A Philosopher's Blog

Voter Purging in Florida

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics, Race by Michael LaBossiere on June 8, 2012
Official photo of Florida Governor Rick Scott

Official photo of Florida Governor Rick Scott (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to the 2000 presidential election, Florida became the butt of many electoral jokes. However, what is happening in Florida now is no laughing matter.

Governor Rick Scott recently ordered that all alleged non-citizens be purged from the Florida voting lists. While there seems to be no actual evidence of significant voter fraud, up to 182,000 people have been identified as possible non-citizens. 3,000 of these were recently sent letters that demanded proof of citizenship. As might be imagined, I disagree with the actions of Governor Scott.

I do agree that only citizens should be allowed to vote, however I am rather concerned that the methods used to attempt to achieve this goal to not disenfranchise citizens. I am also concerned that the methods used do not discourage or intimidate legitimate voters. The current approach seems to violate both of these reasonable concerns.

First, the list used to determine who is an alleged non-citizen is not accurate. In fact, “many voters identified by the state as suspected non-citizens are legal immigrants.” One rather unfortunate example is the case of Bill Internicola, a decorated war hero who has been legally voting for years. While this is but one example, it  and other cases do certainly raise questions about the accuracy of the list.

Obviously enough, the lists used to purge people from the voting lists should be accurate. Naturally, perfect accuracy is not possible, but the current list seems to be woefully inaccurate.

It could be replied that the inaccuracy is not a big deal. After all, the suspected non-citizens get a letter threatening removal from the polls if they cannot provide proof of citizenship within 30 days and informing them that voting when illegible is a felony.

One counter to this is that it is a matter of concern. After all, those who receive such a letter and can legally vote will need to go through the inconvenience of proving that they are eligible to vote and that seem unfair-especially when the list is known to be rather inaccurate. A second counter is that such letters can deter legitimate voters by confusing them or intimidating them into not voting.

It might be replied that these are but small inconveniences and that these purges are needed to address a serious problem regarding voter fraud. For example, it has been claimed that theDemocrats  are intentionally allowing illegal immigrants to vote in the hopes of getting Obama re-elected in 2012. As such, the fact that some citizens might be unjustly disenfranchised is a small price to pay in order to ensure that fraudulent voting does not occur.

There are two obvious counters to this. First, actual investigations of voter fraud have shown that while it does occur, its occurrence rate is minuscule. As such, it seems unwarranted to employ severe measures to address what amounts to a non-problem. Second, going with the spirit of  the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” it seems preferable to tolerate a microscopic amount of voter fraud rather than harassing a significant number of citizens and wrongly disenfranchising some.

In a counter to the claim that the Democrats are encouraging illegals to vote, the Democrats claim that the purge is aimed primarily at Latino and minority voters-voters who are likely to support Obama. Given that voter fraud is minute and the list being used is inaccurate, this claim does have some credence.

To preempt a likely attack on me, I believe that the voter rolls should be accurate and that people should not be permitted to vote illegally. However, this must be done in a way that ensures a high degree of accuracy and that does not inconvenience legitimate voters unduly.

Naturally, if voter fraud was widespread and damaging the democratic process, I would support more severe measures to address such a crime wave. However, the current approach to the alleged voter fraud is unjust and seems primarily calculated to disenfranchise and discourage those who are more likely to vote for Democrats. As an American citizen, I am opposed to what appears to be a concerted attack on voting rights and thus an attack on the very core of democracy.

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5 Responses

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  1. ajmacdonaldjr said, on June 8, 2012 at 8:37 am

    This seems much ado about nothing. As you say, and I agree, “I believe that the voter rolls should be accurate and that people should not be permitted to vote illegally. However, this must be done in a way that ensures a high degree of accuracy and that does not inconvenience legitimate voters unduly.”

    I have no problem with wiping the rolls CLEAN of EVERYONE and then demanding a gov’t issued photo ID be presented in order for one to register and to vote.

    I am a US citizen. I have a gov’t issued photo ID. I see no problem with this minimal basic ID requirement.

    In fact, the voting system has not changed in my lifetime, and has always been ripe for vote theft:

    Me: “Hi, I’m here to vote”

    Old Lady: “Name?”

    Me: “Alexander J MacDonald Jr. M A C D O N A L D”

    Old Lady: “I don’t see your name on the list (two old ladies now looking for name)

    Me: “Here it is right here” (points to name)

    Old Lady: “Okay, here’s your ballot”

    Me: “Thanks”

    This is the same system my parents used when I was a child. And it’s the same system we have today.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 8, 2012 at 9:53 am

      A voter card system does have some merit. Each registered voter could be issued (at taxpayer expense) a voter ID that specifies the voting precinct. It could even have a swipe strip as a back up to the old style manual check in. Perhaps marketing could be tied into the card as well-show your voter card and get 10% of at Starbucks.

      While voter fraud seems to be microscopic, voter turnout is generally horrible. As such, I think we should be more concerned about doing things to encourage people to cast their votes.

      Then again, most people probably disenfranchise themselves-they make their choice by not choosing, as is their right.

  2. T. J. Babson said, on June 8, 2012 at 9:54 am

    Standard Geithner-like response: “We don’t have a solution. We just know we don’t like your solution.”

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on June 8, 2012 at 5:15 pm

      I do have a solution. The state should be able to use the Real ID requirements to generate a more accurate list of citizens as they renew their licenses under the new ID requirements. This list could be used in conjunction with other official lists to help eliminate incorrect data and thus generate a more accurate list. The list that is created could then be tested by randomly checking names on the list to and using that data to get data about how people might be slipping through the process. The tested list could then be used to generate politely written letters that have a generally positive tone (naturally, the penalties for illegal voting would be included).

  3. T. J. Babson said, on June 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    “Obviously enough, the lists used to purge people from the voting lists should be accurate. Naturally, perfect accuracy is not possible, but the current list seems to be woefully inaccurate.”

    So where is the accurate list that will allow us to verify the claim “there seems to be no actual evidence of significant voter fraud?” As Mike knows full well, the claim that “there seems to be no actual evidence of significant voter fraud” is based on a study in Washington Sate in which double voting and voting by dead people was considered.

    Mike, are you aware of any study in which voting by felons and illegal aliens has been considered?


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