Like Clockwork

It’s that time again, so prepare yourself for a barrage of conservatives carrying claims of voter fraud, and a credulous media repeating each and every claim as fact.

Wisconsin has been a long-time target of conservatives, and now we’ve added Illinois.

There are two kinds of people who care about the actual voting process. There are conservatives, who look for fraud, and there are liberals, who worry about access. Conservatives believe that one fraudulent vote is one too many. Liberals believe just as strongly that one disenfranchised voter is one too many. There’s no middle ground. It’s adversarial.

The liberal argument is the better of the two, on the facts, but the divide is deep and wide, and the conservative belief that there is massive election fraud in the United States has filtered down from Fox News to Republican poll workers. As a former poll worker, I heard it again and again. I could split a room right down the middle, with conservatives on one side and liberals on the other on just this issue. Conservatives simply don’t believe that voting is a right. They consider voting a privilege to be granted, not a right to be protected. There’s no reconciling those two positions.

Major media have completely adopted the conservative view, and there is virtually no mainstream discussion of the fact that conservative efforts to limit fraud disenfranchise voters. We’ve all decided as a country that we will sacrifice a certain number of legitimate voters to mollify conservative fears about fraud. That’s unacceptable to people who care about access, and we’re not rolling over any time soon.

I’m constantly amazed how reporters refuse to apply even basic common sense to conservative claims of voter fraud. Forget the nuances of election law, media won’t even spin out conservative claims step by step, from registration to actual voting. They just swallow it whole. The good news is, it doesn’t matter. We can win on the ground and that’s where the voters are.

The Ohio volunteer effort on voter protection has gotten better and better since 2004. It was spotty and last minute and sloppy in 2004, better in 2006, a huge undertaking in 2008-my county had three lawyers on the ground and we have about 15,000 voters – and based on my personal observation it’s still better (although smaller) this year.

The best voter protection teams are volunteers admitted in the state where they volunteer. I was really grateful to the lawyers from out of state who came in 2008 (most came from New York, based on my conversations at training) but every state needs a home team. Voter protection is something liberals can put in place in every state and build on, because voter protection efforts are cumulative. Once the team is in place for one election, there’s then a pool of trained people who need only a refresher course and an assignment.

Here’s hoping Illinois and Wisconsin are prepared, because we weren’t prepared in Ohio in 2004.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit

50 replies
  1. 1
    Lolis says:

    Spot on. I trained election workers in 2008 in Austin. Half the people in the sessions railed against ACORN and questioned whether they could ask for a different ID than the ones on the approved list. They just couldn’t wait to try to deny voters access. I was firm with them. It was the best way I could distinguish the Republicans from the Democrats.

  2. 2
    Kay says:

    @Lolis:

    Four years after we put ID provisions in place, to appease conservatives, they’re still insisting an address mismatch on a driver’s license = provisional ballot.

    Not true. Was never true. Four years later. Still doing it.

  3. 3
    Carol says:

    Republican attitudes of voting as a privilege is anti-democratic at the core. If only the elite can vote, then how is that different than outright aristocracy? Indeed, unless the common man can vote, why bother with democracy at all?

  4. 4
    Ron E. says:

    Isn’t there a 3rd option for those of us who want everybody to have the right like liberals but also are concerned about the integrity of electronic voting machines?

  5. 5
    Napoleon says:

    I’m constantly amazed how reporters refuse to apply even basic common sense to conservative claims of voter fraud.

    Anyone who critizied Ken Silverstein in that post about him last week should know he basically went to war with the LA Times, who he was working for at the time over, them doing that.

  6. 6
  7. 7
    Punchy says:

    I’m constantly amazed how reporters refuse to apply even basic common sense to conservative claims of voter fraud.

    But then there wouldnt be any CONTROVERSY, which is the Golden Rule of Reporting In 2010 — if you can pimp it as he said/he said, print it.

  8. 8
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Carol: I have had people (lawyer very active in the Columbus, Ohio Federalist Society) tell me seriously that voting should be limited to property owners. a lot of these people fundamentally do not believe in representative democracy or “one person, one vote.”

  9. 9
    Wag says:

    We’ve all decided as a country that we will sacrifice a certain number of legitimate voters to mollify conservative fears about fraud

    Well duh! Its just like capital punishment. You have to kill a few innocents to make sure you have killed all the bad guys.

