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The Voter Fraud Fantasy, Continued

[ 61 ] September 17, 2012 |

What really fascinates me about the voter fraud myth is how fervently the zealots believe this shit.  None of their phantom busloads of fraudulent voters transported in from out of state have been verified.  Few if any of the fraudulent votes that they identify appear so much as questionable to elections administrators.  It simply doesn’t exist, no matter how much they try to will it into being.

At the same time, they never question just why in hell somebody would fraudulently vote.  As a student of voter behavior in general with a sub specialty in turnout, I can list at length how the costs associated with voting far outweigh whatever tangible benefits one might accrue.  One has to navigate registration, polling locations, the hours the poling location is open, let alone being in possession of both the internal and external efficacy such that you’re confident in your decision, and that decision will make one iota of difference.  As one who studies and teaches this, it’s amazing to me that so many do vote to begin with.

Why bother to do it twice?  If one is unemployed and has nothing to do with their day, perhaps $20, $50, $100 will get me onto a bus from Chicago (and we all know what type of person lives in Chicago) for a day out up to Wisconsin.  Then you have to ask, for whom is it worth to spend that much money.  The sheer number of fraudulent votes necessary to tip an election such as the Wisconsin recall is not one here, another there, a busload up yonder.  It would have taken 171,106 votes added to the Democratic tally to swing it — to a recount.  Best add another 50,000 to ensure a recount doesn’t happen, as we wouldn’t want this fraud coming to light.  That’s 220,000 voters.  At $20 per fraudulent voter, “labor” costs alone are $4,400,000.  If it costs $100 for a person to give up their day, break the law, and experience both Wisconsin and the interstates, a cool $22,000,000 is required to replace a Republican with a Democrat in Wisconsin.

Then there’s transport.  It would require 2,445 sorties of a Blue Bird All American school bus to transport our wave of nefarious democracy from Chicago to Wisconsin, if packed to their capacity of 90.  I have no idea what it costs to rent, fuel, and provide a driver for one of these, but this cost is not insubstantial.  And don’t forget lunch; in the classic tradition of GOTV, we should feed our anti-democratic legions.

Let’s review.  We need a population of 220,000 people willing to give up their day, knowingly commit a crime, for some modest financial remuneration.  We require the infrastructure to transport them.  And food.

Basically, we need a hell of a lot of money to pull this off.  The entire recall itself, both sides, raised $63 million.  Our project would add a significant pile of cash to this total.

The activists have consumed large quantities of the kool aid.  They believe that these monsters exist.  But those financing the project really know what they’re doing.  It’s more pernicious than preventing granny from voting because she lacks state photo ID.  They’re specifically targeting minority precincts or any other conveniently concentrated demographic that tends to vote Democrat, acting as election “observers”:

In Houston, the group targeted the Congressional district represented by Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat who is black. Ms. Engelbrecht said the group settled on Ms. Lee’s district because thousands of addresses there housed six or more registered voters, which it took as an indication of inaccurate registrations. The methodology, which the group still uses, could disproportionately affect lower income families.

“The first day of early voting, at many of the 37 locations, primarily in minority neighborhoods, dozens of poll watchers showed up sent by King Street Patriots,”

It must frighten these people that six or ten adults live at the same address, let alone that they’re registered to vote at the same address.  This is an economic reality that is incomprehensible to the King Street Patriots.  Yet, here’s the reality:

“They had one particular case I remember very well,” said Douglas Ray, the Harris County assistant attorney who represents the election registrar. “They had identified an address where eight or 10 people were registered to vote. There was no building there.” Mr. Ray found out that the building had been torn down and that the people simply moved.

And then there’s those damned college students:

On Election Day, poll watchers appeared to have slowed voting to a crawl at Lawrence University in Appleton, where some students were attempting to register and vote on the same day.

Charlene Peterson, the city clerk in Appleton, said three election observers, including one from True the Vote, were so disruptive that she gave them two warnings.

“They were making challenges of certain kinds and just kind of in physical contact with some of the poll workers, leaning over them, checking and looking,” said John Lepinski, a poll watcher and former Democratic Party chairman for Outagamie County.

He said that as a result of the scrutiny, the line to register moved slowly. Finally, he said, some students gave up and left.

This transcends lofty concerns about good government.  This is blatant, targeted voter harassment.

