Yelling Fire In A Crowded Theater
In case you missed it, the Seattle Times ran a hyperventilation-inducing piece on dogs and dead people receiving voter registration forms by mail. Non-profit organizations dedicated to engaging more citizens in the voting process were mailing out voter registration documents with names already on the forms (agreed - a curious practice). The names and addresses were pulled from private commercial databases, which meant people who subscribed to PetLife magazine under their dog's name could potentially receive a mislabeled registration form. Perhaps this should be spelled out - but no dogs or dead people returned the forms or will cast ballots in the next election.
Completely absent from this story is any statistical analysis on whether or not voting fraud actually occurs. According to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan public policy and law institute: "voter fraud is both irrational and extremely rare."
The report goes on to look at Washington State's 2004 election, in which Governor Gregoire beat out Dino Rossi by 129 votes. The photo-finish race led to an increased level of scrutiny at our local voting process and the potential for voter fraud.
In that election, they found that voter fraud occurred approximately 0.0009% of the time, or less than 24 votes. Americans are hit by lightning at the same rate.
OH MY GOD PUT LIGHTNING RODS AT EVERY BALLOT BOX!
What stories like this do is further the narrative that strict voter ID laws are necessary. By creating the specter of politically motivated fraud (no self-respecting canine would vote for Romney), conservative legislators provide cover for a slew of voter-disenfranchising bills.
These same bills overwhelmingly disenfranchise poor, elderly, young, and minority populations at disproportionate rates. A Texas voter identification bill passed last year prohibits the use of student ID cards as valid forms of ID, but allows gun owners to show their concealed carry permits. These requirements could prevent up to 1.5 million Texas citizens from voting in the next election. The Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the legislation, and the case could eventually end up in front of the Supreme Court.
We all get that dogs and dead people shouldn't vote. Luckily for us, they aren't. But American citizens should.