Many people have noted that voter-ID laws are a solution is search of a problem. But as Scott Lemieux has noted, that’s really not the case, The Vote Fraud Fraud: Still Fraudulent. Republicans saw a very big problem: the percentage of white people (especially the old and male ones) in the country was dropping, and pretty much no one else was interested in voting from them. So looking at that problem, they came up with the simplest solution imaginable: stop people who aren’t white from voting.
That was a simple solution because it has a long history of working. Two words: Jim Crow. Pretty much everything that whites did to stop blacks from voting into the 1960s is being done now. As I’ve noted before: if a citizen doesn’t have an ID necessary to vote, what is the requirement that they get such documentation? It’s a poll tax. When the government stopped high school teachers from registering students, what is that? It’s intimidation of voter registration drives. And there is a long list of other ways that the white elites worked to keep others from voting, all on display today, albeit without the same open campaign of terror.
It’s also really interesting that the Republicans have not pursued ways of stopping voter fraud through absentee ballot. That’s the kind of voter fraud that could be done on a large scale that might actually affect the outcome of an election. But absentee voting is something that is done by older white voters. You know: Republicans. So there is no concern about that kind of voter fraud. Again: this is because voter-ID laws are not about voter fraud. They are about stopping Democrats from voting.
A great example of this comes to us from Iowa where Secretary of State Matt Schultz released a report last week on voter fraud. After two years and a quarter million dollars, he found a total of 117 cases of “voter misconduct” with 17 more cases that are pending. That’s roughly 0.008% of all the votes cast in 2012—assuming those 17 pending cases come through. So is it a big deal? No. But even if it had been 99% of the ballots were cast illegally, it wouldn’t matter.
You see, these cases of voter fraud mostly involved non-citizens and felons registering to vote. And some of them involved people voting in two states, by absentee ballot in one of the states, we assume. Of course, none of this necessarily means these people actually voted. A non-citizen may have registered and then not voted. Someone who recently moved to Iowa might still have been registered in his previous state without voting there. So the number—small as it is—is likely overstated. But the most important thing is this: none of this kind of voter fraud would be addressed by requiring voters to show identification at the polls.
What Schultz is doing is what Republicans always do in these cases: show that there is some voter fraud and then argue that this fraud justifies laws that would have no effect on that kind of fraud. The truth is that any complex system will have errors in it. For example, reducing food stamp fraud means that a lot more people who ought to get food stamps won’t. The only way to eliminate fraud is to eliminate the program. In order to eliminate voter fraud, we would have to eliminate voting. The question is, which is better: a slightly imperfect democratic system or a non-democratic system?
But in this case, the Republican push for voter-ID is not about doing anything about voter fraud. It is about voter suppression. This is why states have reduced early voting: there is not even a pretense of fighting voter fraud there. It is all about stopping the Wrong Kind of Voter. This dates back to the earliest days of our republic. But at least men like John Adams were honest enough to admit to their own elitism. Now the elitist party has half the country convinced it is looking out for their interests. Meanwhile, white people vote to keep Those People in their place, while their tax dollars continue to go to Exxon and other “deserving” causes.
H/T: Jonathan Bernstein