And it will have an effect.  In stark terms, this is nothing more than an additional cost that must be incurred to vote.  I can readily understand how it dissuades people from voting to have an election observer, already distrusting your right to vote because you’re the other, breathing down your neck and that of the polling place workers.  Whereas we can roughly measure the effect that a lack of photo ID might have in terms of a reduction of the potential electorate, and we can infer from demographics the asymmetric impact that this has on the two parties, the sort of intimidation discussed in the NYT article linked above will be extremely difficult to account for from a social science perspective.

We’ll never really know what impact that this will have on the election.

Comments (61)

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  1. spencer says:

    We need a willing population of 220,000 people willing to give up their day, knowingly commit a crime, for some modest financial remuneration. We require the infrastructure to transport them.

    Well, you’re assuming each vote-fraud-committing black Chicago person would only cast a single fraudulent vote in America’s Dairyland. If you can get three, four or five votes out of each one, you can cut costs significantly.

  2. wjts says:

    To my mind, the mentality involved in “voter fraud panic” is remarkably similar to the mentality involved in the Proctor and Gamble “satanic panic” as analyzed by Fred Clark.

    • rm says:

      I had exactly the same thought.

      For those who aren’t familiar with the Slacktivist analysis of what Fred calls something like the Anti-Satanic-Kitten-Burning Coalition, the test is this:

      If you show this conspiracy-minded person the actual facts which suggest that, in face, Satanic-Kitten-Burners (or Vote Fraud Buses) do not exist, is that person . . .

      . . . relieved that their fear was unfounded?

      or

      . . . angry at you for trying to deny them their sweet, sweet paranoid fear?

      You can guess that most True Believers in this crap react the second way.

  3. mark f says:

    I’ve seen them highlight two apparently legitimate cases:

    1. A woman registered and voted in the county where she was (criminally mis-)managing a country club, rather than in the county where she lived. This was somewhere in Pennsylvania and she was convicted.

    2. A congressional candidate recently dropped out of her race after it was revealed that she’d been voting in both her home district and in the district where her vacation home resides.

    Neither of these seem likely to be widespread, nor systematic, nor indicative of a conspiracy, nor have a measurable impact on election results.

    • Malaclypse says:

      Interestingly, they never include Ann Coulter on that list of offenders.

    • SP says:

      Nor would either case have been prevented by Voter ID laws. Each person told precisely the truth about who they were when voting.
      Say it with me, Voter ID doesn’t reduce voter fraud, it reduces voter impersonation fraud of which there are precisely 0 verified examples. Actually, I think there was one I heard about, some guy voting in the name of his dead father- if I recall correctly, he was a Republican.

      • mark f says:

        Indeed. And as I’ve pointed out before, their other complaint — that some felons who were supposed to have been barred from voting nevertheless voted in Minnesota in 2008 — is similarly not resolved by ID laws.

      • (the other) Davis says:

        A Facebook friend sent along this link on vote fraud research. Short version: extensive research has turned up a grand total of 10 cases of voter impersonation since the year 2000.

        So it’s probably fair to say that on average there’s roughly one jackass per year in the entire country who actually engages in the sort of voter fraud the Republicans are so worried about.

  4. knecht ruprecht says:

    I have a certain measure of sympathy for the rubes who believe what they’ve been told repeatedly for the last eight years by authority figures they respect. It’s the instigators of this fraud I can’t forgive. I mean, really, someone sat down and came up with the idea of cloaking a national campaign to suppress Democratic-leaning voters in a wholly invented campaign against election fraud. (I presume that person’s name rhymes with “Snarl Stove”.)

    • Barry says:

      “I have a certain measure of sympathy for the rubes who believe what they’ve been told repeatedly for the last eight years by authority figures they respect. It’s the instigators of this fraud I can’t forgive. I mean, really, someone sat down and came up with the idea of cloaking a national campaign to suppress Democratic-leaning voters in a wholly invented campaign against election fraud. (I presume that person’s name rhymes with “Snarl Stove”.)”

      No, personal responsibility starts with them. If they can’t figure out that they’re being lied to, then they should suffer the consequences.

      What they do hurts us; it’s time that they pay for it.

  5. CJColucci says:

    I suppose it’s possible that some non-trivial number of people are voting on the strength of old registrations based on out-of-date addresses. In that case, unless election district boundaries changed, they might be going to their usual polling place, where they’re still listed, and voting in some local race other than the one they should be voting in. I’d be astounded, however, if it made a difference. And in statewide or national elections, they’d obviously be entitled to vote for these candidates somewhere if their registrations were based on current information, so what’s the big deal?