  10. 10
    Legalize says:

    Minor quibble. Conservatives don’t per se “believe” in anything. The only point is the accumulation of power for themselves. If suppressing access to the polls is the way to do that, then that’s what they’ll do.

  11. 11
    someguy says:

    What a crock of shit. There’s no voting fraud in Illinois. Not in downstate where the Republican machine runs literally everything, nowhere else either. Why, even Chicago is known worldwide as a paragon of…

    Oh wait a minute…

  12. 12
    John says:

    @someguy:

    1) Political Machine /= Voting Fraud

    2) There is basically no evidence whatever of any significant voter fraud anywhere in the US in recent memory.

  13. 13
    ChrisS says:

    The hope is that they’re only disenfranchising voters that are ignorant of the issues and process in general while providing access to those that are aware of the issues, but ignorant of the policy implications. Thus, there’s no problem with keeping poor dumb folk who don’t know anything out of the voting booth and allowing poor dumb folk who only know the GOP spin to cast their ballot.

    They really like the idea that black people only vote democratic because democrats tell them to.

  14. 14
    aimai says:

    Kay,
    I can’t thank you enough for your posts on this and other political topics. Maybe you don’t realize it but your “head down” and “can do” attitude towards the mechanics of voting and grass roots politicking is really, really, inspirational. You help get me energized for the fight. And right now I can use all the energy I can get.

    aimai

  15. 15
    Cassidy says:

    Conservatives believe that one fraudulent vote is one too many.

    Conservatives believe they are entitled to be in charge. Anything else is a means to that end. There is no low for these pricks.

  16. 16
    thrashbluegrass says:

    We’ve all decided as a country that we will sacrifice a certain number of legitimate voters to mollify conservative fears about fraud.

    This is a feature, not a bug.

  17. 17
    ornery curmudgeon says:

    @Legalize: “Conservatives don’t per se “believe” in anything. The only point is the accumulation of power for themselves. If suppressing access to the polls is the way to do that, then that’s what they’ll do.”

    Exactly! Not sure why the Right always get so much respect for their ‘views’ and ‘beliefs’ … it’s amazing.

    Right wing Conservatives never cared an iota about the Diebold electronic voting fraud evidence, in fact their base and leadership fought against investigation. Yet here we have an excellent writer claiming: “Conservatives believe that one fraudulent vote is one too many.”

    Excuse me, but Cons only care if that fraudulent vote doesn’t benefit them, or if they can make hay with ‘protecting the vote.’

    Why is this so difficult to see? Instead we scour the land to find that mythical ‘principled’ conservative, a straw man if there ever was one.

    Calling these people ‘conservative’ is the first lie. They aren’t any of the nice connotations of that word.

  18. 18
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @ornery curmudgeon: If we say that “Conservatives argue that even one fraudulent vote is too many,” would that be more accurate?

  19. 19
    Ash Can says:

    @someguy: If Mark Kirk were sincerely concerned about voting fraud, the first word out of his mouth in that recording would have been “Bridgeport.” The second word would have been “Canaryville.” But they weren’t because he knows that real voter fraud in Illinois went the way of Al Capone — as in, a legend that non-Chicagoans won’t let die — and because he’s patently full of shit. He has a reputation for being a moderate, and the Chicago Tribune inexplicably believes he’d vote independently of his party line in the Senate. But this recording shows that he’s just another right-wing asshole for whom voters of color = fraud. Fuck him up, down, and sideways.

  20. 20
    Woodrowfan says:

    I work as an election officer in northern VA. In 2008 both parties had a lawyer observing at our (heavily Democratic) polling place. The Republican lawyer had not the slightest clue what the rule were.

    “Why did you accept that ID?” said in an accusing fashion, as if we were breaking the rules

    “Because the rules say we can.”

    “Oh”

    The Democratic lawyer was helpful in 2004, when they complained that one of the poll workers was refusing to let voters take voting guides into the booth. Of course it was the Republican poll worker doing so, and I put a stop to it. (Voters can take any paper voting guide they want when they vote)

  21. 21
    Ash Can says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    “Conservatives argue that even one fraudulent Democratic vote is too many,”

    Now it’s accurate.

