Elections, Politics, and Election Politics

Welcome to pro bono week! I don’t have my regular pro bono gig this week, but I will be facilitating one of the American Red Cross’ International Humanitarian Law Seminars this week.

Plus, on Saturday, I attended training to serve as an elections observer in Wisconsin, to facilitate voter protection. I can’t say I’m thrilled with the 16-hour day it will entail, but I’m excited to be doing it.

Voter protection, voter suppression, and voter ID are not topics I cover at work, but I am concerned with judicial elections at work and find myself often immersed in voter protection issues.

Among the many interesting things I have seen or read is this video in which UC-Irvine Law Professor Richard L. Hasen discusses his book, The Voting Wars, at the Brennan Center. One thing which really stuck with me from the video is entirely anecdotal and common sensical. Voter ID laws, which act to suppress the votes of the poor, the elderly, and the youngest voters (generally college students voting in their first elections), exist to correct what is essentially a completely ridiculous scenario: that the type of voter fraud we need to prevent comes in the form of people showing up at polling places pretending to be a particular eligible voter and voting.

Think about it for a second.

Thinks about this for a second: what would be the purpose of committing voter fraud? To win an election. How does one win an election? By getting the majority of votes.

Is it plausible that one could win an election through voter fraud that happens one person at a time, pretending to be the person that’s listed on the roll as an eligible voter? Because that’s all requiring an ID at the polling place does: verify that the person casting the vote is on the roll as a person eligible to vote at that polling place.

On its face, the notion that requiring a photo ID at a polling place will safeguard the election is ridiculous.

But there’s much more to the video and you should watch it. It’s interesting and not that long. I’m adding the book to my e-reader, too. Maybe I’ll read it when I’m in Wisconsin, protecting voters from the sort of problems that have been documented to happen in elections: intimidation at the polls, poll workers who don’t understand local rules for same day voting or provisional voting, and voters harming themselves by attempting to vote when they cannot (but without intent to cast a fraudulent vote, such as felons still on parole who cannot vote until parole ends and people who voted absentee who want to change their vote).

Rick Hasen has a piece on voter suppression in Salon right now. The Brennan Center has other excellent resources, as well.

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