    • rea says:

      I suppose it’s possible that some non-trivial number of people are voting on the strength of old registrations based on out-of-date addresses.

      Note, in this connection, that it is not uncommon for people to fail to update their driver’s license addresses when they move.

      • Cody says:

        Indeed. I was informed when I went to update the license plate it was illegal for my ID to still claim I lived with my parents.

        Additionally, lying would’ve made it annoying as the documents would’ve been mailed pretty far away from me.

        Darn gov’t.

    • S_noe says:

      A lot of my late 20s-early 30s friends stayed registered at their parents’ homes, and got most of their official mail there. Staying ahead of the collection agents etc.

      Data mining, interestingly, seems to be chipping away at this practice. My parents’ car insurance company just figured out I don’t live there anymore with no help at all and made them adjust their appproved driver list accordingly. From my conversation with the agent, I’m guessing they ran me through whatever sleazy find-this-person web service people are using these days.

  6. I’ve noticed this pattern before among Republicans.

    1. Make something up to say because it sounds good for whatever argument or spin you are pushing at any particular moment. (Democrats only win because of voter fraud, Barack Obama only seems like a good speaker because of the teleprompter).

    2. All together now, let’s all say exactly the same thing at exactly the same time.

    3. Believe the thing you just made up, because you’ve seen in confirmed by several different sources you consider reliable – that is, the people who all just agreed to say exactly the same thing at exactly the same time.

    4. Base your political strategy on the thing you just made up.

    I swear, there are a lot of conservatives out there who honestly believe that Romney is going to kick Obama’s ass in the debates, because Barack Obama can only speak well when he has a teleprompter.

    • rea says:

      And recall (if only because we dicussed it in comments here) that the Republicans were bragging at their convnetion that they did not use teleprompters, when there were two in plain sight flanking the podium

  7. S_noe says:

    The quibble pointed out in spencer’s comment is more in line with the fantasy scenario you see presented on freerepublic: bus loads of merry darkies swigging their 40s as they are trucked from precinct to precinct to vote under the names of dead registrees. Such a practice would cut costs somewhat (though it remains utterly unrealistic and, of course, fictional).*

    With the growing availability of cell-phone cameras, it does strike me that good old vote-selling has become possible again: send me a pic of your completed ballot, I’ll give you $20 or whatever. (Perhaps I shouldn’t be putting this idea out there, but someone would think of it.) Of course, ID requirements wouldn’t stop this kind of fraud at all. And, again, the cost-per-vote makes this prohibitively expensive, unless you assume that there is a 1920s level of graft going on. Which freepers no doubt do.

    *(Not imputing these ideas to spencer – just suggesting that the cost calculations are a bit off.)

    • spencer says:

      To be clear, I am in complete agreeance with Brockington that this whole voter fraud thing is complete and utter horseshit.

    • Warren Terra says:

      I’m pretty sure there are specific laws against the scheme you describe already.

    • NonyNony says:

      With the growing availability of cell-phone cameras, it does strike me that good old vote-selling has become possible again

      Again? With absentee ballots vote-selling has long been possible. You get the ballot, fill it out, show it to to the guy buying your vote, stick it in an envelope and exchange the envelope for $20 or whatever. Far, far, far less risk of raising suspicions than taking pictures of your ballot with your phone would.

      Mail-in absentee ballots are pretty vulnerable to pretty much any fraud scheme you want to come up with, yet they are almost never included in any kind of “voting fraud” legislation that comes out of GOP initiatives. Which is how I know that their interest in “voting fraud” is sheer bunkum.

      • Jeremy says:

        From what I recall, in early America candidates would provide food and drinks to voters in an attempt to sway them.

        I couldn’t get much else when I looked on google, because search results are mostly the “voter fraud” mentioned in the post. I’m sure one of the historians knows this better.

        • Erik Loomis says:

          I believe George Washington once won election after backing up a wagon full of booze. But that would have been so par for the course as to not be notable. Noon may know more about these things.

        • Jeremy says:

          This is all I was able to find:

          Voters in some places also expected treats in the form of liquor and food to be served by prospective candidates, but here again, abuses could occur.

          It sounds like that sort of thing was the norm in colonial Virginia, at least.

