Imagine that, as you are contemplating the purchase of a new house, you are visited by your insurance agent. He asks about the details of your potential purchase and then says, “Here’s what I can offer you for a policy to protect your new home from fire, flood, theft and wind damage.”
“No, thanks,” you say. “I can’t imagine I would ever need such a policy, so I’m not going to waste my money on one.”
“Um,” says the agent, “do you understand that without such a policy, your new home will be at risk of damage, even total destruction, and you could lose your entire investment in it?”
“Can’t happen,” you reply.
“Well, it might not happen,” says the agent, “but you can’t possibly know that it won’t happen. It happens to other people all the time.”
“Nope,” you say, with a definite shake of your head. “It can’t happen, and I know that for an absolute fact.”
“How can you possibly know that?” the agent replies, his voice full of disbelief. “No one can possibly know that!”
“I can,” you say. “I know it because the house has been there for years, and as far as I know, nothing has ever happened to it. Therefore, nothing ever will.”
At this point, the agent, planting his face in his palm, is thoroughly convinced he’s dealing either with a severe case of wish-fulfilling denial, a badly delusional mental state or an extremely low intelligence quotient—or perhaps all three at once.
So, he bids you farewell. “And good luck with the new house,” he says on his way out. “You’ll need it.”
Does this scenario sound unreal, ridiculous, even foolish? Yes, it’s all of those things, and no mentally competent person would ever put a valuable possession at risk that way.
And yet it is exactly the way that liberals respond when conservatives demand that our priceless freedom to vote be protected against liberty-destroying fraud by means of ballot security measures such as Voter ID.
“There’s no evidence there is any danger of fraud at all,” they say. (Which isn’t true, by the way.) But even more astoundingly, they say that because they deny there is anyone who wants to commit fraud, therefore there will never, ever be anyone who ever wants to commit it. Therefore, “insurance-policy” measures to prevent it from happening are unnecessary and useless.
(And that’s not all they say. They also accuse ballot-security supporters, not all of whom are white or conservative by any means, of using the issue to disguise an attempt to keep minorities from voting.)
There have been a number of developments on this issue since I last wrote about it for this site back in February.
First of all, The Washington Post released a poll Aug. 13 that showed that support for Voter ID is both wide and deep in the American polity—and, despite the criticisms that its supporters are either deceptive or ignorant, the survey’s results proved that contention wrong, too.
To begin with, 74 percent of all respondents thought that providing proof of identity before being able to cast a ballot was a good idea, and 57 percent held that view “strongly.”
That tracks closely with a Rasmussen poll from June 2011 showing 75 percent support for Voter ID laws.
The Post’s new poll, with a 2.5 percent margin of error, also asked if voter fraud was a major problem, a minor problem or no problem at all. A whopping 81 percent of respondents answered that it was a problem, with 48 percent saying it was “major” and 33 percent saying it was “minor.”
The split on whether the risk of fraud or denial of access to voting was worse was closer, but a plurality of 49 percent said fraud was the greater danger, with 44 percent choosing denial of access.
Finally, the Post asked, “To what extent, if at all, do you think support for voter identification laws is based on genuine interest in fair elections?”
A strong majority of 57 percent of respondents said support for the laws is based on a “genuine interest in fair elections,” while just 13 percent said support for voter ID laws is “not at all” based on the desire for fair elections.
Clearly, that strong public support across racial and political lines for Voter ID is why 35 states have some form of statutory ballot security measure, although five of them have had their laws suspended pending approval from the U.S. Department of Justice.
The ostensible reason is that those states fall under “special scrutiny” provisions of the civil rights laws, although there is considerable cause to suspect that a Justice Department that ignored a proven incidence of voter intimidation by Black Panther Party members in Philadelphia is not likely to be sincere about its desires to apply the law fairly elsewhere.
Also in Pennsylvania, where voter fraud is widely known to be endemic in Philadelphia, which like fraud-bedeviled Chicago has long been in the vise of a Democratic machine, GOP majority legislators recently passed a Voter ID measure with no Democratic support.
It came under court challenge, but was upheld by a state court on Aug. 15. During the debate over it, opponents offered the example of a 93-year-old woman, Viviette Applewhite, who had no driver’s license, or (for some reason) a Social Security card, and there were irregularities with her birth certificate. So, she was held up as someone the law would prevent from voting.
In fact, her photo ran on the front page of The New York Times in a story listing the “problems” with the new law.
Unfortunately for opponents, however, Ms. Applewhite and a reporter tested the law by showing up at the Department of Motor Vehicles— where she was issued a free state photo ID with no fuss.
Meanwhile, here in Maine, where a Voter ID law was quashed last session (in a Republican-controlled Legislature!), a new task force has been established by lawmakers to study the issue of ballot access.
Predictably, the first hearings of the Commission to Study the Conduct of Elections in Maine, whose members were selected by Secretary of State Charles Summers, who is also the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, were dominated by the type of people who have the spare time to show up to testify at weekday meetings—that is, not normal people with regular jobs, but left-wing activists.
So, in a state where people can register to vote anytime up to and including Election Day, where absentee ballots are available at any time for any reason, and where voters who show up at the polls need only speak the name of someone on the voting list to get a ballot, the speakers mostly complained that it is too hard to vote in Maine and voting needs to be made easier.
Voter fraud in past elections? Never happened, they say, which was their major argument in successfully defeating via people’s veto a mildly more restrictive registration law passed by the last Legislature.
That view neglects to note that if you never look for it, you most certainly have no chance of ever finding it. As far as they are concerned, absence of evidence is, in fact, evidence of absence.
How about the future, which might well be populated by less ethical or law-abiding individuals who might be tempted to take advantage of the absolute vulnerability of the current system?
For that, go back and read this column’s introduction again. That’s the attitude of the people who want to make the system even more vulnerable to fraud than it is right now.
What profit are they contemplating from making a Swiss-cheese system even more full of holes than it currently is?
And why are Maine Republicans, who should know better, helping them do it? Indeed, why are Pennsylvania’s Republicans more reliable, courageous and effective on this important issue than ours are?
M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a free-lance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:firstname.lastname@example.org