged to find time to do so if they do not have other need for ID, though it is relegated to the percentage who don’t drive or drink or purchase things on credit or bank. How big a number is that?
Voter fraud is a low risk, high impact event, (in my opinion) so voter ID seems a prudent precaution.

I understand that people can remain on the voter roles after they have passed on or moved away. What concerns me, is when after dying, they submit a new voter registration, or actually vote.

Any law that puts a higher burden on poor people has the effect of putting a higher burden on minorities. That’s why “Poll Tax” laws were an integral part of the Jim Crow South.


It seems an effective way of shutting down any conversation about actually making the system more secure.

This is like drug-testing welfare recipients - there’s no evidence it is needed. When there is a paper trail, we can recount and audit etc. When we use unknown proprietary black-box digital systems we have no idea. Voter ID laws do nothing to address the known and potential problems.


But clearly, some people do. I don’t think that we can really argue about things not happening because the penalties outweigh the reward. People do things every day that defy that logic.
I also completely understand the idea of people remaining on the voter roles after passing away or moving. That is obviously not fraud. It is poor record keeping.
And I really am not claiming that I know about massive voter fraud. I distrust the constantly repeated mantra that “Voter fraud is not an issue”. Just as the argument that nobody would risk voter fraud because of the penalties is not a valid argument, the statements about voter fraud not being a problem do not become more true through repetition.

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