Friday, February 8, 2013

Catch of the Day

To Rick Hasen, election law expert, on his reaction to reports of (a small number of) cases of actual election fraud (via Goddard). Hasen:

[I]t is worth remembering that vast majority of the relatively small number of cases involve either election officials committing fraud, or voters, candidates, and others committing absentee ballot fraud.
The problem is that the supposed cure—voter id—does not stop these main types of fraud.

It's worth noting too that John Fund here gets all excited about 19 (alleged) improper votes -- 19! in the state of Ohio, which Barack Obama won by over 150,000 votes. Fine, it's one county; fine; if there are 19 votes, maybe there really are more. But realistically meaningful fraud needs to be in the thousands of votes, even for most down-ballot races. And apparently only one of those 19 is fairly clearly for real, with the others still under investigation, with the bulk of alleged cases already tossed out...and it's not at all clear they were systematic efforts to commit fraud, anyway (they may have been; on the other hand, they may have been more in the way of foul-ups and such). Oh, and while the one case that appears clear-cut was a Democrat, it's possible that some of them were Republicans, so the votes netted from this nefarious fraud, even if it was a massive 19 votes, may have been less than that.

My feeling about this is that it goes into a general regularity I like to's perhaps not quite an Iron Law of Politics, but the usual case is discovery of fraud in something you like is good, because a bit of fraud is a natural and essentially inevitable byproduct of getting lots of something. The paradigmatic case (for me) is Pentagon overruns and excesses during the Reagan era; there's probably a similar situation with medical fraud these days.

So as someone who would like to see a lot more voting, I'm sort of disappointed that we don't see more stories of voting fraud. Not because I'm for voting fraud! I'm against voter fraud! But because it would be a good sign that we're maxing out on legitimate voting.

Of course, in the real world the one apparently confessed case of improper voting (although there's no confession of deliberate fraud) will live on forever as "proof" of why a remedy which wouldn't have stopped this particular episode is urgently needed. But there's not much anyone can do about that. Still, it's worth pointing out that Hasen is completely correct here. And: nice catch!

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