  22. 22
    Woodrowfan says:

    we all know what Republicans mean when they said “vote fraud.” it means “that N****R is trying to vote!!!”

  23. 23
    shortstop says:

    @aimai: Times two, Kay.

  24. 24
    Matt says:

    One problem is that people and the media blur the distinction between voter registration fraud and voting fraud. If someone registers Donald Duck as a voter…yeah, that’s wrong, but not really a big deal. But if “Donald Duck” actually gets to cast a ballot, that’s voting fraud. I’m not aware of any occurrences of this actually happening. But conservatives conflate the former to imply the latter.

  25. 25

    Conservatives believe that one fraudulent vote is one too many a vote for a Democrat is a fraudulent vote.

    Fxd.

    Please, if those suckers were at all worried about voter fraud, Al Gore would have been 43rd PotUS.

    Edit: Slow = Redunant. What Woodrowfan said x 2 also.

  26. 26
    shortstop says:

    @Ash Can:

    the Chicago Tribune inexplicably believes he’d vote independently of his party line in the Senate

    I don’t think that asshole Bruce Dold and his buds really believe that for a moment. They just want to offer their less insane Republican readers an excuse to vote for Kirk.

  27. 27
    gene108 says:

    Conservatives simply don’t believe that voting is a right. They consider voting a privilege to be granted, not a right to be protected.

    That’s one of the few conservative positions that’s actually in line with the Founders views on anything. For the Founders voting was a privilege to be reserved for white, Protestant, property owning males above the age of 21.

    I don’t agree with it, but it is actually a consistent position, unlike so much of the conservative cognitive dissonance that comes around these days.

  28. 28
    Origuy says:

    @gene108: Nonsense. Some of the Founders perhaps, but they lost their argument. Property and religion requirements existed in some states, but the US Constitution never had them.

  29. 29
  30. 30
    Richard S says:

    The best formulation, I believe, is thus:

    If a Republican gets what they want then democracy is wonderful.
    If they don’t they were robbed.
    Democrats usually like democracy and accept the results.

  31. 31
    gene108 says:

    @Origuy: Setting voting requirements was left to the states by the Constitution, which is why some states require you to carry a voter registration card, when you go to the polls and others do not, for example.

    I agree not every Founder believed in restrictive voting laws, but they were rarely in 100% agreement on most issue. What did win out was leaving voting laws to the states and I’d guess most states had restrictive voting laws, by today’s standards, where they treated voting as a privilege and not a right.

    In protecting the world view that existed in the late 18th century, which strict interpretation of the Constitution requires and is favored by conservatives, I think treating voting as a privilege is consistent for them; unlike say their views on fiscal conservatism, yet ballooning the deficit, whenever they get a chance to produce budgets and still continue to preach about how they really care about deficits.

  32. 32
    Uloborus says:

    @Woodrowfan:
    Unfortunately, this seems to be true. Historically efforts to limit who can vote in the US have been integrated into anti-minority (especially black) politics.

  33. 33
    Kay says:

    @gene108:

    That’s one of the few conservative positions that’s actually in line with the Founders views on anything. For the Founders voting was a privilege to be reserved for white, Protestant, property owning males above the age of 21.

    It’s not, though. They’re not consistent. Time and time again in Ohio they have skewed the rules, with selective or arbitrary enforcement.

    Absentee balloting is one example. More conservatives vote absentee (where there really is potential for widespread fraud). None of the barriers to voting instituted by conservatives limit absentee balloting. When Democrats started “banking votes” using the liberal absentee provisions that conservatives insisted on, all of a sudden absentee balloting became suspect. Why is that?

    Motor voter is another example. Motor voter laws include a provision to register voters at all county offices. Conservative state leaders enforced only the motor voter part. Why? Because more conservatives register at the DMV.

  34. 34
    Zuzu's Petals says:

    @Kay:

    California legal volunteer here. Sent to Ohio in 2008, and agree that the Obama organization was absolutely awesome.

    Also agree that the greatest confusion seemed to be around the voter ID requirements. There were no occasions of people improperly denied the chance to vote, but likely too many people ended up with provisional ballots when they didn’t need to.

