The Civic Sacrament

Today is election day.  Mostly up for grabs are local and state races.  Voting has been called a “civic sacrament.”  The analogy is an imperfect one, and it applies only to democratic systems.  Some say that voting “doesn’t do any good,” which even if it were true is not the point.  We have a vocation of citizenship.  For those of us blessed enough to have been called to citizenship in a country in which we govern ourselves by choosing our own leaders, voting is one of the duties of our vocation.

Is voter fraud a problem, or not?

Democrats are calling attempts, usually led by Republicans, to try to prevent voter fraud as racist attempts to suppress the vote.  Democrats complain that voter ID laws and similar proposals are tackling a non-existent problem.  But John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky say that the issue is more complicated than that:

Voter fraud is so rare that “you’re more likely to get hit by lightning than find a case of prosecutorial voter fraud,” asserts the liberal Advancement Project. An August study by News 21, a group of journalism students, claimed that to find only 10 prosecutions of in-person voter impersonation nationwide since the year 2000.

If state legislators worried about voter fraud are just imagining the problem, then it’s that much easier to block laws requiring voters to use photo ID to prove they are eligible voters. But that’s not quite the whole story. Evidence used to dismiss the problem turns out to be thin.

A large number of the nation’s 3,031 counties never provided data, and the News21 researchers report that they sent out only 2,000 queries. Nor did the study mention the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding voter ID laws, which found an “extreme difficulty of apprehending a voter impersonator” if ID isn’t required. While voter impersonation is hard to detect, it is easy to commit. Earlier this year, James O’Keefe released a video of a 22-year-old undercover reporter who obtained Attorney General Eric Holder’s ballot in Washington, D.C., and could easily have voted if he had chosen to.

Chaotic voter registration rolls make it too easy to commit voter fraud. A February study by the non-partisan Pew Center on the States found one in eight voter registrations were inaccurate, out-of-date or duplicates. Nearly 2.8 million people were registered in two or more states, and perhaps 1.8 million registered voters are dead.

Critics of voter ID laws also fail to note they are designed not just to stop voter impersonation but also multiple voting, non-citizen voting, people voting in the wrong precinct, out-of-state voting and voting in the names of fictitious people.

Examples of fraud are plentiful. Three non-citizens were arrested in Iowa last month for voting illegally in the 2010 general election and 2011 city election. A Democratic nominee for Congress resigned in Maryland last month after allegations that she had voted in two states at the same time. A 2004 New York Daily News study found that 46,000 people were registered to vote in both New York City and Florida, and that 400 to 1,000 had voted in both states in the same election. Florida decided the 2000 presidential election by 537 votes.

via Column: Underestimating our voter fraud vulnerability.

What I want to know is, simply, this:  If there is no voter ID law, what is to prevent me from showing up at the polling place, telling the poll worker that I’m you, and taking your vote?  (When you show up, the poll workers will think you’ve already voted, and you might get charged with fraud!)  Policies need to prevent abuses, not just punish them after the abuse takes place.

Let the children vote

Our politics are polarizing, to the point that, at least in Washington, D. C., little kids are getting into fights on the playground over politics.  Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak quotes a letter to parents sent by a school and cites her own 5-year-old’s political dilemma:

“A gentle reminder: As a Quaker school and as an inclusive community, I am reaching out to you, the adults, to talk to your child about respecting others’ views and seeing the Light in each classmate and colleague despite differences of opinion. We in Lower School have found our students at times judging one another harshly for each other’s political views or party preferences.

“This is relevant, of course, in relation to many issues in school life, not just the election. Our children do mimic our adult behavior, and this is an excellent opportunity for each of us to express our views in a manner that is not insulting or demeaning of others.”

Or you could just label it: “Stop Teasing the Republicans!”

My 5-year-old is all in pieces because some of his playground friends like Mitt Romney and others like President Obama. He is torn.

“I just don’t know who to vote for,” he said.

Meanwhile, an idea is being floated that would let children vote!  Actually, their parents would vote for them until they gradually transition into maturity.  Semyon Dukach explains:

Three major extensions of voting rights have been implemented since our republic was founded. The 15th Amendment extended suffrage to former slaves after the Civil War. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920. And the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, to match the draft age during the Vietnam War.

