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A Powerful Argument for Voter ID Laws

The latest video out by James O’Keefe is a powerful argument for voter ID laws, with a cameo from Eric Holder (actually his would-be voting impersonator). As a requisite disclaimer, O’Keefe has been accused of selectively editing videos in the past, but this one appears to include the full conversation.

New York Magazine says there’s nothing to see here:

The question is whether anyone should really care. Yes, if you wanted to, you could risk five years in prison and a $10,000 fine to vote for someone else, but we’re not sure why you would, since a single vote, or even a few votes, will never make a difference. (Okay, almost never.) Could a group of hundreds or thousands of fraudsters be mobilized to go around to different polling stations on election day and vote for one particular candidate or issue, possibly altering the outcome of an election? It would be difficult to organize surreptitiously, but sure, it’s probably doable. But it has never happened.

That’s like the government saying it’s pointless for bars to check IDs, because underage drinkers will face a hefty fine if they’re caught. The punishment becomes less of a deterrent if there’s a very high probability of getting away with the crime.

Voter fraud, by the way, is notoriously difficult to prosecute. Unless the fraudster sparks the suspicion of a polling official, the incident is unlikely to be reported or investigated. Often a fake name and/or address are used, which means there’s little chance of tracking this person down once he’s left the premises. And even if the suspect is reported and somehow located, it’s difficult to prove intentional fraud – can anyone demonstrate that this was the same individual at the polling location? Was the fraud intentional, or could it have been done in error?

And yes, voting fraud is a big deal, even if, as New York Magazine stipulates, the fraud doesn’t sway the election one way or another. Every false ballot cast for Candidate A undermines the democratic process by canceling out a legitimate ballot cast for Candidate B. Is it an epidemic? Maybe not. But the whole blasé “what’s a little bit of voter fraud anyway?” attitude seems to be the exact opposite of what the media should be espousing. It’s a message that welcomes corruption. Conservatives have proposed voter ID laws; some others may argue these laws are ineffective. That’s a debate to have. But denying that there’s a problem – or at least loopholes that could easily lead to a serious problem – isn’t a constructive way to deal with the issue.



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