    I will say it is inspiring to see what people will go through in order to vote…Repub, Dem, doesn’t matter, it’s inspiring to see people quietly lining up at 6 am on election day in order to pull that lever.

  35. 35
    Roger Moore says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I have had people (lawyer very active in the Columbus, Ohio Federalist Society) tell me seriously that voting should be limited to property owners.

    It’s that evil 14th Amendment that causes these problems, that and the 24th.

  36. 36
    Shalimar says:

    I am very open to their idea that you should have to show an ID card to prove who you are before you vote. But only if ID cards are available free. You shouldn’t have to pay to exercise your right as a citizen.

  37. 37
    Kay says:

    @Zuzu’s Petals:

    There were no occasions of people improperly denied the chance to vote, but likely too many people ended up with provisional ballots when they didn’t need to.

    Thank you for coming. It was pretty amazing to see that room full of out of staters assemble at 8 in the morning for 2008 training.

    When I was a poll worker, I watched voters passively accept the provisional ballot with that natural human embarrassment at being pulled out of line, and then abandon the task when faced with all those affadvits with the legal language and dire felony warnings. I was going berserk it was so arbitrary. I’d look from precinct to precinct and there would be stacks of yellow provisionals at one table, and few or none at another.
    I had such a time convincing the GOP pollworkers to follow the rules they put into place, without adding any of their own invention. There was this cavalier attitude, as if people had some duty to learn the rules, and they had “forfeited” by not doing so. If one piece of ID is good, two is better! Like that.
    I think if they’re going to set up barriers to voting, at an absolute minimum, they have an obligation to learn the rules they wrote and apply them consistently. This shifting the onus to the voter is just outrageous.
    Anyway, this year we’re all in our places with bright shining faces 3 weeks out, so I’m happy.

  38. 38
    debbie says:

    @Kay:

    Not true. Was never true. Four years later. Still doing it.

    I don’t know if you saw the actual language in Ohio, but I remember that it was ambiguously worded.

    The sentence delineating acceptable forms of ID was set up as a list of bullet points, like this:

    Acceptable forms of ID are:
    Thing A,
    Thing B,
    Thing C,
    Thing D, and
    Thing E.

    Thing D being a driver’s license and Thing E being proof of current address.

    There should have been an “or” instead of an “and.” Most poll workers took this to mean you needed both D and E. As soon as I saw this, I knew there’d be trouble, so I’ve always taken my driver’s license (w/ old address) and an electric bill. This past May was the first time a worker told me I didn’t need to show the utility bill, but it’s not worth the risk of having to use a provisional ballot. I’m going to continue to take redundant ID until I renew my license.

  39. 39
    Kay says:

    @Shalimar:

    Okay, but play that out, logically. What problem are you trying to solve with ID?
    What you’re guarding against there is called “voter impersonation”. Here’s what has to happen. A voter has to arrive and sign the poll book as another person. I would arrive and sign the poll book as you.
    The other possibility is the person fraudulently registered and then arrives to vote. But the registration has already been verified if the name is listed in the poll book or record. That person would have to 1. register fraudulently, and 2. arrive with fake ID. That’s why the “Donald Duck” stories are so silly. They’re caught at the registration stage. They’re never entered on the county rolls, and if you’re not on the rolls, you’re not voting, no matter if you have ID that says “Donald Duck”.
    ID doesn’t solve the problem conservatives say we have. So you have to wonder why they pushed all that ID law through state legislatures.

  40. 40
    Kay says:

    @debbie:

    The problem with that is it’s a poll tax. If you have to pay to renew your driver’s license every time you move (or get married, or divorced), in order to vote, that’s a poll tax.

    There’s a space on the Ohio poll book for your social security number in the case of an address mismatch. You just have to recite it.

    But I don’t blame you for taking two forms. I actually vote early now. It’s less stressful for me.

  41. 41
    efgoldman says:

    @Matt:

    Its OK, because Mr. Duck is a registered GOBP.

    Kay, you’re really on the side of the angels – except I’m an atheist, and there aren’t any angels. You’ve also done so very much to keep the rest of us informed of local political realities on the ground. Thank you.