There is one clear path for our nation to navigate today’s crisis of political deadlock, growing debt, and under-investment in infrastructure, core science and education. We must lead the world by expanding our democracy and amending our Constitution. We should include those who remain unrepresented in our democratic process: children.

The most straightforward solution to reasonably represent the interests of children younger than 13 is known as “Demeny voting,” after the demographer who raised the issue in the 1980s. Under the Demeny system, the parents or guardians of these children split the vote of each child. In cases in which legal custody is shared between a father and mother, both would control an additional half-vote at the polls for each of their children age 13 and younger.

For example, if a couple has two children, each parent would wield two votes (one each for themselves and a half-vote for each child). A family of four would have four votes. In a family of five, with two adults and three children, each parent would have 2.5 votes (one for themselves and 1.5 for the three children). Again, this adds up to the total number of people in the family. If a single parent had sole custody, he or she would get the entire extra vote.

For adolescents, a simple variation of the Demeny voting scheme could allow them to be gradually emancipated. They could cast 20 percent of their vote at age 14, 40 percent at 15, 60 percent at 16, 80 percent at 17 and 100 percent at 18 (as they may today). The remaining diminishing percentage of their vote would be split each year between their parents or legal guardians, just as in Demeny voting, so that the total number of votes eligible to be cast in the nation will always be equal to the total number of citizens of all ages.

This voting scheme has drawbacks, including that it gives excessive power to parents of large families. And some parents might vote to protect their own interests instead of their children’s. But it would still be a crucial improvement over the status quo. Giving people younger than 18 indirect political representation will result in a more forward-looking balance of power among Americans. It would enable more political investment in our children’s future. Most important, by completing our national journey from a country ruled by landowning white men to one run on the principle of “one person, one vote,” we would lead the world in securing the inalienable universal human right to democratic representation.

via Giving children the right to vote – The Washington Post.

Well, this would give families greater clout.  Counting chads for fractions of votes would be rather challenging.  This would make universal suffrage more universal.  And it would indeed encourage large families and give them a bigger say in the body politic.  It still, though, strikes me as insane.

How illegal immigrants inflate the electoral college

Illegal immigrants and other non-citizens don’t have the right to vote, of course.  But, as required by the Constitution, they ARE counted in the census that determines the population of states for the allocation of congressional representatives.  That means a state with large numbers of non-citizens can get more electoral votes, which determine presidential elections, than it would have otherwise.  The breakdown favors the Democrats.  Leonard Steinhorn, a professor at American University, gives the analysis:

An Obama victory could hinge on a quirk in the Constitution that gives noncitizens, a group that includes illegal immigrants and legal permanent residents, a say in electing the president of the United States.

As required by Article I and the Fourteenth Amendment, the decennial census, which allocates to each state its congressional seats and Electoral College votes, is based on a count of all people who live in the United States, citizens and noncitizens alike — or as the Constitution phrases it, “the whole number of persons in each state.” That means millions of noncitizens who are ineligible to vote are included in Electoral College calculations, and that benefits some states over others. Most of these noncitizens are here legally; however, the Pew Hispanic Center estimates that about 45 percent of noncitizens are undocumented immigrants.

In 2010 and most previous years, the census did not inquire about citizenship, but the American Community Survey (ACS), which samples our population every month, includes a breakdown of citizens and noncitizens. Plugging the 2010 ACS citizen-only numbers into the Census Bureau’s apportionment formula shows that five states benefit electorally from their noncitizen populations: New York, Florida and Washington each gain one congressional seat and thus one Electoral College vote; Texas gains two; and California — with 5,516,920 noncitizens out of a total population of 37,341,989 — gains five.

Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Carolina, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Montana each lose a seat under the official formula as compared with an apportionment that counts citizens only. . . .

Looking at how the states might vote in November, there is no scenario in which Mitt Romney benefits from the inclusion of noncitizens in the Electoral College calculation, but there are several in which Obama could gain three to five Electoral College votes, thus deciding a close election.

via Without voting, noncitizens could swing the election for Obama – The Washington Post.

Prof. Steinhorn gives some reasons why it makes sense to count everybody, citizen or not, though he says the impact on presidential elections needs to be remedied by eliminating the electoral college.

Do you have any other solutions?  Or is this not really a problem?


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