The Fraud of Voter Registration

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The Fraud of Voter Registration

by Ari Armstrong, October 15, 2004

During the final Presidential debate October 13, Brian Schwartz joined Peter Boyles and Reggie Rivers on Channel 12. So I sat flipping channels. Schwartz asked an obvious question: why is higher voter turnout such a great thing? Yet Schwartz got other panel members to claim they'd rather have more people vote for things they hate, rather than fewer people vote for things they like.

Yet the celebrity voter-registration pushers are obviously Kerry supporters. I saw a shirt that read, "Vote or Die," an invocation of the bogus allegation that Bush would reinstate the draft. While the official line is, "vote no matter what," the subtext is, "so long as it's for Kerry."

Now, there is an element of truth to the notion that greater voter turnout is good. Higher turnout per se isn't good, but more voting probably indicates that more people are learning more about politics. Thus, there's surely a correlation between higher turnout and better political education. Nevertheless, the large majority of voters will no doubt cast ballots in ignorance of the issues. I'd rather have 10% of the population cast an educated vote than 90% cast an ignorant vote.

What people should be encouraging is not voting primarily, but economic and political literacy. It would be great if 100% of the population voted, if first everyone read Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt.

As Jeffrey Friedman reviews in Critical Review ("Public Ignorance," Vol. 12, No. 4, Fall 1998), the lower-order problem is simple ignorance of the facts and the issues. The higher-order problem, though, is dogma through which many "experts" filter a lot of information but still reach false conclusions. For example, a Marxist might know a lot of facts and be highly educated but still advocate deadly economic proposals. A highly educated Christian might advocate theocracy. Of course, as Friedman fails to adequately recognize, learning anything requires a set of integrating theories. The important point is that those theories are correct. Thus, it's not so good that the ignorant vote, but it's hardly better if educated dogmatists vote. Whereas the ignorant are likely to vote haphazardly, educated dogmatists are likely to vote consistently for bad things.

What we really want, then, are three interrelated goods. First, we want greater political participation, which includes more voting. Second, we want people to be better educated about the issues. Third, we want people to be educated according to theories about the world that are correct. If we lack any one of those elements, the political system will suffer.

Of course, many will think that my views are dogmatic and that I ought not advocate economic liberty and individual rights. My reply is that, to distinguish dogma from truth, we have to be motivated by a desire to discover the truth and then we have to enter the hard debates.

Nor am I swayed by appeals to pragmatism, for pragmatism is itself a false dogma. (We must distinguish the pragmatist philosophy from a general and legitimate concern with good consequences.)

The real fraud, then, is the claim that voting is an end in itself. Voting is good only if votes are cast according to an accurate understanding of reality. Otherwise, voting is bad and it yields bad results. After all, Adolf Hitler was popularly elected, and slavery and racism in the U.S. were entrenched by majority rule.

We also have some disturbing local matters of specific alleged fraud. It seems that some of the voter-registration drives in Colorado have yielded fraudulent registrations. However, as Bill Johnson pointed out in the October 15 Rocky Mountain News, only around 1,000 registrations are suspect out of around 300,000 new registrations. Also, as Johnson quoted Pete Maysmith of Common Cause, fraudulent registration is unlikely to result in fraudulent voting in most cases.

Secretary of State Donnetta Davidson has been placed in a situation in which she simply cannot win. The Democrats are obviously trying to set her up to take the blame for any election problem. (Davidson is a Republican.) As Peggy Lowe wrote for the News (also on October 15), a Democratic strategy book, part of which was leaked to the Drudge Report, urges Democrats, "If no signs of [voter] intimidation techniques have emerged yet, launch a pre-emptive strike." The strategy, then, is to spread paranoia that Republicans want to keep people from voting (for Democrats).

Davidson is taking heat from all sides. She upholds the rule that voters must show identification, so she's blasted for allegedly making it harder for people to vote legitimately. But if she didn't require identification, she'd be blasted for enabling voter fraud. She fudged the voter-registration deadline on the grounds that some people's paperwork might not have been processed in time. I think she should have held firm to the deadline, but then the left would have again blasted her for "disenfranchising" people too irresponsible to register on time. However, people without identification must cast "provisional" ballots, which are harder to check and which could again enable voter fraud. Yet another problem is that apparently a few thousand felons are unlawfully registered to vote. (This information was gleaned from the News and The Denver Post.)

The real lesson here is never, ever run for Secretary of State. Given the problems of unverifiable all-digital voting, ambiguous rules for registering and voting (created in part by Congress), and the self-serving "pre-emptive strikes" of the left that increase the likelihood of voter fraud, this is not a happy time to be in the election business. Add to that the disaster of Amendment 36, and we could be looking at an election nightmare.

Hopefully, though, things will go relatively smoothly, problems will be few and quickly resolved, Amendment 36 will fail, and we'll have decisive counts in all the races.

A clean election cycle is necessary for good government, but it's not sufficient. It's not enough that people vote and that their votes are counted accurately. What's really important is that people vote intelligently. Alas, there's no easy fix for that.

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