I noted last summer how massive attempts to confront “voter fraud” were actually an example of the inherent corruption populist movements breed. Finding a way to make voters on both sides recognize this before 2016 is incredibly important, as I shall demonstrate below. But corruption by those in power needs to be fought with reason, patience and intelligence – which is why I’m hoping this idea of a Constitutional amendment to gaurantee the right to vote goes nowhere fast:
A pair of Democratic congressmen is pushing an amendment that would place an affirmative right to vote in the U.S. Constitution. According to Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), who is sponsoring the legislation along with Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the amendment would protect voters from what he described as a “systematic” push to “restrict voting access” through voter ID laws, shorter early voting deadlines, and other measures that are being proposed in many states…
The brief amendment would stipulate that “every citizen of the United States, who is of legal voting age, shall have the fundamental right to vote in any public election held in the jurisdiction in which the citizen resides.” It would also give Congress “the power to enforce and implement this article by appropriate legislation.”
This is one of those instances where I’m not really sure where to be critical because I’m not entirely sure where Pocan and Ellison’s true motivations lie.
It’s possible that they truly believe this amendment will eliminate the corruption that allows last year’s attempts at voter disenfranchisement. If so, they’re guilty of the crime of foolishness and lazy thinking.
The engine that drove attempted voter disenfranchisement was the notion that organized voter fraud had reached epidemic levels. It had become so widespread in swing states like Ohio, we were told, that it was now negatively impacting regional and national elections. The methods employed to curb this supposed fraud weren’t pitched as ways to eliminate legal votes; they were pitched as methods to eliminate illegal ones. A Constitutional voting rights amendment won’t make fraudulent votes any more legal than they already are. Sleazy opportunists will still have access to the tool of voter-fraud wolf cries. Those whom they hoodwink are just as pro-right-to-vote as those who see through their cynical ploys. What, then, is to be gained by such an amendment? It’s a potentially colossal waste of time that accomplishes nothing save signaling.
Of course, it is also possible that Pocan and Ellison realize all of this, and are simply clogging up the legislative process to get a cool blurb on their reelection literature – similar to what GOPers have been doing with their ever-repeating futile votes on Obamacare. If so, then the best case scenario is that they waste a lot of time. The worst case scenario is that other potential solutions to this type of corruption are dropped because “Pocan and Ellison are on it!”
And of course, this corruption does need to stop.
One of the anti-fraud hucksters I wrote about last August was Ohio Secretary of State John Husted. As a reminder, Husted was the anti-fraud champion who tried to allow early voting and expanded voting hours in those counties that were heavily Republican, and extremely restricted voting hours and dates in those heavily Democratic. After Obama won Ohio as expected, Husted demanded investigations into voter fraud. The findings from that investigation were released last week. And he did in fact find some – in fact, after the investigation local prosecutors and Husted’s office found a total of 135 votes of that may have been cast fraudulently. None of these involved the kind of organized voter fraud Husted and other Republicans had insisted were a cancer on the electorate. Most of them, in fact, were either students or transplants who had voted both in Ohio and their previous state of residence, or residents who voted both in person and by absentee ballot.
But it’s also important to zoom out and look at the scale of the problem here. Those 135 cases were fished out of a sea of 5.6 million votes cast. For those keeping score, that comes to a whopping 0.0002% of Ohio votes being suspect. If that level of minuscule voter fraud ratio seems familiar, it’s because it is. After all, in the eleven years prior to this past election there have only been a total of 2,068 similar documented cases in the entire country. To throw a little extra salt on the wound: those 135 cases identified by Husted? They wouldn’t have been eliminated by the voter ID measures Republicans ballyhooed so. All of that time, effort and money spent in Ohio to attempt to quell votes, justify the attempted quelling, and investigate afterward – all for .00002%. That’s hundreds of times less than the difference that triggers a recount in every state in the union, because .00002% is much less than the expected counting errors you expect even with computers.
The frustrating thing about last year’s voter fraud hucksterism is that Husted’s findings don’t contradict what we knew before; they just add yet more confirming data. Pocan and Ellison’s proposed amendment doesn’t add to the substance of this debate, it simply adds yet another layer of distracting glitter. Democrats would be better advised to take Husted’s results and trumpet them, constantly, from now until election day 2016. Instead, they seem to care little about these results, relying instead on the empty but sexy rhetoric a proposed Constitutional amendment offers. Seriously, if it weren’t for Josh Marshall – who in turn needed to be informed by a TPM reader – I would never have even heard of these results.
Note: In light of Husted’s own findings, this Fox apocalyptic “expose” on one elderly, dingy woman from February is kind of funny.