PolySciFi Blog

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


ID Cards

UPDATE: As Richard pointed out in the comments, yesterday, a federal judge barred the state of Georgia from enforcing their new law. Here's the AP story linked through the Rome News-Tribune.

In the comments to my post below, Jody points out some potential bad reporting in the New York Times editorial about Georgia's new voting law. I accept his point--the state of Georgia may, in fact, be making efforts to make it possible for the indigent to vote even with House Bill 244 as law. I have a lot to say about this, but I'll stick to one point and one point only:

This bill is not necessary. It doesn't address an actual problem. Whether or not the additional burden it opposes on Georgia's poor is big or small doesn't matter. It makes the voting process more onerous and there's no upside. So the motives don't really matter to me, nor does the implimentation. If you can convince me that I'm wrong about that, then we can argue about the technicalities. To convince me, you'd need documented cases of voter fraud in the state of Georgia that would have been solved by requiring a State ID at the polling station.

Update: I'd like to respond to some of the comments here. Jody points out numerous examples of double voting. The way that works in most cases is this: a voter registers in more than one precinct, and votes by absentee ballot in one precinct and normally in the other (variations include casting provisional ballots in a precinct where you're not registered to vote, and going to both precincts and voting normally). Requiring a state ID does nothing to combat this; I can go with my valid ID anywhere I'm registered. So this isn't fraud "that would have been solved by requiring a State ID at the polling station." In addition, in these cases you're always looking at always less than two hundred votes (and in some of the linked cases, less than ten); unless Georgia is way out of the national norm, this bill would have to disenfranchise fewer than two hundred people for it to produce a fairer election result. And guess what: under the voting rights act of 1965, the burden is on the state to demonstrate that the law wouldn't disproportionately disenfranchise minorities. They haven't even tried to do that.

Richard lays out a different hypothetical: "If I knew where you lived, and showed up at your precinct early in the morning and told the pollworker I was Matthew Dessem and voted the opposite way from the way I figured you would vote, what would you do when you showed up at the polls a few hours later? " What I would do is raise hell about it, and if this were done on any kind of large scale, it would attract media attention. I don't think this has happened to anyone recently, here or elsewhere. More broadly, you suggest that preventing this hypothetical fraud is worth doing (prevention v. cure, and so on). But it's only worth doing in an "all other things being equal" world, which isn't the one we're living in. Solving a phantom problem while creating a very real one is a bad security tradeoff. (It's also, in this case, a bad privacy-rights tradeoff, and a bad democratic process tradeoff). I suspect, however, that the Georgia State Legislature doesn't see making it harder to vote as a problem.


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