Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The “No PhotoID” solution to Voter Fraud

The election’s been over for just over a week, and we’re already getting the claims that “if only there’d been VoterID laws, the result might have been different”. The latest is the Co-Chair of the Wisconsin Romney campaign, Alberta Darling, who claims things might have been different, if one judge hadn’t struck it down (and the supreme court hadn’t ignored the appeal)

It’s become a contentious issue, and one that is accord with the methods to disenfranchise voters in the US, often going hand in hand with election machines (and their uncertainty), the restricting of monitoring ,and curtailment of voting hours.

Copyright Mother Jones

Thus it’s become the new cry in the US, especially this past week, to cry about ‘voter fraud’ and ‘stuffed ballot boxes’. In Wisconsin, state Sen. Alberta Darling (R) said the results might have been different (and since there was a 200,000 vote margin, that’s some serious fraud).

Meanwhile, down in Florida, Tea Party darling, Alan West is fighting on a recount to keep his congressional seat. Since it first emerged he might lose, a week ago,  he’s been relentless about claims that there are vote-rigging activities on-going to ensure he loses. In the past week there’s been no less than two emails sent out by the Breitbart blog soliciting donations for his ‘fight’ (and being somewhat ‘free’ with the truth as they do so, not that those they’re targeting are that good at facts and figures).

VOTER ID they all scream. ‘We need voter ID!’ There’s just one problem. Having an ID is not mandatory in the US. It’s not mandatory in the UK either, or many other countries for that matter. If you live in one of those countries where ID is mandatory, this probably isn’t for you. If you live in a voluntary ID nation, though, read on, because there’s an easy solution to weed out in-person voter fraud, and doesn’t require IDs. Intrigued? Read on

First, a simple test, do you WANT to show ID? If you do, fine, go ahead and do so, if you have no problems doing so, then knock yourself out. I have no problems with people voluntarily doing so. My problem is with people being denied the ability to vote because they don’t have ID.

Copyright Mother Jones

My thoughts worked on the problem backwards. People that don’t have ID can’t vote, because they can’t prove their identity. The reasoning is that without being able to biometrically prove yourself, you could be posing as someone to cast their vote. So, if the problem is people voting multiple times (In-person, voterID fraud, or IPVF), then the easy solution is to attack the problem. If people “voting multiple times” is a problem, then you need to identify the people voting multiple times.

So, the solution would be to use a photo system. It’s actually rather similar to the mug-shot system used by police forces. If you don’t have ‘photo ID’, then what identification you DO have is collected, and noted, and a voter ID number (at very least, the Social security number, or similar) is issued. You then have a digital photo taken with the voter ID number in shot.

Now you have a positive visual identification of the person wishing to cast a vote. What happens now is an ideal situation, but potentially possible. The state election system could run facial recognition against these VoterID photos, to look for similar faces. Any that look the same to the computer, are brought up for the poll worker to compare. If they pass, then they’re issued a ballot.  Simple.

The real benefit comes in following years. Then there may be previous year’s photos to compare as well. Makes it easier to be sure the same person is voting each time.

While it’s in some ways an impractical solution (the US has problems with a simple touchscreen voting machine working properly, let alone photo databases and facial recognition), as well as a slow one (although doing the photo first, and giving it processing time while info is collected might help) it is a way to ensure people can vote, even without ID.

I don’t necessarily condone this system, mind you. IPVF is typically a very small problem when it comes to electoral irregularities. Instead, I present this system as a method to deal with the alleged problem in a way that deals with the claims, working from the starting point of ‘everyone should be able to vote’. I realise there are problems of identity privacy, where there is now a photo with an ID number (essentially a mug-shot) in government hands. However, my criteria was allowing people who do not have photoID (either because they’re unable, or unwilling to get one) to vote while reducing IPVF. One thing that could be done, is that the information provided in this manner, is considered legally privileged material, with a VERY high bar for judicial disclosure.

