Over at The Monkey Cage, Henry Farrell reports on some really interesting political science (pdf) research, About as Many People Say They’ve Been Abducted by Space Aliens as Say They’ve Committed Voter Fraud. But that headline may give you the wrong idea; the research is very clever and shows that voter impersonation pretty much never happens.
Unlike other research that looks at allegations and prosecutions of voter fraud, this research just asked people. But given that it is a crime, they couldn’t just ask, “Have you ever committed this federal felony?” So what they did was create two groups and gave them a list of innocuous things that people do. But the test group had “voter fraud” added to it. All the people were asked if they had done any of the things listed. By comparing the two groups, they could tweeze out how many had committed voter fraud. The number came out to 2.5%.
That’s pretty high. So the researchers did the experiment again, but this time instead of testing for “voter fraud,” they tested for “abducted by extraterrestrials in the previous year.” And the percentage of people who claim they have been abducted by aliens is—Wait for it!—2.5%. It would seem that roughly 2.5% of the people who take these tests do not pay close attention. Or maybe we have a bigger problem:
But there is a more basic issue here. I understand that political scientists need to test the claims of the voter ID proponents. But these activists are being totally disingenuous. Maybe it isn’t such a bad thing to make people show ID to vote. But if that were your actual concern, then you would go about it differently. If you must have ID to vote then the government must facilitate you getting an ID free of charge. Otherwise, it is like a poll tax. No one pushing for voter ID laws is at all concerned about voter fraud. Simply put: voter ID laws begin and end with voter suppression.
The authors of the paper note that as real as actual voter fraud may be, it is dwarfed by other problems in our voting system:
But we aren’t seeing any laws passed to deal with these kinds of problems. And that’s because voter ID laws are created to suppress the vote of Democratic leaning citizens. In future decades this will be as big a shame as the voter suppression leading up to the Voting Rights Act.
And please don’t tell me that those southern bigots were all Democrats. We all know that the big political shift over the 60s and 70s was those southern Democrats becoming Republicans. Southern bigotry has been the core of Republican victories from Nixon through Bush Jr. If the Republicans are going to use racial resentment to get elected, they should at least own it and not make out like they are still the party of Lincoln.