I found this over at The Heathen Republican’s blog:
“Arguments that hinge on efficacy, when the real question is over values, are doomed to fail… Debunking the myth of voter fraud doesn’t address the normative point that we ought to protect the integrity of the vote, regardless of whether fraud is likely. At best, liberals offer information that challenges the notion of widespread voter fraud. But that’s not enough… If conservatives could prove that voter fraud was real, then the impetus for voter ID becomes even stronger.”
-Jamelle Bouie, 30-Jul-12
Let’s write this argument out explicitly:
Premise 1: We have a moral obligation to act to protect the integrity of the vote.
Premise 2: The integrity of the vote is in danger whether or not fraud is likely.
Conclusion 1: We have a moral obligation to act to protect the integrity of the vote even when fraud is unlikely.
Premise 3: The best way to protect the integrity of the vote is to establish stricter voter ID laws.
Conclusion 2: We have a moral obligation to establish stricter voter ID laws even when fraud is unlikely.
The First Problem: Premise 2
If fraud has not been a problem and is not likely to be a problem, then one must ask what threatens the integrity of the vote such that we must act to save it. Without a reason to be concerned, there is no reason to act.
Perhaps conservatives believe that any fraud at all threatens the integrity of the vote, such that we must not suffer even one case of fraud. However, that implies that we must make the laws so strict that voter fraud is impossible. The point at which voter fraud becomes impossible is most likely the point at which we all must have identity chips embedded in our bodies, undergo eye scans, etc. I hope that conservatives are therefore willing to forgo their privacy concerns and spend even more money in the defense of the vote’s integrity. After all, we cannot put a price on freedom or justice.
Of course, that is absurd. To solve the problem of voter fraud in that way would be to create more and greater problems, which makes us worse off. According to liberals, however, that is precisely what new voter ID laws do. If they (1) have little effect on fraud because there barely is any and (2) make it more difficult for legitimate voters to vote, then they make our problems worse. The question is not: Should we eliminate fraud? The question is: What price are we willing to pay to eliminate fraud? This is basic cost-benefit analysis. Liberals reject the law because they perceive that the cost is high and the benefits are low. In that case, conservatives have two options: (1) state openly that reducing already negligible fraud is more important than the legitimate votes that will be lost or (2) argue that we will not lose legitimate votes.
But perhaps conservatives are more concerned about the appearance of fraud. That is a legitimate concern, but it cannot be solved by voter ID laws. Suspicion will persist because it is based on distrust of others (particularly liberals) rather than legitimate evidence of fraud. Moreover, voter ID laws address only one type of electoral fraud, so the appearance of corruption will remain.
The Second Problem: Premise 3
Liberals and conservatives ought to be able to acknowledge each other’s concerns and reach a mutually beneficial compromise. If conservatives want to eliminate fraud or the appearance thereof while liberals want to make sure that legitimate voters will still vote, then they should work together to develop laws that do both. The two concerns are not mutually exclusive. New voter ID laws must be accompanied by strong efforts to make sure that those who would face difficulty in getting their IDs would still get them.
If conservatives dismiss liberals’ concerns, then it is unreasonable for them to expect liberals to acknowledge theirs. However, even if conservatives do acknowledge liberals’ concerns, it is still unreasonable to expect liberal support until they offer a compelling reason to change the law. In this case, fraud is a compelling reason. An appeal to some sense of integrity that is divorced from the real world is not.