Thursday, May 29, 2008

dahlia, i think you forgot to mention something

I usually admire Dahlia Lithwick's writing at Slate, particularly about the Supreme Court. But her recent piece, also in Newsweek, just doesn't get it.

She asserts that accusations of electoral fraud (the "paranoid fear of the election-fraud monster") by Democrats and Republicans are not based on reality and could become a self-fulfilling prophecy by making people unwilling to believe the vote totals. She talks about how the Texas GOP's anti-vote fraud investigations have turned up a grand total of 26 people (and those include people whose "offense" was mailing somebody else's absentee ballot). Lithwick flags voter ID laws as well and implies that allegations of vote suppression (the preferred GOP tactic) are overblown.

But she doesn't make her case. Yes, she is right about the Republican half of the debate. Fraud in registering voters - dead people voting as a classic example - is a vanishingly small issue. Witness the scant fruits of the GOP's witch-hunt in Texas.

I don't condone fraudulent voter registration. The dead should not vote. On the other hand, vote SUPPRESSION - the preferred GOP tactic - is far worse because it denies this right to individuals based largely on their perceived political affiliation, i.e. "black voters are mostly Democrats therefore cutting their vote will help us Republicans." I would like to see Lithwick more seriously address THAT question before dismissing it. Maybe she has a good case. But she didn't make it in her article.

And finally, in 2008 it is rather breathtakingly shortsighted to write a long article like this on electoral fraud without ONE mention of voting machines. THAT my friends is the path of ballot box stuffing and electoral fraud now. Sure, voter ID laws will disproportionately affect the elderly and minorities. Sure, you can still go to the graveyard (or hell, surely you can just go on-line now) and find names to register.

But it is so much easier to fiddle with the computer files to generate a number that meets the desires of your political masters, knowing that a meaningful recount absent physical ballots is not possible. Not to mention the prospect of honest computer ERRORS blowing an election.

Whether believing in the "election fraud monster" is a paranoid fear or not, Lithwick blew it by not touching on the possible role of electronic voting machines.


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