Sunday, August 5, 2012

FOX News pushes Conservative study that says new Voter ID laws "protect minorities"

The crew from FNC's "Fox and Friends" are up to their old tricks again: spreading disinformation provided to them via a Conservative think-tank with a dog in the fight.  Basically, everything that Steve Doocy just said about Voter ID laws is completely wrong and insulting to boot. This is but thinly veiled propaganda. Notice that Doocy quotes one of the senior fellows who conducted the study, "The criminals, more often than not, are Democrats violating the rights of people who tend to be black or senior," right after crudely asserting that "blacks and the poor" are typically the victims of voter fraud.  So according to the National Center for Public Policy, Democrats are committing voter fraud against African Americans, yet there is no mention of the sizable percentages of African Americans who will be disenfranchised as a result of Voter ID laws, which are supposed to protect said African Americans from losing their right to vote because of Democrats committing fraud. Holy crap! that is a headache.

Of course, the arguments in favor of Voter ID requirements are framed around "voter fraud," which is almost non-existent. And the few rare cases in which voter fraud has occurred have never swayed the outcome of an election. According to the non-partisan Brennan Center for Justice (New York University School of Law):

Fraud by individual voters is both irrational and extremely rare. Most citizens who take the time to vote offer their legitimate signatures and sworn oaths with the gravitas that this hard-won civic right deserves. Even for the few who view voting merely as a means to an end, however, voter fraud is a singularly foolish way to attempt to win an election. Each act of voter fraud risks five years in prison and a $10,000 fine - but yields at most one incremental vote. The single vote is simply not worth the price. 

Because voter fraud is essentially irrational, it is not surprising that no credible evidence suggests a voter fraud epidemic. There is no documented wave or trend of individuals voting multiple times, voting as someone else, or voting despite knowing that they are ineligible. Indeed, evidence from the microscopically scrutinized 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington State actually reveals just the opposite: though voter fraud does happen, it happens approximately 0.0009% of the time. The similarly closely-analyzed 2004 election in Ohio revealed a voter fraud rate of 0.00004%. National Weather Service data shows that Americans are struck and killed by lightning about as often. 
The Brennan Center also notes that voter fraud is often confused or conflated with other forms of election misconduct that can include technical glitches, honest mistakes by election officials or voters, or fraud perpetrated by actors who intend to mislead voters about locations and procedures for voting.

What loads of methodologically sound, peer reviewed research does tell us is that Voter ID laws do not protect anyone. Rather, it is a policy that is known to disenfranchise minority, poor and elderly voters. The estimated numbers of disenfranchised voters varies from state to state. However, the numbers are alarmingly high and I think that most rational people would agree that if even one person (likely from a vulnerable population) loses their right to vote in a democratic society because of an unnecessary policy, that is still one too many:
In November 2006, the Brennan Center for Justice published Citizens Without Proof, a report documenting the findings of a survey conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation, a prominent independent research firm, about the extent to which American citizens possess government-issued photo ID and documentary proof of citizenship.[1]  The report detailed the study’s methodology, its principal findings, and the associated margins of error.  Most prominently, the study found that 11% of voting-age American citizens—and an even greater percentage of African American, low-income, and older citizens—do not have current and valid government-issued photo IDs.
Since its publication, Citizens Without Proof has been widely cited by scholars, legal experts, and the media, and its findings have been widely accepted.  What is more, its principal findings have been repeatedly confirmed by multiple independent studies.  For example:
  • The 2001 Carter-Ford Commission on Election Reform found that between 6 and 11 percent of voting-age citizens lack driver’s licenses or alternate state-issued photo IDs.[2]
  • A 2007 Indiana survey found that roughly 13 percent of registered Indiana voters lack an Indiana driver’s license or an alternate Indiana-issued photo ID. [3]
  • A 2009 study in Indiana found that of the citizen adult population, 81.4% of all white eligible adults had access to a driver’s license, compared to only 55.2% of black eligible adults.  It also found that strict photo ID requirements have the greatest impact on the elderly, racial and ethnic minorities, immigrants, those with less educational attainment and lower incomes.   [4]
  • A 2007 report based on exit polls from the 2006 elections in California, New Mexico, and Washington State found that 12% of actual voters did not have a valid driver’s license.[5]
  • A prominent national survey conducted after the November 2008 election found that 95% of respondents claimed to have a driver’s license, but that 16% of those respondents lacked a license that was both current and valid.[6]
In the words of the Brennan Center for Justice "voter fraud is a singularly foolish way to attempt to win an election," yet, disenfranchising thousands of voters is not. For a complete list of Voter ID policies and legislation that have passed since 2011 (and going into effect for the 2012 election cycle) see here.

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