Robert Meyer
"Voter suppression" another red herring
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By Robert Meyer
June 21, 2016

"There are lies, damned lies and statistics." This is a declaration attributed to Benjamin Disraeli, the 19th century British statesman, illustrating that statistics can be manipulated to buttress any argument.

With federal courts having heard arguments regarding the Voter ID laws, already upheld by the Wisconsin State Supreme Court, the issue is front and center again on editorial pages.

It's suggested that statistically low rates of voter fraud prosecution or documented instances, makes safeguards unnecessary. But the assertion is a complete red herring. The argument in favor of deterrent or preventative measures is not germane to the statistical number of convictions or documented cases of voter fraud. This assertion confuses a process designed to prevent activity difficult to detect, with one which is remedial against infractions that have already occurred.

Imagine building a home and informing the general contractor that you are going to avoid the costs of placing locks on all the windows and doors. You argue that there have been no documented burglaries in the neighborhood, so the cost and effort are unnecessary. You would be bereft in understanding of human nature.

So you like statistics anyway? The IRS estimates that 17% of all taxpayers are not complying with the tax laws in some way. In fact, they estimate that they lost $250 billion of potential revenue in 2012 (How do they know that?) Yet in a recent year, only 2,472 Americans were convicted of tax crimes, 0022% of all taxpayers. Using the logic employed by the voter suppression alarmists, we should stop the audit process since it wastes money and focuses on a nonexistent problem .

It also raises the question as to how the IRS knows it is being short changed all that money, when so few people are caught. Perhaps they understand something about the lesser angels of human nature that is denied by the folks who promote the suppression shtick. Statistically speaking, are there really anymore documented cases of "suppression" than there are of voter fraud?

A hypothetical example illustrates the point. Suppose there are no ID's being examined at the polls. You vote impersonating another person. The person's identity you have stolen never shows up at the polls for whatever reason. Fraud has obviously been committed. But how would the crime be discovered and how would the offense be represented in a statistical abstract characterizing the incidence of voter fraud? This is only one type of fraud, yet one easily thwarted by identification checks.

When confronted with the fact that ID's are required for routine daily tasks, the response is that those tasks aren't constitutional rights, but voting is. So why would we give less deference to protecting the sanctity of an individual's voting franchise, than we would for purchasing a bottle of booze or cashing a check? In an era of rampant ID theft, it seems unreasonably careless not to check identification.

Next is the assertion that voter ID requirements disproportionately impact liberal voters. This claimconjures the image of a group of medieval archers sending volleys of arrows into the midst of battle, yet managing only to strike the enemy soldiers. How do only conservatives manage to successfully navigate the voting process, considering conservative voters are often pilloried as being intellectually challenged? You seldom hear about some conservative student or senior citizen that fails to produce proper voting credentials? It must happen, but reporting these incidents wouldn't fit the "suppression" template.

Checking back on the presidential years of 2000-2012, I found news stories regarding liberals alleging voter suppression. These had nothing to do with photo ID's and happened before photo identification was really in the picture. The point is that the innuendo of suppression has long been a bread and butter liberal theme.

If one merely desires to impute motivations on their political opponents, then the argument is easily reversed against the voter suppression crowd. I can just as easily suggest that liberals oppose voter ID's, because they want the potential for undocumented voters effecting elections to persist.

Observing the fact that even during the presidential election, only about half the country's eligible voters cast a selection, apathy is clearly a much bigger problem potential suppression. That's where efforts should be made.

Periodically a social media story appears about an elderly/disabled person who has trouble procuring voting credentials. I have an 88 year-old relative who is disabled, yet has a qualifying ID. Guess how the relative got the ID? One would think that a true progressive would want all people to have ID's to enhance their social mobility, not just for voting. If you didn't know better, you might think it was more politically useful to keep the "lack of ID" issue in the forefront.

The first time I read anyone editorializing ID laws as voter suppression, I thought it was a conservative doing a satirical piece. Fact is sometimes stranger than fiction.

It's months before the election. Do you know someone having trouble getting an ID?

Spend half the energy helping them, as you do shutting your eyes and opening your mouth to shout "voter suppression."

© Robert Meyer

 

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Robert Meyer

Robert Meyer is a hardy soul who hails from the Cheesehead country of the upper midwest... (more)

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