October 21st, 2006

Brad @ Burning Man

Repub Poll Tax Defeated. Dem Ballot Box Stuffing? Maybe Not So Much

One of the things that I've had looming over me is that, as somebody who hasn't owned a car, been able to afford one, or even wanted one very much for a couple of years now, I have no current Missouri state driver's license. And Republicans, who as I've repeatedly stated still believe that it's the 1940s in that the Mafia is still stealing elections for pro-Mafia Democrats, pushed a bill through in Missouri to require a current state driver's license or identical non-driver's ID to vote. Even if you don't need one for other reasons. Even if it would cost you hundreds, or even thousands, in legal fees to get the necessary original, embossed, official birth certificate you'd need. We were discussing this the other day, and when somebody asked me how much trouble could it possibly be to get a birth certificate, I gave them the following not-so-hypothetical, something that has come up since this law passed. What if you're an American citizen who was born on an Army base overseas? "I hadn't thought of that," they said, "Who keeps those birth certificates?" Six people in the room did the math at once, and chimed in on my answer, because it's something most St. Louisans know: the Army Records Center. (They're a big local employer.) Which has had several fairly large fires in the last couple of decades.

And that's only one way that records could be lost, and take expensive records searches and/or litigation, at distances up to and including to the far side of the globe, just to exercise your right to vote. Another person at that same party asked me, "Then why aren't people rioting in the street over this?" The answer to that one is equally obvious, I'm afraid: people think it won't happen to them. That, and the fact that the Republicans really have done a good job of creating a serious fog of uncertainty over just how big a problem we still have with ballot box stuffing in this country. As have some Democrats, unfortunately, by playing right into their hands at the very least. More on that in a minute.

These arguments got taken to the Missouri state supreme court, which ruled on Monday that the state constitution's right to vote is an absolute that trumps just about anything, that the Republicans had created a burden on the right to vote that stood to throw out the votes of 240,000 legal voters, and that (not least of all) they had failed to show that the problem the law was intended to address was still a serious one needing anything like such a drastic solution. They over-turned that law 6-1; which means Missourians will not have to show any more ID to vote in this election than we always have before, that is to say any of a long list of legal forms of ID such as a driver's license, voter registration card, a utility bill showing your name and current address, or even many forms of official correspondence. There was great rejoicing among Democrats, and much fuming among Republicans about the fact that five of the seven judges on Missouri's state supreme court were appointed by Democrats.

However, despite bullcrap complaints about "judicial activism," the Republicans were handed one darned handy thing to complain about a mere five days before that decision was handed down: something that smells suspiciously like the proof that they weren't entirely wrong about ballot box stuffing here in St. Louis. The local branch of the poverty advocates' charity ACORN has turned in 15,000 new voter registrations in the City of St. Louis alone for the 2006 election, and turned them in right at the deadline to make it hard for the city's election board to investigate them all. That number in and of itself stinks to me. The whole city's adult population is well below 300,000; they managed to register 5% of the whole population as new voters? After their huge drive only two years ago? That seems statistically improbable to me. And, it turns out, so it well might smell bad: so far, almost one in ten of those registrations has been flagged as potentially fraudulent. And that's not some Republican vote-suppression strategist saying that (more on that in a minute, too), that's the city's Democratic election board director reporting this.

Now, this is not the first time that ACORN has turned in a metric ton of fake voter registrations. But traditionally, ACORN has had an answer for that, and up until now, it's one I've been willing to buy off on. Part of ACORN's strategy for success has long been to pay volunteers a "bounty" of a few cents for each new voter they registered. And volunteers, especially those associated with the (at least formerly Mafia-supported) northside black Democratic machine, have been caught multiple times just sitting down and forging signatures to register literally everybody in the phone book for their neighborhood. And, they've always pointed out, there's never been any evidence that any of those bogus voter registration cards that did get past the election board were ever used to vote. But to deprive ACORN of that excuse, the Help America Vote Act outlawed paying volunteers per registration. So now what's ACORN's excuse for the forged voter registration cards? And as for the proof needed that any of these cards are being used for ballot box stuffing, how would we know? Just in my own circle of friends, I've got two stories from 2004; one friend who saw a guy wearing a Steamfitter's Local union pin standing in front of him in line caught trying to vote with a voter registration card with the street address of one of the election judges for that precinct (bad tactical error, that) and another of a friend who had to vote provisional-ballot because when she got there, somebody else had already voted in her name. Who's investigating every vote cast, every voter registration card issued, to see? Nobody's got the money such an investigation would require. The Republicans have tried doing so on the cheap using blatantly fraudulent and bullying scattershot techniques, and been called on it, but they're the only ones even trying.

