Monthly Archives: April 2008

supreme court rules on Indiana Voter ID case

I’ve mostly stayed quiet on this issue but it is newsworthy.

The Supreme Court just ruled on the Indiana Voter Id case
(Crawford v. Marion County Election Board) in support of
allowing states to issue stricter voter id laws.

Rick Hansen gives his initial thoughts at the Election Law Blog:

Today’s much anticipated decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board is a significant win for those who support stricter voter identification laws, even if they support such laws for partisan purposes. It will encourage further litigation, because it relegates challenges to laws imposing onerous burdens on a small group of voters to “as applied” challenges, but those challenges will be difficult to win. The lack of a majority opinion, moreover, injects some uncertainty into the appropriate standard for reviewing other challenges to onerous election laws.

I am disappointed by how cursory that opinion was in its review of the state’s interest in light of the highly partisan atmosphere of election administration, and I fear that, despite the Stevens-Kennedy-Roberts’ opinion’s best intentions, this opinion will be read as a green light for the enactment of more partisan election laws in an attempt to skew outcomes in close elections.

I’m personally a bit conflicted on voter ID requirement laws. Opponents (1 2) of these sorts of laws argue that they are effectively poll taxes, that there is very little evidence of significant fraud by voters that they would help prevent (as contrasted with election fraud by election system insiders) and that the motivation for these laws is a partisan push to discourage voters from classes of people that lean to the Democratic party.

Despite these arguments, it seems very reasonable to me for our election system to have means to prevent or detect fraud attempts by voters. Intuitively a voter id requirement does not sound very burdensome. The question for me becomes not “Can / Should Voter ID requirements be enacted?” but rather “How can Voter ID requirements be implemented in a fair, non-partisan way that will not effectively result in partisan voter suppression?” I don’t have answers except for suggesting that laws like this not phase in for ~10 years so that the negative impacts can be minimized and partisan effects be less predictable.

Dan Wallach at Freedom To Tinker has a couple of very thoughtful posts on the topic:

  • How can we require ID for voters?

    he real issue is making sure that all people who might want to vote actually have IDs, which is a real problem for the apparently non-trivial number of current voters who lack normal ID cards (and, who we are led to believe, tend to vote in favor of Democrats).

    The question then becomes how to get IDs for everybody.

    The only way I could imagine a voter ID requirement being workable (i.e., having a neutral effect on partisan elections) is if there was a serious amount of money budgeted to help people without IDs to get them. That boils down to an army of social workers digging around for historical birth records and whatever else, and that’s not going to be cheap. However, I’m perfectly willing to accept a mandatory voter ID, as long as enough money is there to get one, for free, for anybody who wants one. The government is willing to give you a $40 coupon to receive digital signals for an analog TV, as part of next year’s phase-out of analog broadcasts. Why not help out with getting identification papers as part of phasing in an ID requirement?

  • voting ID requirements and the Supreme Court

    In the end, the court found that the requirement wasn’t particularly onerous (the New York Times’s article is as good as any for a basic summary, or go straight to the ruling).

    The big technical question, of course, is whether the root desires behind the voter ID requirement can be addressed in some more effective fashion than ID requirement. What are those root desires?

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What’s Easier to Rig—the U.S. Presidential Elections or a Slot Machine?

From Discover magazine’s blog:

What’s Easier to Rig—the U.S. Presidential Elections or a Slot Machine?

Steve Freeman, a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, compared the vulnerabilities of the two in his book, with some pretty alarming results. Among the problems he found:

–Unpredictable voting machine software is kept secret, while gambling software must be kept on file with the state.

–State inspectors randomly inspect gambling machines to ensure their software and computer chips haven’t been tinkered with. Voting machines don’t need to be checked, and no one knows what’s in them anyways.

When will we have a transparent verifiable election system?

going storage neutral

Ed Felton’s excellent post An Inconvenient Truth About Privacy has inspired me to go storage neutral as well. We’ll see how long I can last – I’m guessing that I will tire of it quickly. Probably by tomorrow it will feel like a stale joke.

One of the lessons we’ve learned from Al Gore is that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. We all like to tool around in our SUVs, but too much driving leads to global warning. We must all take responsibility for our own carbon emissions.

The same goes for online privacy, except that there the problem is storage rather than carbon emissions. We all want more and bigger hard drives, but what is going to be stored on those drives? Information, probably relating to other people. The equation is simple: more storage equals more privacy invasion.

That’s why I have pledged to maintain a storage-neutral lifestyle. From now on, whenever I buy a new hard drive, I’ll either delete the same amount of old information, or I’ll purchase a storage offset from someone else who has extra data to delete. By bidding up the cost of storage offsets, I’ll help create a market for storage conservation, without the inconvenience of changing my storage-intensive lifestyle.