Thursday, April 12, 2007

rokita chases ghosts of voter fraud

yesterday, i linked to a new york times article which revealed that the election assistance commission had altered many of its key findings in a recent report on voter fraud.

there has been a growing discussion in the media and blogosphere in the past few weeks, as it's become increasingly clear that the white house—and thus the national GOP—has become pathologically obsessed with "voter fraud"... despite the fact that most experts agree that it doesn't exist on any significant scale.

today, tdw links to rick hasen's election law blog. hasen was looking through the original draft of the EAC report and discovered that indiana secretary of state todd rokita was a member of the EAC's working group on voter fraud.

apparently todd made some "troubling" comments in the report. because the pdf of the report is not machine-searchable, i have taken the liberty of retyping the relevant passage, which appears on page 28. note that this is the entirety of the "working group concerns" section:

1. Mr. Rokita questioned whether the purpose of the present project ought to be on assessing the level of fraud on where it is, rather than on developing methods for making such measurements. He believed that the methodology should be the focus, "rather than opinions of interviewees." He was concerned that the EAC would be in a position of "adding to the universe of opinions."

2. Mr. Rokita questioned whether the "opinions" accumulated in the research "is a fair sampling of what's out there." Ms. Wang responded that one of the purposes of the research was to explore whether there is a method available to actually quantify in some way how much fraud there is and where it is occurring in the electoral process. Mr. Rokita replied that "Maybe at the end of the day we stop spending taxpayer money or it's going to be too much to spend to find that kind of data. Otherwise, we will stop it here and recognize that there is a huge difference of opinion on that issue of fraud, when it occurs is obtainable, and that would possibly be a conclusion of the EAC." Ms. Sims responded that she thought it would be possible to get better statistics on fraud and there might be a way of "identifying at this point certain parts in the election process that are more vulnerable, that we should be addressing."

3. Mr. Rokita stated that, "We're not sure that fraud at the polling place doesn't exist. We can't conclude that."

4. Mr. Rokita expressed concern about working with a political scientist. He believes that the "EAC needs to be very careful in who they select, because all the time and effort and money that's been spent up to date and would be spent in the future could be invalidated by a wrong selection in the eyes of some group."

what rokita seems to be saying is that he doesn't care what all the experts say: like believing in faeries, rokita believes in polling place fraud and nobody will be able to dissuade him. this is the same type of stubborn delusion he exhibited last november when he insisted that november's election was "one of indiana's finest hours" despite the many obvious problems.

rick hasen explains why he finds rokita's position so troubling:

In my view, there's no way that the EAC can design a sound methodology for a new study of voter fraud without the help of well-trained political scientists (or other social scientists well trained in appropriate research methods). It cannot subject the selection of such a political scientist to some kind of litumus test that excludes a good political scientist whose choice offends some interest group. This is part of the EAC's new pathology generally: it is afraid to release any data that might offend some group or take a side. (Under pressure, the EAC has now released that Eagleton/Moritz study on voter id and turnout that it has disowned).

In the end, I get the sense that no amount of evidence from the most eminent political scientist would convince Sec. Rokita that voter fraud at the polling place is not a major problem. From the report: "Mr. Rokita stated that, 'We're not sure that fraud at the polling place doesn't exist. We can't conclude that.'"

of course, nobody is saying that polling place fraud doesn't exist, only that it doesn't exist on any major or significant scale, and thus draconian voter id laws do far more harm than good. in any case, the burden of proof is on rokita to establish that polling place fraud is a real problem along the lines of, say, absentee ballots or easily-hackable no-paper-trail voting machines. but he can't do that because the evidence doesn't exist.

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