As Rick noted (here and here), the National Center for Public Policy Research has produced an essay that has gotten some recent publicity. Branded a “study” by others, it is long on eloquence and passion … but mighty short on facts and logic.
The piece is primarily about the impact of voter fraud. There are pieces with which I agree. But there are also some disturbingly familiar slips. I’ve prepared a thorough annotation, noting that which is correct, that which is correct but misleading or irrelevant, and that which is simply false. More, after the jump.
Despite some misstatements, the essay’s first act correctly identifies some recent discrete instances of election misconduct, including registration fraud and fraud using absentee ballots. The essay’s title asserts that the victims of this fraud are most likely the poor and disadvantaged. While there’s very little evidence cited in the essay, it seems plausible that some of the fraud (particularly when schemes like absentee fraud involve nursing facilities or low-turnout neighborhoods) has this effect. (As for registration fraud, since the majority of unregistered voters and those who need to reregister based on a move are poorer or minority voters, it is likely that there is more registration fraud where there is more registration. The victims of such fraud, though, are the groups engaging individuals to register legitimate voters.)
Then the essay goes off the rails, in distressingly familiar fashion. Although not a single one of the examples of fraud cited in the piece has anything to do with a voter pretending to be someone else at the polls, it sells photo ID as a necessary solution. (Here, as elsewhere, photo ID seems the snake-oil solution no matter what the ailment, from cancer to the common cold.) Actually, ID rules may make the actual problems mentioned worse: although absentee ballot fraud, for example, may well victimize the poor and disadvantaged, requiring photo ID at the polls only encourages would-be fraudsters to abuse the absentee ballot system. And using the same repeatedly discredited comparison of turnout in Georgia and Indiana around 2008, it claims that photo ID requirements assist minority voters, when the truth is that turnout analysis can’t possibly reveal a causal effect one way or the other.
The essay’s third act closes with an equally slipshod excoriation of the Justice Department for acting politically rather than legally in refusing to preclear new ID rules in South Carolina and Texas. The essay discusses neither the legal standard the DOJ is required to use nor the available data indicating retrogression, focusing instead on the abstract intent of the Voting Rights Act and unsupported assertions about the impact of fraud generally. DC courts will soon weigh in on what the data show. But given the evidence presented thus far, it looks like precisely the opposite would be true: an unreviewable decision to preclear would be the political, but not legal, path.