Of course, this is only one issue that’s been brought up about election irregularities. Others include weird voting machine, and of course, ballot box stuffing. But there are ways to deal with that, which I’ll share another time. And with all this going on, aren't you glad that Iowa and Texas threatened international observers, because there are clearly NO problems with the 2 party system we have right now... Right?


  1. No id enables fraud more than it denies a persons ability to vote.You have to have a check to cash a check. Why go so far to help that and deny the overseas military votes? Maybe because it works in Obama's favor greatly to have no id. 

  2. "Maybe because it works in Obama's favor greatly to have no id."

    Well... let's look at the numbers and see. Disclaimer: I'm not an American, so am not entirely familiar with the states (particularly the fiddly North-East ones, but they seem to be mostly Democrat) so I think I may be out by one or two in a few places.

    By my counting, the Republicans (R) won 24 states, the Democrats (D) 26.

    So, on the restrictions (top picture):
    38 states introduced voter restrictions - of those, 15 went R, 23 D.
    12 states didn't - of those, 9 went R, 3 D.

    That doesn't seem to support the hypothesis that voter restrictions helped the Rs (or a lack thereof helped the Ds).

    Breaking that down:
    Photo ID required: 9 states, 6 R, 3 D (so that may help the Rs).
    Citizenship test: 3 states, 3 R, 0 D (again, may help Rs).
    Restricting Registration: 6 states, 1 R, 5 D (benefit to Ds)
    Restricting Early Voting: 5 states, 3 R, 2 D (close)
    Restricting Address Changes: 2 states, 0 R, 2 D (benefit to Ds)
    Restrictions on Felons: 2 states, 0 R, 2 D (benefit to Ds).

    Of course, it is hard to draw much out of this as there may be other causes for these patterns (such as states predominately R being more likely to require citizenship stuffs), but there doesn't seem to be a strong pattern either way.

    It's a bit clearer with the Voter ID laws (second picture):

    Strict Rules: 5 states, 4 R, 1 D (so possible R advantage)
    ID Requested: 6 states, 3 R, 3 D (no obvious effect)
    Non-photo ID required: 20 states, 12 R, 8 D (slight R bias)
    No ID rules: 19 states, 5 R, 14 D (D bias).

    So this would suggest that states without ID rules are more likely to go D ... or it could suggest that states that go D are less likely to introduce ID rules. I imagine a more thorough study in this sort of thing could be quite interesting.

    Of course, the existence of a causal link between ID rules and stronger R voting doesn't mean that in other places there is voter fraud (would need more details on that - and there doesn't seem to have been many reports of if anyway), it just means that people voting didn't need ID. But if believing that the Ds only won through mass voter fraud helps you sleep at night, who am I to challenge that?

  3.  Erm, just some problems.
    The numbers of In-Person, Voter ID fraud that happen in a typical state during an election cycle, can be counted on the fingers of Captain Hook (most states his bad hand alone will suffice)
    However, tens of thousands are disenfranchised by not having the right ID.

    You say you need it to cash a cheque. Great. one problem - cashing a cheque is
    a) not listed as a right of a citizen under the Constitution
    b) a private matter between you and a company or individual
    c) something many people don't do (I've not done it for about 10 years, it's hilariously quaint)

    The same goes with alcohol sales, gun sales, etc. They're all voluntary things, and while B is not the case in those examples, neither are they a right granted by citizenship, but are choices. I very rarely drink, I've not fired a gun in almost 15 years, and like I said, I've not cashed a cheque in a decade. If it wasn't for the fact I drive, I wouldn't NEED an ID at all. Oh, and I can have someone else buy a gun, and me just use it, drive me around, buy my beer and even have any cheque cashed for me (by signing it over, or by asking the issuer to pay me cash instead). I can't have someone else cast a vote for me.

    but seriously, your statement "No id enables fraud more than it denies a persons ability to vote." is amusingly naive. Please, regale us with evidence, and data and FACTS that support this assertion, please!