A solution in search of a problem

Or: Whatever happened to early voting?

The legislature has decided to ask voters if they want to make it harder for them to vote.  If voters decide, probably in November, that they want to go through some additional procedures before they’re allowed to cast their ballots, the change will be felt in the 2018 election cycle.

Today, voters show up at the polling places and present their locally-issued voter registration card, sign a document, and get a ballot.  If the change is approved later this year by voters who think they also should prove they are the person listed on their registration card, they’ll have to show some additional identification that satisfies the judges at the polling places they are who they say they are.  Opponents finally got the previously stiff-backed sponsors to build a little flexibility into the proposal. But the basic issue is whether Missourians will support a solution without a problem.

The Secretary of State, the top elections official in Missouri, had estimated the original plan kicked around the General Assembly for the last few years, would disenfranchise as many as 220,000 Missourians.  He, being a Democrat, carried no weight with the legislative majority, being Republican.  Opponents claim the plan will hurt voters who traditionally lean toward Democrats.  Republicans claim the idea is a matter of making our ballots less susceptible to voter fraud.  And they pooh-pooh the Secretary of State’s estimate.

Just how big is the problem this proposal seeks to solve?

How much fraud has there been at polling places in Missouri?

Get out your microscope, folks. It is smaller than the naked eye can perceive.

We’ve consulted the Secretary of State’s election results web page for all state primary and general elections from the 2008 August primary through the November 2014 general election.   We looked at the races in which the greatest number of votes were cast (Total votes decline as one goes down the ballot).  Those races include State Auditor, President, U. S. Senator, and Governor, depending on the year.

Total number of precincts used 2008-2014:  27,931

Total votes cast in highest-drawing races: 11,898,467

Total number of precincts where voter fraud has occurred: 1

Number of Missourians prosecuted for voter fraud: 2

Number of votes in the election in which fraud was prosecuted: 1,342

In a 2010 primary election for a seat in the House of Representatives from Kansas City, two relatives of John Rizzo used fake addresses so they could vote for him.  He won by a single vote. A third candidate got fifteen votes.  His relatives were fined $250 each and were banned from voting in Missouri for the rest of their lives. Rizzo was elected to two more terms in the House and announced last year he would forego his fourth and final House term to run for the Senate.

Two votes out of almost twelve-million have been prosecuted as fraudulent. It takes a lot of zeroes after the decimal point.

But the legislature has taken hours and hours and hours for several sessions trying to get this proposal passed.

And that surely raises questions about motivation.  Doesn’t it?

Those pushing this idea also point to a Heritage Foundation report of seventeen Missouri voter fraud convictions in the last decade (2005-15).  But all seventeen of those convictions stemmed from fraudulent REGISTRATION, not from fraudulent actions at polling places. But true believers in photo-ID don’t want to hear that argument.  Don’t confuse them with facts.

So here’s a new fact that gets to the amount of voter REGISTRATION fraud:

We’ve checked the Secretary of State’s voter registration numbers for 2004-2012 and census numbers for 2014.  The total is 23,929,575 registrations.  Someone who faked a registration in ’04 might logically be prosecuted in 2005 and someone who faked it in 2014 likely would be prosecuted in ’15, so the numbers pretty well parallel the Heritage Foundation study.

Seventeen convictions out of 24-million registrations.

Add up the number of opportunities for voter fraud either at registration or at the polling place and we get eighteen prosecutions about of almost 36,000,000 opportunities.

Our online calculator says that is .000049999999999999996%

We’ll save you the counting time.  Four zeros, a four, fifteen nines and a six.   In those ten years there has been an average of one fraudulent registration or vote out of every 2,000,000 registrations or votes cast.  NOAA, the national weather service, says an average person who lives to be eighty years old has one chance in 12-THOUSAND of getting hit by lightning.

Although the final versions that passed this year began as House bills sponsored by Representatives Justin Alferman and Tony Dugger, the leading voice on this issue in past sessions has been Senator Will Kraus of Lee’s Summit.  And guess what Senator Kraus is running for this year?

Missouri’s top elections position, Secretary of State.

His primary election opponent, Jay Ashcroft, also is a true believer in voter photo ID.

One does not need a very long memory to recall when Secretary of State Matt Blunt, a Republican, and Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, a Democrat, were urging the legislature to pass laws making it easier to vote.  Their early voting proposals did not require people to give a reason for wanting to vote early as is the case now when the voter has to claim he or she will be outside their voting area on election day to cast an absentee ballot.  Early voting eliminated lying and allowed people who might not want to leave their workplace on election day to cast their ballots on some other day.

But easier voting, even with bipartisan support from the state’s highest election officers, was ignored.  The effort, instead, has been on making it harder to vote.

Supporters justify making it harder to vote by saying it takes identification to write checks, get on airplanes, and other things.   They conveniently ignore one important difference.   Voting is a constitutional right.  Writing checks and flying are not.   Many of those who are quick to say that a reading of the U. S. Constitution is all that is needed to set American on the right path again are quite ready in this case to compare a constitutional right to getting an airline ticket.  Do we really think that our Founding Fathers—these advocates also like to cite them—thought voting and (in their times) getting a ticket for a seat in a coach had the same level of importance in the American system of government they were creating?

This issue is going to be on the ballot later this year.  Has anybody else noticed that the last time we might get to vote for President, Governor, U. S. Senator and many other offices without providing more documentation about who we are is the election in which we might vote to forfeit that part of our voting privilege?

And the best the backers of this proposition can do is point to two votes cast out of almost 12-MILLION votes in the last eight state primary and general elections and seventeen cases of REGISTRATION fraud (which is not mentioned in these pieces of legislation) out of about 24-MILLION registrations.

Is our system of a democratic-republic form of government more at risk because of those two votes and seventeen registrations or because of those who claim they want to protect us?

 

Let me know what you think......