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Tuesday, April 1, 2014
NewsBusters Justifies Unnecessary Voter-ID Laws
Topic: NewsBusters

NewsBusters' Ken Shepherd devotes a March 25 post to laboriously explaining why voter ID laws are needed even if the voter fraud such laws would prevent doesn't really exist.

Responding to an MSNBC article pointing out that voter-fraud allegations are overblown, Shepherd writes:

Granted, it is fair to highlight and criticize a politician for exuberant rhetoric, but that alone does not seem to be MSNBC's aim. Regardless of how prevalent voter fraud is, prophylactic measures to prevent FUTURE fraud are legitimate policy measures for state governments to pursue. What's more, while there may be only a handful of cases in the past 13 years that progressed far enough in an investigation to strongly suggest if not prove voter fraud, that by no means suggests that every instance of voter fraud in the past few years has in fact gone detected and documented. There are plenty of crimes which occur on a daily basis a large number of which are never reported, much less investigated.

What's more, in instances where an election was not substantially close but the losing party has suspicions of voter fraud, investigations into the same would not have generated a change in the electoral outcome and, accordingly, may not have been pursued.

Shepherd is really stretching things here by going into purely speculative mode. It demonstrates the weakness of his argument.

Nevertheless, he goes on, responding to a claim that voter-ID laws are ineffective against the most common form of voter fraud, misuse of absentee ballots:

Of course, in-person balloting is similarly done via secret ballot, which is all the more reason why it's important to prevent someone fraudulently voting in person when claiming to be another individual.

Suppose it's 7:30 a.m. on election day and a Joe Jones fraudulently obtains a ballot intended for a Sam Smith, who has not yet voted. The precinct worker crosses Sam Smith off the rolls as having voted, and Joe Jones votes a secret ballot which, of course, cannot be un-voted. Later in the day, Sam Smith comes in to vote after work only to find his name has already been crossed off the voter roll. The best case scenario is that Mr. Smith will get and mark up a provisional ballot, which may not be counted when all is said and done, while Jones's fraudulently-cast ballot will most certainly be counted.

In the final analysis, this may not swing the election held that day, but in a real sense, Smith was disenfranchised and Jones was able to cast a vote which he was not entitled by law to cast.

That argument might have some weight if he hadn't conceded earlier in the post that there is no widespread voter fraud of that type.

Shepherd concludes:

If the MSNBC network really cared about the public policy issues in play, they could give viewers and website readers a thorough exploration of the pros and cons of voter ID laws. But alas, the aim is not illumination but excitation: whipping up the Democratic Party base in an election year to fear and loathe the GOP, all in service of protecting Democrats from an electoral bloodletting.

Shepherd, on the other hand, is trying to whip up the Republican base to fear and loathe Democrats by fearmongering about voter fraud he can't prove exists.

Posted by Terry K. at 10:30 AM EDT

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