Damned Zombies

One of the right's favorite scary stories is the one about voter fraud. Sure, neither party needs to be reminded that every vote counts, or that important elections can be very, very close. But while the left and libertarians have been focused on the potential perils of black-box electronic voting, Republicans have kept up a steady drumbeat for state- or nation-wide voter ID cards. The basic idea is to create a small barrier to voting in exchange for the elimination of sneaky behavior at the ballot box—in North Carolina, our own Virginia Foxx (R-5) was trying to drum up support for a national voter ID card last year. But voting is a fundamental right, and every impediment to an individual's freedom to exercise their right to vote must come with a very good reason.

Enter the zombie voter, who rises from his eternal slumber every November to cast a ballot and derail a fair and free election. "Some bad actors are out there," goes the thinking, "over-voting and messing with the process." If it's true, then it's some evidence that the current system isn't secure enough and that Republicans are right about the need for a stronger ID requirement.

Michelle Malkin's blog today contained the following: "Jim Hoft sees dead people...voting. Everywhere." That text came with a link to this blog which contained a list of states in which the dead are voting. I clicked on North Carolina, then followed another link (that seems to have stopped working today) and ended up with—a true life tale about a ballot cast by a dead person! Foxx was right! Right?

Not really. It's a story about a North Carolina woman who cast an absentee or early ballot, and then died before election day. So, while it's true that she was no longer living when her vote was counted, it's not at all a tale of voter fraud. In fact, you'd be hard pressed in most states to identify more than a handful of recent cases of voter impersonation—the kind of fraud conservatives claim to be defending us from.

Why are Republicans telling these scary stories? Because they want what every political group wants—an edge in the next election. What's wrong with this plan is that it works by quietly disenfranchising the very poor, who traditional vote for Democrats. What's so sneaky about it is that it's hard for most of us to understand that there are people among us that don't have drivers' licenses, who can't get to a government ID station, and to whom the $10 or $20 ID processing fee is a lot of money. Republicans figure that most of us won't notice or care when these people stop voting.

There is heartening news: in our peachy neighbor to the South (not South Carolina, but the other one), a state law that would require ID to vote is being challenged in the federal courts. Judge Murphy in the Northern District of Georgia recently put a stop to enforcement of the law pending the outcome of the case (order - PDF), and the Eleventh Circuit refused to overturn that decision (order - PDF). (For a shorter run-down on what's wrong with the Georgia law, check out this Election Law Blog entry.) Hopefully these courts will stand up for the principle that any plan to suppress voter fraud should respect the right of every American to cast a ballot.

Zombies or no zombies.