Monthly Archives: March 2007

Is The EAC Being Appropriately Cautious or Cowardly on Voter Identification Research?

Today the EAC issued a press release, “EAC to Launch Comprehensive Study of Voter ID Laws.” The release begins: “The U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has voted unanimously to launch a comprehensive study focused on voter identification laws after concluding that initial research it received in a report, which focused on only one election cycle, was not sufficient to draw any conclusions. The Commission declined to adopt the report, but is releasing all of the data to the public. The report and the research, conducted by Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, through its Eagleton Institute of Politics, are available at The Commission’s statement regarding its decision is attached. ‘After careful consideration of the initial research, the Commission decided this important issue deserves a more in-depth research approach, and that it should be examined beyond only one election cycle,’ said EAC Chair Donetta Davidson. ‘The Commission and our contractor agree that the research conducted for EAC raises more questions than provides answers.'”
The earlier report for the EAC got some extensive news coverage because it showed a decline in turnout, especially among minority voters, caused by voter identification laws.
There’s nothing to quarrel with the EAC about concerning a need for additional research. But why did the EAC go so far as to disown the initial report? Project Vote accuses the EAC of playing politics.
What we can say here is that the EAC’s actions follow a familiar and disturbing pattern. There are two unanswered sets of empirical questions on voter identification. One question involves the extent to which voter identification laws disenfranchise eligible voters. That’s what at stake in these studies. The other involves the extent to which there is voter fraud that a voter id law could be said to prevent or deter. The EAC commissioned a report on vote fraud, too, and it disowned that report also, creating some controversy.
The EAC needs to remain a credible broker, and it can’t be timid about what it finds. If the evidence happens to support one side of the debate over voter id laws over another, that should not be a reason to disown a report on start over. Release the reports and do additional research, that could confirm or reject the hypotheses of the earlier research—unless those reports are so flawed in their methodology that they have no probative value. That seems a hard argument to make with this research.
As I’ve argued, the moment for election reform is passing, and the chances for the EAC to be an honest broker that is above politics and that lets the chips fall where they may are fading.

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“CATO Launches Politically Motivated Assault on Ballot Measure Donor Disclosure System”

The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center has issued this press release, which begins: “The CATO Institute and Institute for Justice recently called for more secrecy in political giving in ballot measure donor disclosure systems. This pro-corruption position was rejected by voters in several states last year when it was revealed that CATO board member Howie Rich was responsible for what one state judge called ‘a pervasive and general pattern of fraud” in his attempt to foist an extreme agenda on voters through hidden money and dirty tactics in the ballot initiative process.'”

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“A Step for Voting Rights”

The NY Times offers this editorial, which begins: “The Maryland Legislature struck a blow for democracy when it voted to overturn a law that barred more than 50,000 ex-offenders from the polls in the last presidential election. By signing the measure into law, Gov. Martin O’Malley would make Maryland part of a growing movement for electoral fairness. He also would simplify one of the most complicated and confusing voting bans in the nation.”

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An Interesting Issue Related to the D.C. Voting Bill

A reader sends along the following provocative email:

    Among other things, I have appreciated the excellent coverage you have given to the pending bill that would give D.C. a representative in Congress. As I have been following the debate, however, I have been unable to find any discussion whatsoever of one of the odd quirks that will occur if the proposed bill passes. Interestingly, this bill has been touted for its partisan fairness, since it balances DC’s expected Democratic representative with an expected Republican representative from Utah. But in fact, there is an aspect of this that is not completely in political equipoise. That is because under federal law, see 3 U.S.C. sec. 3, the number of presidential electors that each state gets depends on the number of congressmen that the state has at the time that the new president would take office. Since Congress is sworn in before the president, that means that Utah would get an extra electoral vote in the 2008 elections. Yet DC would not get an equivalent extra electoral vote in the 2008 elections, as its number of electoral votes is fixed by the constitution.
    For all practical purposes, then, the effect of this bill would be to give the Republican nominee for president an “extra” electoral vote in the 2008 election.
    Obviously, in a close election this could affect the outcome. Whether or not that is a cause for concern for purely partisan reasons, or for more general reasons of partisan fairness, I offer no opinion. But if such a scenario came to pass, one wonders if congressional democrats could raise a viable challenge to the certification of Utah’s electoral votes, using as their ammunition the claim that the D.C. bill was unconstitutional. And in voting on such a challenge, one further wonders whether the D.C. representative would be allowed to vote (an issue that potentially raises some quite paradoxical possibilities). And if the congressional challenge failed, what would happen if the whole D.C. Representative Bill were later struck down by the federal courts? At the very least, the whole scenario raises complicated issues of law. At worst, it threatens a constitutional crisis that makes Bush v. Gore look like a walk in the park.
    The question I had for you was whether you knew if these issues had been getting any coverage, anywhere, in the debate over the D.C. bill? I’ve been unable to find any discussion about this whatsoever, and I’m starting to wonder if Congress has even thought through this aspect of the bill. Indeed, I have not even seen clear evidence that Congress has been cognizant of the first step in this chain — that the effect of the bill is to give an extra Republican vote for president in 2008.

I haven’t been following this closely. Do others have an opinion on this?

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More Joe Rich on the U.S. Attorneys Controversy and Voter Fraud Allegations

See this LA Times oped, which begins: “THE SCANDAL unfolding around the firing of eight U.S. attorneys compels the conclusion that the Bush administration has rewarded loyalty over all else. A destructive pattern of partisan political actions at the Justice Department started long before this incident, however, as those of us who worked in its civil rights division can attest.” My link to Joe’s earlier testimony before a House subcommittee is here. See also this commentary by Barbara Burt and Jonah Goldman at

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