One thing we now do know, though ... oh, and wait, before I go on, I need to insert a mea maxima culpa here. One thing I've said ever since 2004 is that while there was plenty of evidence of Republican fraud in Ohio during the 2004 Presidential election, nobody had shown me yet that there was any statistically significant amount of fraud, enough fraud to make a difference. So I was disinclined to believe it. Well, we now know that I was wrong, and I'm very annoyed about that. That case has been now been made. Robert Kennedy, Jr. wrote a lengthy article for the June 1st Rolling Stone entitled "Was the 2004 Election Stolen?" in which, with 208 footnotes' worth of documentary evidence, he shows that 350,000 Democratic votes were stolen or canceled out in a blatantly fraudulent effort to steal the Ohio electoral votes by then-Ohio secretary of state Kenneth Blackwell. There are 13 different criminal accusations made in that article, almost any one of which, if true, would have been enough to change the outcome of the 2004 election. For example, if you want to continue to believe what I used to believe, that there was no proof of vast, substantial, multi-thousand vote fraud in Ohio, you have to believe that the two graphs at the right (from Greg Palast's article "Recipe for a Crooked Election"), one of which shows the percentage of votes by precinct that were discarded as illegible and the other of which shows the percentage of votes that were cast by minorities likely to vote Democratic, are a coincidence. Before writing about this, I handed the Kennedy article link to a Republican friend of mine to research, and all he was able to come up with was an article casting some doubt on three of the 13 accusations. This is deadly serious stuff.

This cranks me off, whenever either side does it. I honestly don't feel like the criminal penalties for vote-related fraud are strict enough. Although it doesn't meet the constitutional legal definition, I feel like election-rigging meets the common law definition of treason. If in a democracy the voters are sovereign, then attacks on their sovereign right to vote are an attack on the person of the sovereign, and should be taken just as seriously. So one of my serious proposals, admittedly one that is unlikely to pass, is that we should toughen the penalties for both conspiracy to stuff ballot boxes and for conspiracy to deprive people of the right to vote to revocation of US citizenship, period, with the alternatives thereafter being to find a country willing to take you in or to spend the rest of your life rotting in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement prison cell as a stateless person. You shouldn't get to do things like this and still call yourself an American citizen. I would allow people to plea-bargain that down to something substantial but less draconian, say 10 years federal time no parole, if they turn states evidence on their co-conspirators.

And to start the process off, my second equally serious and more politically plausible proposal is this. We just spent a couple of billion dollars on the Help America Vote Act specifically to make sure that poor Chad never has to be embarrassed about his dimples, has given up swinging, never has to fear hanging, no longer has to worry about getting pregnant again. How about we continue to spend the same amount per year for a couple of years on voter fraud? Rather than try to prioritize it by importance and letting that get politicized, let's go ahead and pre-politicize it for the same perfectly entirely legitimate reason why all precincts require an equal number of Republican and Democratic election board officials and election judges, so that both sides will keep each other honest. If memory serves, HAVA cost 2 billion dollars per year? Let's give both parties one billion dollars a year for the next couple of years to fund law enforcement and private investigations, to help them try to prove their vote fraud accusations against each other. And put a stop to this crap for another generation, at least.
Brad @ Burning Man

Quick Personal Note and Preview: Repo Man, The Libertalia

Repo Man: My ride situation changed, so instead of going Sunday night at 10pm to see Repo Man at the Tivoli Theater, I'm going tonight, Saturday night, at midnight.

The Libertalia: I'm thinking of commemorating the anniversary of the launch of my old full-time RV, the one I re-christened Libertalia, by writing a long series of journal entries in which I describe exactly what it was like to live full time in an RV and make my living selling stuff at science fiction conventions and pagan festivals. Warning: I learned a lot about RVs in that year, so this could be a real space filler. So if this sounds boring as all get-out to you, you may want to unsubscribe from this journal some time in mid to late November; if not, consider this a teaser.