        • redrob64 says:

          Not the US, but I remember my Canadian history textbook in grade 7 or 8 discussing this. Apparently open ballot voting in Canada in the 19th century often involved party workers handing out bottles of whiskey to voters as they went up the steps to the platform where they declared their vote. If they voted the wrong way once they’d taken a party’s bottle, there would be a group of party workers on the other side of the platform to repossess the bottle. Elections also took place over several days, allowing the parties to adjust their strategies as results rolled in. Good times.

      • Anonymous says:

        Good point on the absentee ballot variation on vote selling – I did have the original, booze-wagon form in mind when I said “again”.

    • Anonymous says:

      In my country in the last election everyone was expected to leave their cell phones outside of the voting boots just for the reason you have suggested.

  8. After Obama wins the election, we’re going to be treated to furious accusations that Eric Holder’s urban Chicago-style Justice Department thugs were brutalizing innocent election monitors, when they didn’t lift a finger against the New Black Panthers.

  9. Craigo says:

    Note that actual, verified instances of fraud – typically registration fraud, occasionally, absentee fraud – are, besides inconsequential, completely impervious to the voter-suppression laws meant to eliminate the “problem.”

    • mds says:

      Well, obviously. Absentee fraud favors Republicans, and hence isn’t really fraud at all.

      • Davis X. Machina says:

        And postal ballots don’t raise any issues.

        When we start seeing fill-in-your-ballot night after Wednesday bible study, and Pastor Bob and the ministry team make themselves available for prayerful reflection before exercising such an awesome responsibility, who could possibly complain. I’m sure announcing “Gee, I filled it in at home and mailed it in already” won’t impact my standing in the faith community in the least.

  10. SP says:

    Math is not a strength of a lot of these people. Nor is logic, empathy, intelligence, or reading comprehension. If you were rolling a D&D character sheet for them you could get away with a single d4.

  11. MAJeff says:

    This is blatant, targeted voter harassment.

    If future Supreme Court Chief Justices can do it, why not a few local white supremacists?

  12. Warren Terra says:

    You calculate all the money and infrastructure needed to bring this hypothesized army of fraudulent voters to the polls, and you rightly point out that this sum is absurd. But you ignore the other nutty part: somehow these hundreds of thousands of people, whose integrity can be bought cheaply, have never spilled a word. Not from pangs of conscience, not for money, nothing. Inconceivable.

    • NonyNony says:

      Well look. Obviously we have to take it for granted that giant conspiracies of people can keep their mouths shut. Because otherwise, how do you explain the silence about Area 51? Or the complete silence about the secret Reptoid takeover of the planet? Or Coke Zero?

    • RedSquareBear says:

      And (at least up here in America’s Dairyland) the poll workers are all local volunteers. If a thousand people who had never been seen/registered/voting before showed up the “Nice retired Librarian” routine would get dropped pretty quickly.

      It beggars credulity that this sort of thing would work on either side of the table.

  13. Quercus says:

    a) Obviously, the bigwig Republican operatives don’t believe this horseshit at all. They know it’s lies, but do it to win, so they can get paid more.

    b) For the TeaParty types, I suspect there’s a left/right asymmetry here. A lefty is happy to stroke his ego by being more knowledgeable/committed/etc than the common rubes (see Nader supporters). But a righty needs to be part of the group, to know that they’re doing what everyone else does. So the righty needs to believe that the majority of the country are also Republicans, therefore it’s necessary to believe that Democrats win elections by fraud.

  14. witless chum says:

    Voter ID bullshit also does nothing to stop stuffing the ballot box, which would presumably be a lot easier to pull off because you’d have to corrupt fewer people.

  15. Bill Murray says:

    This is the only jobs program that can be done without going through Congress. BLS better darn well be counting those numbers if they were real

  16. “We need a population of 220,000 people willing to give up their day, knowingly commit a crime, for some modest financial remuneration.”
    And all 220,000 people are completely silent about it after the fact! They never speak to the press or police about what is happening! That is one impressive criminal conspiracy.
    Odd how honorable they are, when it only takes $20 to make them commit a crime.

  17. DrDick says:

    I think a lot of this stems from the fact that conservatives really do believe that they are the majority in this country, despite decades of polling data showing an overwhelming majority support liberal policies and hate conservative ones. If you believe that you are a large majority, then fraud is the only explanation for losing elections.

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