Jim Crow Returns

A fascinating new analysis technique has added weight to the claim that voter-ID laws are functioning as “Jim Crow 2.0“.

In state after state, the Republican governors elected in 2010 have been pushing voter-ID laws that follow the ALEC template. The Brennan Center for Justice has been on this issue for a long time, pointing out how these laws erect unfair barriers to voting by the young, the old, minorities, and many women (particularly those recently married or divorced, who might not have ID in their current names) — all constituencies that tend to vote Democratic.

Ostensibly, these laws are intended to prevent the voter fraud that allegedly alters elections through the high-risk/low-reward process pictured below:

Lately, judges and the Justice Department have been agreeing with the Brennan Center that disenfranchising marginal voters is not just an unfortunate side-effect, but is the true intention behind these laws.

Prior to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, blacks had been virtually disenfranchised in many southern states. The Act dismantled the Jim Crow laws that enforced that disenfranchisement, and gave the Justice Department veto-power over any new laws in Jim Crow states that would affect the voting rights of minorities (rather than letting the laws take effect and requiring disenfranchised voters to sue). The Justice Department has used that power to invalidate voter-ID laws in South Carolina and Texas.

The Texas law is particularly egregious. ColorLines reports:

Texas has no driver’s license offices in almost a third of the state’s counties. Meanwhile, close to 15 percent of Hispanic Texans living in counties without driver’s license offices don’t have ID. A little less than a quarter of driver’s license offices have extended hours, which would make it tough for many working voters to find a place and time to acquire the IDs.

Now Texas has struck back: Its lawsuit claims the Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional, because southern states aren’t being treated the same as northern states. The Supreme Court is probably going to have to decide this.

When they do, I hope they take a hard look at the work of LeoT on Daily Kos. LeoT examines the historical frequency-of-use of terms like election fraud, vote fraud, and voter fraud. (Don’t you just love the Google tools that make this possible?)

All the terms have similar usage patterns except voter fraud. The term was virtually unknown until around 1960, then mysteriously in 1965 its usage began a steady increase, uncorrelated with the other election-fraud terms, until now it gets more usage that vote fraud.

LeoT interprets:

“voter fraud” … increased in usage 15,000% (150x) between 1965 and 2008, while “election fraud” increased 250% (2.5x) in the same period. Apparently, “voter fraud” didn’t matter until you weren’t allowed to disenfranchise minority voters.

Conclusion: The voter fraud issue has been manufactured to justify Jim Crow 2.0.

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  • Stephanie  On March 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm

    How does one register to vote anywhere without identification? What is to stop me from registering under a dozen different names if I don’t need identification?

    • weeklysift  On March 23, 2012 at 8:43 am

      The requirements vary a lot from state to state, and did even before the recent wave of strict voter ID laws. In New Hampshire where I live, for example, you can establish your residence by showing a utility bill with your name on it. (Our governor vetoed a stricter voter ID bill.) In some states you can register by mail without showing anything.

      What stops the kind of fraud you’re talking about? It’s perjury to sign a registration form claiming to be somebody you’re not or to live somewhere you don’t. Penalties are severe — jail time, big fines, etc.

      Now, probably you wouldn’t get caught. (At least that’s my opinion; I haven’t tried it.) If somebody has reason to believe that this is happening in non-trivial numbers (I haven’t seen any such reason), I could support making a push to catch these people.

      Also, I don’t oppose ID laws where the acceptable ID is flexible and easy. (“Show me something with your name on it.”) That’s what NH does — a utility bill is just a suggestion, not the absolute requirement. It’s not foolproof, but the point is to be reasonable. How much trouble is a person really going to go to just to steal one vote?


  • By Perfectly Tragic « The Weekly Sift on March 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    […] Jim Crow Returns. When did use of the term voter fraud start to ramp up? In 1965, precisely when the Voting Rights Act banned the previous ways of disenfranchising minorities. Now Texas is trying to get the VRA declared unconstitutional. […]

  • By Go Vote! | Life's Too Short To Sing The Melody on November 3, 2015 at 9:59 am

    […] makes efforts to rig elections all the more distressing.  I’m not talking about so-called voter fraud, which like other boogie men doesn’t actually exist.  Apply some reasonable common sense to the […]

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