Better That N Fraudsters Vote Than One Citizen Be Denied the Franchise

Since it’s evident that protections against fraudulent voting and fraudulent registration are certain to result in the disenfranchisement of some legitimate voters, I thought it would be interesting to ask our readers what you thought the right value was for “n,” where n equals the number of illegitimate votes cast in any given election for every one vote that would be prevented by an effective anti-fraud regime.

This question builds on one of my favorite law review articles. I’d argue that since the franchise is less historically rooted than the right to liberty, n=<10. But since the only direct and measurable consequence of voting fraud is to marginally dilute other voters’ franchise, n by necessity must be greater than 1.


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12 Responses

  1. A.W. says:

    You’re looking at this backwards. Every fraudulent vote IS a denial of the right to vote. If I vote for Obama and a man’s cat is allowed to vote for McCain, then my vote has been nullified as surely as if i wasn’t allowed to cast my vote in the first place.

    And I think we need to draw a distinction between allowing for active fraud v. passive fraud. It should be flat-out illegal for any organization to register voters. In other words, ban ACORN and all similar outfits. Why? Because it is inevitable that such companies will be pressed for results and ethics will be thrown overboard.

    And for what? To get a few people to vote who were too lazy to say “yes” when asked to register when getting their driver’s licence? Sorry, if you can’t get off your kiester and register yourself, i don’t want to hear your opinion. Its one thing to say that we are not going to have poll taxes, citizenship knowledge tests and the like (forgetting the unfortunate history of racial vote suppression associated with all of that), but its another to say that we want the vote of a lazy bum so badly that we are willing to risk fraud to get it. I am not a big fan of saving people from their own stupidity in the ordinary case, but when it costs those who actually do the right thing, then i am truly opposed.

  2. bgalle says:

    No offense to AW, but it’s absurd to say that one fraudulent vote nullifies one honest vote. Honest voting has lots of expressive value beyond the outcome of an election — otherwise, rational actors would not vote. In welfarist terms, I would set n in accordance with the following:

    ((odds of n votes altering election outcome) * (net welfare loss to undiluted majority from incorrect outcome)) + (expressive value of casting fraudulent vote) = (expressive value of casting lawful ballot) + (value of believing election is “fair”) + ((odds of single correct vote altering election outcome) * welfare value of new election outcome))

    I leave solving for “n” as a an exercise for the reader. I suppose some would not want to count the welfare of the fraudsters, which I think is reasonable and probably doesn’t change the result much. Also note that the net expressive value of casting a vote may be asymptotically close to zero for the marginal voter. That implies we should target enforcement in a way that first squeezes out those who would be most reluctant to vote anyway.

  3. Brett Bellmore says:

    The key thing to realize is that the effect of measures against fraud in the area of disenfranchisement is a function of how much effort you’re willing to put into efforts to counter that effect.

    For instance, requiring ID disenfranchises some number of legitimate voters who for one reason or another lack ID. But providing free (Subsidized!) ID counters this effect, AND leaves said voters better off, because they now have ID.

    It’s not a fixed trade-off.

    Also, I am hostile to the idea that, because you have a right to do something, doing it should not require any effort at all. We don’t have to provide everyone with a free printing press in order to avoid violating their right to freedom of press. We don’t have to drive voters to the polls to avoid denying them the right to vote.

    It’s legitimate to require people to exert SOME level of effort.

  4. A.W. says:


    No, it absurd to say it doesn’t or to pretend a vote is meant to do something other than pick people for office.

    Say for instance, in a town of 2000 people, there are 999 votes for Bob for Sheriff and 999 fraudulent votes cast for Bill and then Bill actually votes for himself. Bill wins! Democracy triumphs, right?

    So in what way have those votes for Bob not been nullified in my hypothetical?

    And why do people vote? Because it is their duty to. Yes, even if you are living in a place where one guy or the other is expected to blow out the other guy. Why? Because those expectations can be wrong. Allegedly biased polling agencies, the effect of massive cell phone use, people refusing to answer polls, and even the Bradley effect this year, are all good reasons to suspect there might be a surprise come election day. So the rational person says, “I’m not leaving it up to a pollster. I am actually going to vote and see how it turns out.” I’m not saying the rational actor should do this because they think pollsters are liars; its more of a “trust but verify” approach to things, which is imminently rational.