  42. 42
    brantl says:

    There are two kinds of people who care about the actual voting process. There are conservatives, who look for fraud, and there are liberals, who worry about access. Conservatives believe that one fraudulent vote is one too many. Liberals believe just as strongly that one disenfranchised voter is one too many. There’s no middle ground. It’s adversarial.

    This is oversimplified, and wrong.

    The Republicans are doing voter suppression, using fraud for cover. Their proof of any of this never comes. There have been instances of people that in all likelihood registered in error, and that’s very rare, and no one’s been shown to have tried to vote in two places as the wrong person.

    The Democrats have tried to muster liberal voters to the polls and are worried about Republican voter caging and dirty tricks. Which there is abundant evidence of, hence there is a court ruling against the Republicans for voter caging.

    You need to read up on this quite a bit more, Kay. Try blackboxvoting.org.

  43. 43
    IndyLib says:

    When I clicked on the link for the Wisconsin story, I found exactly what I expected to find, nasty billboards only being put up in the Milwaukee area, intended to make African Americans think twice about voting and said billboards being defended by a white wingnut from Waukesha Co. I damned near ran off the road last week when I saw one for the first time.

    Anytime you hear the wingnut whine coming out of Wisconsin you can bet it’s being winged in from Waukesha. Waukesha county is 94.6 white and has a median income that is $23,651 higher than the state median income.

  44. 44
    kay says:

    @brantl:

    You need to read up on this quite a bit more, Kay. Try blackboxvoting.org.

    I don’t like blackboxvoting, because they make too many broad, sweeping conclusions. That damages liberal credibility, and puts you on the same ground as conservatives. In a sense, it doesn’t matter if there’s a Grand Plan. It’s going to go voter by voter anyway.

    I just stick to NYU Law voting center. It’s the best reliable source, IMO.

  45. 45
    BrianK says:

    Meanwhile, in Indiana… the GOP candidate for Secretary of State Charlie White was forced to resign from his position on the Fishers Town Council after it emerged he had moved out of his district and had changed his voter registration back to his ex-wife’s address to vote in this year’s primary.

    White has claimed that it was all just a mistake, but two specialt prosecutors have been tapped to look into the case.

    Gov. Mitch Daniels – who championed the state’s restrictive Voter ID law (while closing and consolidating the BMV branches where said IDs can be obtained) – endorsed White and has refused to comment on the case.

    Yet another case where the GOP selectively defines “voter fraud” as Democrats trying to vote.

  46. 46
    JR says:

    There are two ways to steal an election. One is to add votes for your candidate. The other is to remove votes from your opponent. One of those is accomplished with great success every goddamn election cycle, and actually resulted in stealing the presidential election back in 2000.

    The other gets attention.

    Our country’s elections administration is one big, long [headdesk].

  47. 47
    debbie says:

    Kay, re. poll tax: That’s why a national ID card would be a good idea. However, I’m uncomfortable in even thinking about reciting my SS number in the middle of a school gymnasium. In fact, I’m sorry I even know now that poll workers have access to that information.

  48. 48
    kay says:

    @debbie:

    Oh, they’re generally not poorly intentioned people, poll workers, as opposed to the conservatives that use this as a political tactic.
    They can’t be felons, etc, and they swear all sorts of oaths. The pay sucks and it’s a 14 boring hour day. There’s no reason to do it unless you’re sort of civic-minded.
    It’s a way of thinking, is my point. If I start from the place that says “my role here is to exclude” I’m going to behave very differently than if I start from “let’s get them all voted”.
    I think that’s where rights versus privilege comes in. Rights are protected. Privileges are granted. I start with the assumption the person presenting holds the franchise. Conservatives don’t.

  49. 49
    debbie says:

    Kay, in central Ohio, they’re pushing for college students to be poll workers this cycle. I’m not sure if this is instead of retirees, or if retirees aren’t as available. I’m kind of surprised more conservatives around here aren’t up in arms over this.

  50. 50

    […] focus on who deserves benefits while liberals focus on who needs benefits. Well, I read this post from one of the subsidiary posters at Balloon Juice and it seemed to fit the theme: There are two […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] focus on who deserves benefits while liberals focus on who needs benefits. Well, I read this post from one of the subsidiary posters at Balloon Juice and it seemed to fit the theme: There are two […]

Comments are closed.