Kent Pitman

Kent Pitman
Location
New England, USA
Title
Philosopher, Technologist, Writer
Bio
I've been using the net in various roles—technical, social, and political—for the last 30 years. I'm disappointed that most forums don't pay for good writing and I'm ever in search of forums that do. (I've not seen any Tippem money, that's for sure.) And I worry some that our posting here for free could one day put paid writers in Closed Salon out of work. See my personal home page for more about me.

MY RECENT POSTS

NOVEMBER 6, 2012 12:30PM

Challenging Assumptions about Voter ID

Rate: 10 Flag

I voted today.

I declined to show my ID. To vote in NH, you don’t have to show ID, something my wife and I wanted to test. We found that they do let you, but they make you sign a scary affidavit which then goes into a folder the label of which I didn’t quite catch. “Challenged” something. “Challenged ballots?” perhaps. Or maybe “Challenged identities.” Certainly nothing that sounded friendly and welcoming.

So today I am challenged. Civically challenged, that is. By whom? I want a person to challenge me, not a process. Someone I can face and ask questions of myself. Why are you challenging me? Do you think I’m illegally in the US? If so, why are you waiting until I vote to arrest me? Do you think I visited the US on a legit visa in order to perpetrate voter fraud? Really? I can’t believe that. In other words, do you really have reason to suppose I’m lying or are you just blindly applying some sort of “guilty unless proven innocent” philosophy? Because that’s what I think is going on and frankly that doesn’t sound very American.

I want the America I live in and represent to be better than that. I’m a realist. I know there may really be times when we are forced to yield to doubts, to not be our better selves, but I want that held for emergencies, when there is literally no other choice. America is founded on the quaint but still beautiful idea that maybe we can hold such paranoia at bay and treat people like innocents—at least until the flood gates open and there’s no other choice left.

There is no flood upon us, no major problem. At least not of the kind being intimating by those pushing these sudden shifts of policy. It seems more like politicians, worried that unhappy citizens will vote them out, are moving preemptively to vote out the citizens instead. These moves to tighten voting regulations are being advocated by Republican politicians in swing states. They are even sometimes tightening voting regulations in Democratic counties while expanding them in Republican counties in a shameless show of partisan power.

It’s all deliberate intimidation. GOP truthiness notwithstanding, there’s no significant history of voter fraud. There’s no economy of scale in a fraud of that kind. No one would ever seriously marshall armies of people to go do that, as it would be too obvious it was happening and too easy to catch. And anyway the penalty is too high per person for any individual to be willing to undertake such a suicide mission. Only a crazy person would do it. And if a few crazy people do it on their own, without coordinating, they probably come from different parties anyway and cancel out. It’s not like any one party has a lock on crazy people. One-by-one individual voter fraud is an imagined problem.

If real fraud comes, it’ll not be in person boldly in the open but quietly in bulk via machines. Is that a big concern? I don't know. But I do think it's a bigger concern than individual voter fraud. Yet machines, which can be hugely and brutally more efficient about fraud than people can, if they put their electronic brains to the task, won’t be made to carry the stamp “challenged technology.” Machines, unlike people, are accorded the respect and dignity of being assumed innocent until proven guilty. But why should that be a surprise? This inane focus on individual fraud is designed to take our eyes off of the real risks. Who owns the machines? What software are they using? How can we be sure votes are entered properly, stored properly, counted properly, reported properly? If you’re looking for the weak link in the system, that’s it. I’m a technologist, but not a fool. I still like paper ballots and manual counting. Call me a sap, but I still trust in good old human beings.

I think I heard someone say recently that a person is more likely to be eaten by a shark on the same day as being struck by lightning than they are to be perpetrating in-person election fraud. That precise probability was probably made up, as I think there’s never been a person that happened to, and there have surely been a tiny number of cases of in-person fraud. But it's no epidemic and it needs no bad-tasting medicine.

Good old-fashioned voting’s not broken and we shouldn’t fix it, other than to make more opportunities for voting to happen and to make more people feel welcome doing it.

There are just a few cynics talking in whispers, trying to spread seeds of doubt or to fan embers of suspicion into a full-fledged blaze that burns down our time-honored traditions. And we’re letting them. Shame on us.


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Comments

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Challenging the remedies to alleged, and non-existent (I would say) voter fraud is so important. Thank you for standing up to the ID request and for this post.
*grumbles* I have tried to log in and rate this, and I keep getting screens flashing and it doesn't look like the rate is taking. Argh.

Anyway, I think this Voter ID stuff is nonsense. If they ask me for ID when I go to vote (and I would seriously doubt they will here in Green Mountain country), I'll challenge that. I've been on the voter rolls here for almost ten years now and I vote in EVERY primary and EVERY election. They ought to know me by now.

I wish I didn't have to come here to read this, but I'm glad you wrote it, Kent.

