Voter ID laws are back in the news once again, with two new opinions from the Wisconsin Supreme Court late last week dealing with the state’s ID requirement, which would allow people to vote only if they provide certain forms of government-issued ID. The Court made some minor changes to the law but otherwise upheld it. However, the ID requirement is still on hold pending a federal lawsuit.
Part of this litigation — and any rational debate about the issue generally — hinges on two things: costs and benefits. The costs of these sorts of laws vary, because the laws themselves differ from state to state (some are far more burdensome than others). The ostensible benefits, though, are all the same. And in addressing these purported benefits, the Wisconsin Supreme Court blew it. Twice.
First, the court cited the idea that ID laws could enhance public confidence–that is, in theory, the laws might make us feel better about elections in that they might provide some security theater. It turns out, though, that this effect is hard to spot. People in states with more restrictive ID laws don’t generally feel better about their elections than people in more permissive states. People who think elections are being stolen, and people who think they’re not, each hold on to that opinion no matter what the governing ID rules in their area…
Second, the court said that ID laws can help stop fraud. It then cited an example of recent fraud … that ID laws aren’t designed to stop. Specifically, it mentioned a case in which a supporter of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was charged with 13 counts of election fraud, including “registering to vote in more than one place, voting where he didn’t live, voting more than once in the same election, and providing false information to election officials,” according to an account by Talking Points Memo. Wisconsin’s ID law would not likely have prevented any of the alleged violations…
I’ve been tracking allegations of fraud for years now, including the fraud ID laws are designed to stop. In 2008, when the Supreme Court weighed in on voter ID, I looked at every single allegation put before the Court. And since then, I’ve been following reports wherever they crop up…
So far, I’ve found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country. If you want to check my work, you can read a comprehensive list of the incidents…just click through to the original article.
What does this cost us?
Here in New Mexico with a small population, our Republican secretary-of-state set forth on her white horse to dispose of the thousands of cases of voter fraud she was confident she’d find. She had the blessings of our Republican governor – the state legislature hadn’t the guts to sort out her waste. So, she spent over $200,000 and came up with less than a dozen folks who registered to vote when they weren’t qualified. Of those, a couple tried to vote and were rebuffed. The rest had already discovered they weren’t qualified and didn’t even try to vote.
Add in the cost of new voter IDs where Republicans and Blue Dog Dems passed laws trying to block minorities and seniors from voting. Add in the cost of defending patently unconstitutional laws state-by-state up to the Supreme Court.
Multiply that by big states with big searches paid for by taxpayer dollars and we confront hundreds of millions of wasted dollars. And as Professor Levitt noted, he found 31 bona fide allegations of voter fraud in the whole of these United States since 2000.
Republicans waste more time and taxpayer money on lies than any other crooks in the country. And they don’t even have to throw in a copper bracelet.