    And even where a blowout is expected with near 100% certainty, there can still be other issues and other races that might be close. So maybe you live in New York State where there is no way in hell that Obama loses, but there might be a competitive race for your local mayor’s race. Bear in mind, in 1960, there was clear voter fraud in Texas, but it turned out that it was one local candidate scamming another and he just happened to pull the lever for all Democrats while he was at it.

    Really, what is wrong with the modern left that it actually thinks that voter fraud is a-ok?

  5. Colin C says:

    AW, maybe it’s not that we on the left think it’s okay to commit fraud. More likely, it’s that fraud is so insignificant as almost not to exist, and any attention brought to fraud through stories about it merely encourages support from the public to institute tighter restrictions on the public to vote–thus disenfranchising voters. We have 5.3 million cons and ex-cons in this country who may not vote, most of whom would vote for Democrats. Institution of ID reqmts, eliminating felon-sounding names from the rolls, and stripping orgs of their right to register voters are merely additional methods to prevent likely Democratic ballots to be cast.

    Pointing to anecdotal evidence of fraud is inane and inspires fear where there ought be none. Check out the Brennan Center’s report on fraud or Sample’s story from last year on Politco.

    Sample’s story:

  6. A.W. says:


    I am sorry, but just how far should we go to encourage people to vote? Is it too much to ask that you actually be able to prove who you are? Is it too much to ask that when you are getting that ID that you actually say “yes” when they ask you if you want to register to vote?

    Again, if you don’t care enough to do those minimal things, why should we consider your opinion so worthwhile that we will create a situation where actual fraud is much more likely.

    And, yes, if you oppose ID laws and other common sense measures to prevent fraud, you ARE pro-fraud.

  7. A.W. says:

    Btw, anyone notice a pattern here?

    Democrats pushing for measures to reduce protection against voter fraud.

    Democrats eliminating secret ballots in unionization–a proposal so noxious that even George McGovern spoke out against it.

    Democrats intimidating people who “lie” about obama with threats of criminal prosecution.

    Obama sending letters to stations who air “false” mccain ads threatening their FCC licences.

    Imagine if Bush did half of these things. The left would be screaming dictatorship. Actually they are anything, and Bush hasn’t done anything of the sort.

  8. Colin C says:

    We’re not getting anywhere here.

    1) Of course I support fraud. I invite fraud if it remains statistically insignificant, especially if a small increase in fraud means a huge increase in eligibility and/or turnout.

    2) It is FAR too much to ask people that don’t have driver’s licenses or IDs to check a box on a form in a building they never go to, especially if the state they live in has no box on the form.

    3) How far should we go?

    –We should mail registration cards and absentee ballot apps to every address in the nation.

    –We should offer absentee ballot apps and reg cards at non-trad places of residence–shelters, mental hospitals, nursing homes, etc.

    –We should invite people to vote in many other, more convenient ways.

    –We should send BULK registration cards and absentee ballot apps to jails and pens, too–at least in states where prisoners are eligible to vote.

    –We should rework the VFA so that no convict (misde or felon) looses his / her right to vote, ever.

    –We should drive the system toward a point where voting takes almost NO time and effort whatsoever and is not accompanied by any fear on the part of the voter.

    We’re definitely done here, AW. I’m much more radical than even the average dem, and you’ll never sway me.

  9. A.W. says:

    Right Colin, because it is SO HARD to get a driver’s licence, or just a regular photo ID. I mean, my God you have to… stand in line and ask for one (in the case of a photo ID). How horrifying.

    You talk about an insignificant risk of fraud, which is one of the new dem talking points, pretending it hardly ever happens even as Mickey Mouse is registered in Florida. But what about an insignificant burden on the voter?

    Again, if you are that lazy, i don’t want your opinion.

    > We should rework the VFA so that no convict (misde or felon) looses his / her right to vote, ever.

    Right. You know, because law breakers are the best people to run our society.

    Btw, i notice that you don’t talk about protecting the right to vote of the military. there is only one party that cares about that. the democrats, meanwhile, do their best to suppress the military vote. So much for the chickenhawk canard–its the left that doesn’t want to hear from the actual military, not the right.

  10. Colin Ccr says:

    Thanks for the non-response, AW. Like I said, we’re done.

  11. Quidpro says:

    Thank you for your candor, Colin. You support fraud and would encourage the homeless and the mentally insane to vote, based on your assumption that they would vote Democrat. My what an appealing and inclusive message!

    One Question: If, as you hope, we arrive at the point that voting takes no time or effort, will society be the better?

  12. A.W. says:


    Yes, that was a response; just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it wasn’t.

    You’re pro-fraud. its that simple.