Rated (even if it doesn't show).
"It seems more like politicians, worried that unhappy citizens will vote them out, are moving preemptively to vote out the citizens instead. "
Bang on the money, Kent.
Excellent work.
Here in CO, there is much worry among Dems over this very issue via Bain Capital machines being added at various polling places.
Horrible to contemplate
Rated
What is broken is the media that is providing, or pretending to provide us the information we need to make our decisions; but we can't count on them to fix this mess since they would have already done so if they actually wanted to. If they did fix it they would probably find a fix similar to the one the chose for voting challenges.
For me, I unfortunately gave my DL without thinking about it. It was too late when I realized I didn’t need to, since the election official already scanned my card in the computer. A friend of mine did not show her ID and the official gave her a hard time. In the end, she was still able to vote.

As you already know, I described how the voter ID law works in Canada (where they are used to encourage people to vote):



Speaking of fraudulent voting machines, here's an interesting video that was uploaded earlier today:

2012 Voting Machines Altering Votes


According to one comment shown below the Youtube video, NBC indicated this was true.
I screwed up the html codes.

Information about voter rights by state: it's not pretty!

Speaking of fraudulent voting machines, here's an interesting video that was uploaded earlier today:

2012 Voting Machines Altering Votes
Like you, Kent, my fear is the machines, not the individuals. I've been trying not to get too paranoid about machine manipulations, but there is still that fear.

Having spent several years living in Mexico, I came to appreciate their method of voter registration, although corruption abounds on all fronts in Mexican politics. The corruption with voter fraud usually shows it's face in suppression and "machine malfunctions". Voter ID cards (Credenciales de Elector) are the main form of ID utilized not just for voting, but for all forms of proof of identification. It is rather cheap to obtain and no one that I know in Mexico, rich or poor is without one once they reach the age of 18 (the legal voting age in Mexico). One needs to fill out an application form, provide a photo and a copy of their birth certificate. More than drivers licenses, the credencial de elector is the "go to" ID used by most Mexicans. Most Mexicans do not drive, but most Mexicans do vote.....which can be seen as odd seeing as how most of them are more than aware of the corruption, but they still soldier on hoping that one day there will be a positive change.

The current trend in the U.S. to require photo ID would not be so bad if it wasn't so cost-prohibitive for some folks.

Again, my concern is not so much with individual fraud, but suppression and machines.

Thank you for your post. Rated.
do stop whing, serf. nothing you can do about it, and you are lowering the tone of the bestest nation on earth.

no telling if your vote will be effective. those who use electronic machines can have no confidence at all.

the simple fact that voting in america is difficult and insecure should give a hint that that the people of america are political cattle.
Who cares about voter ID? We have to show our ID constantly. You can't get on an airplane without showing ID. The only people who object to this are the liberals. Why is that? Is it because the liberals are much more patriotic and independent than the conservatives?

Thankfully all of this is about over. The political chatter is over-cooked.
Who cares about voter ID? We have to show our ID constantly. You can't get on an airplane without showing ID. The only people who object to this are the liberals. Why is that? Is it because the liberals are much more patriotic and independent than the conservatives?

Thankfully all of this is about over. The political chatter is over-cooked.
Who cares about ID? Just show them you DL and get on with life.

I'm 55, 6'5', white hair, (you thought that picture was my dog didn't you) and I got carded to get into a club. Look, places where they are required provide them free if you don't have one from another approved place. You now have two years until the mid-term elections to go and get it. It's not like there is a rush or anything.

So how many people don't: drink, smoke, drive, collect welfare, collect food stamps, are in the military, go to college that provides a legal ID, work at someplace that issues valid ID and on and on and on, that won't put out the effort to get a valid ID, but they still vote?

I'm sure more dead people voted in Chicago. Nobody is stopping anybody from doing anything that they don't want to do.
Coyote, thanks for visiting and for your support.

Bill, I would have thought they wouldn't ask for ID here, too. They never had. And really, you're right, anyone trying to defraud has to know so much to do it successfully—did the person already vote? Might they vote later? Does anyone at the place know this person personally so they would call out an imposter? Precincts are very local affairs and it's really hard to think you could reliably get away with it—all for one vote?

PW, the election having run much of its course between your comment and my reply, I hope I don't awaken in a few hours to find a bunch of challenges.

Zachery, I blame the media for many things, but it's not obvious to me how they could have helped the voter ID problem particularly. Can you elaborate on that a little bit? I mean, some of the media did report on this extensively. After a point, it needs to take hold. I guess I wish some of the MSNBC shows were on broadcast TV where they had more visibility. If they did a once-a-week “Best Of” night for MSNBC news on, say, Sunday, maybe up against 60 Minutes, that might be good... But I'm not sure that's what you were getting at.
Kent, I suspect that the media could have done a better job informing the public about the voter ID law but that wasn’t really what I meant. In order for the democratic process to be legitimate we need voters that base their decision on accurate information. They rely on the media to get that but the media doesn’t come close to trying to do a good job providing the information the public need and they even try to suppress grass roots candidates that don’t have the support of the corporations as much ass they can get away with. These candidates addressed many of the important issues that the media refused to \cover properly.
99% of all vote fraud comes from Republican elections officials.
99% of all vote fraud comes from Republican elections officials.