Tag Archives: voter fraud

The Great Gouamba strikes again

“… when [the natives] have been condemned to eat nothing but vegetable food for several weeks, [they] have a positive craving for meat, and will do anything to procure it.

“This craving after animal food sometimes becomes almost a disease. It is known by the name of Gouamba, and attacks both white and black men alike. …Those who suffer from it become positive wild beasts at the sight of meat, which they devour with an eagerness that is horrible to witness.”

(From John George Wood, Natural History of Man, 1874)

This particular brand of madness came to my attention in the writings of the great A.J. Liebling, who diagnosed a case of Gouamba in the overwrought media coverage of a 1946 meat shortage blamed on postwar price controls.

Alas, a virulent strain of the Gouamba has overtaken Republicans nationwide and here in Vermont. Their hunger is not for steak, but for scandal in our electoral system. During the campaign, there were frequent press releases from the Vermont Republican Party alleging some kind of skulduggery and/or fecklessness by the office of Democratic Secretary of State Jim Condos, none of which had the slightest hint of merit.

This week, the Gouamba-besotted VTGOP Executive Director Jeff Bartley made a spectacle of himself at the site of an election recount. Indeed, according to VTDigger’s Jasper Craven, Young Jeff was so obnoxious that he was forcibly ejected from the premises.

Elsewhere, noted Gouamba-carrier Vermont Watchdog has yet another evidence-free “story” about security flaws in Vermont’s absentee balloting system. More in a moment, but first let us return to Mr. Bartley.

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Randy Brock labors mightily and brings forth a gnat

We have another missive from the desk of Randy Brock, former State Auditor and very unsuccessful candidate for Governor in 2012. This time, he has turned his gimlet eye to the subject of voter fraud, one of the right wing’s favorite chimeras.

(President Bush’s Justice Department spent ungodly amounts of time on this, and came up with a laughably small number of actual cases. That was enough proof for me that voter fraud is not a serious issue.)

Randy Brock's Fraud-O-Tron. Not exactly as illustrated.

Randy Brock’s Fraud-O-Tron. Not exactly as illustrated.

Thankfully, he eschewed the partisan rant. Instead, he went Full Auditor on it, harnessing “big data and inexpensive computer power” to do a vast comparison of voter records. He took “a sample of over 100,000 Vermont voters” from the 2012 election and compared them all to voter records in 48 other states. (Didn’t say which one he omitted. Alaska?) And he found…

… wait for it…

… a whopping 22 cases in which a Vermont voter also cast a vote in another state.

Please check my math, but I believe that’s a rate of 0.02 percent.

Color me unimpressed.

Brock, of course, feels otherwise:

Do we accept a small amount of voter fraud as the “cost of doing business” in a democracy? Or do we say that we must address the rare breaches of voter integrity that strike at the heart of our form of government?

That’s a bit overwrought, don’t you think? Two one-hundredths of a percentage point “strikes at the heart of our form of government”?

Look, I’d love to have a fraud and error rate of zero across the board. But voter fraud is way, way, waaaaaaay down the list of problems with our system of managing elections. Or should I say, our underfunded patchwork clusterfuck NON-system, with different rules and structures in every state, political hacks often in charge, blatant maldistribution of polling places, and vote-counting processes that seem incapable of anything close to precision.

You want “strikes at the heart”? How about Bush v. Gore?

And I’m not even talking about the mischief done by Katherine Harris or the Republican goons who intimidated election officials or the rank partisanship of the U.S. Supreme Court. I’m talking about the simple fact that, given an extremely close election, Florida was incapable of delivering an accurate count. Because of problems with collection and tabulation and incompetence and those God damn hanging chads, there was simply no way to be absolutely certain who won Florida.

That’s what strikes at the heart of our form of government: the fact that we have a system that can’t be relied upon to tell us who actually won the race for President.

Similar events unfolded in Ohio in 2004: A very close election that produced a messy, uncertain result.

(Leaving aside, for the sake of this argument, how many minority voters got discouraged by hours-long lines at their polling places, and how many votes the Democrat lost as a result. I’m just talking about accurately counting the votes that were actually cast.)

Brock actually suggests a reasonable solution for his little tiny problem. Not mandatory voter ID, but “something called the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a multistate partnership that uses sophisticated software to prevent cross-border voter fraud.”

It’s reasonable, but my response is that there are far worse problems with our system of registering voters, facilitating their right to vote, and accurately counting the votes. A lot of them have to do with fragmented authority. More have to do with a lack of resources.

If you want to get serious about a robust, reliable electoral system, there are much better places to start than with Randy Brock’s 22 votes, or with ERIC, or with mandatory voter ID. We’d be a hell of a lot better off if we created a coherent, consistent, capable, fair, unimpeachable election system.  Then we can address the virtually nonexistent “problem” of voter fraud.