Still lying about voter fraud

John Fund, over at the National Review, wrote about voter fraud, and like so many conservatives, he just couldn’t resist another stab at the shriveled, murdered corpse of ACORN.

To review: The ACORN voter scandal was not a hoax played by ACORN but one played on ACORN by temporary workers who turned in fraudulent applications instead of doing what they were hired to do, which was to register real voters. More importantly, even if undiscovered, the fraudulent registrations would never have resulted in a fraudulent vote. That’s because Micky Mouse, Superman, and even more realistic made-up names cannot take physical form and show up at the polls. Still, Mr. Fund taps into the still believed lies about ACORN and refers to “an ACORN-style group registering thousands of illegal or nonexistent voters” as justification for tighter voter ID laws.

Moving on to the next lie, Fund tells us that James O’keefe’s latest in a series of misleading videos “demonstrated just last month how easy — and almost impossible to detect — voter impersonation can be”. In the video, a young, White, O’keefe operative presented himself as someone named “Eric Holder”, in the Attorney General’s polling station and without any challenge was offered Mr. Holder’s ballot. But true to form, O’keefe’s video doesn’t show what right wing alarmists say it shows. The operative left without taking the ballot. Had he taken it, the real Eric Holder would have had to use a special ballot, an investigation would have been triggered, the fraudulent vote discarded, and the operative would have faced serious election fraud charges. In order to pull off voter impersonation fraud, the impostor must use the name of someone who is registered to vote but will not show up, and has to risk five years of prison and a heavy fine just to cast one single vote.

Fund discusses statistics about people who are worried about voter fraud. But he doesn’t talk about how many of these worried people are worried about ID fraud rather than about rigged or faulty voter machines, lost ballots, doctored counts, and voter suppression. It was a miscount in Iowa, not voter ID fraud, which gave Romney early momentum during the Republican primaries to the relief of Republican strategists who feared Santorum might win the primaries but loose the general election. Lost ballots and insecure voting machines have been serious issues in recent elections, and are more legitimate concerns for voters worried about the integrity of the elections system than hundreds of impostors trying to sway an election one vote at a time.

Voter ID fraud may exist, but if so, it exists in tiny numbers because of the high penalty of getting caught and small payoff of success. Still, if there weren’t actual people, such as those with accessibility issues who live far from government offices, who will be turned away from the polls due to more stringent voter ID laws, then the laws would be fine. But such people do exist, and voter ID laws have a greater effect of blocking these legitimate voters than of preventing fraud. If we want elections that closely reflect the will of the people, we should not deny these votes in order to fight a problem that is already under control with existing laws.

I would take the concerns of those claiming to want truer elections more seriously if they were to concentrate more on proven elections issues, rather than focusing like lasers on a less worrisome potential problem and promoting a solution that will sway elections away from the interests of the poor and poorly connected.

The Mean Spirited Motive behind Education Vouchers

In a response to an NRO article slamming President Obama for cutting an experimental voucher program in favor if increased funding for public schools, I wrote,

If I’m wrong, I’m open to someone explaining why. But I don’t see how it’s surprising that taking a sample of low income students out of their local public schools and putting them into private schools can provide any useful information. Of course they’ll do better. But if we expand a voucher program to all students then private schools will simply raise their prices, and the vouchers won’t be enough to cover the new tuitions. Rich kids will still go to the best schools and poor kids will still go to the worst, except that we will have defunded public schools to such a point that those students who can’t get into private schools will be even worse off than they are now. So the only effect I can image vouchers having is increasing education inequality.

My contrite opening is my way of admitting that I haven’t studied this issue. I haven’t yet seen the replies from NRO readers, which I imagine will include insults to my intelligence, morality, and sexual prowess, but as things stand now I don’t see how my logic can be flawed.

I don’t even know how this can be researched since, as I said, the results of any test program won’t reflect the results of handing vouchers to the public on a larger scale.

I also don’t understand any mechanism which makes private schools better than our constantly derided public schools other than the fact that private schools have more money. Free market principles still apply when government competes with private institutions. If two similar jobs offer similar benefits than they will each attract similar applicants. Right wing rhetoric suggests that public school teachers are overcompensated, but if that were true, then the best teachers would all be at public schools and the worst would be forced to settle for jobs at private schools.

The only factor left out of the above dynamic is that some very good teachers take jobs at public schools because they want to make a difference for students who otherwise wouldn’t have a chance at a decent education. Those wonderful teachers help compensate for the disparity between public and private education, but they can’t completely overcome the difference or else nobody would ever pay for private school.

I don’t how it’s possible that public school teachers are overcompensated or, if they are, that they’re not the best teachers on earth. And I don’t see how attacking public schools can be anything other than a mean spirited effort to prevent income mobility and to ensure that children of wealthy families don’t have to worry about children of poor families coming up from behind and changing the generational dynamic of inequality.

Books.  (this picture is illustrative, not informative)