Search This Blog


SOS challenger's agenda degrades elections

Defined more by candidate image in 2011, the 2015 contest for Louisiana’s Secretary of State finds itself notable for publicizing issues that would promote detrimental change to the state’s democratic health.

Current Republican Sec. of State Tom Schedler looks to keep the job after scraping by four years ago. Then, he faced outgoing House Speaker Jim Tucker, whose position gave the term-limited legislator extensive political capital and produced the most competitive race of that cycle. This time, none of his opponents have quite the resources Tucker brought to the challenge, but Schedler’s main competitor relies upon hawking a change in voter registration laws to convince the electorate to replace him.

Law professor Chris Tyson, a Democrat from a politically-connected family and environment who worked for former Sen. Mary Landrieu, criticizes Schedler mainly on two counts. First, he alleges that Schedler wastes funds on a lawsuit brought by the federal government, now four years in the running. Also, he argues that Louisiana ought to adopt same day voter registration, saying it would boost turnout as opposed to the current 30-day residency period required, claiming the state has high registration levels but relatively low turnout. He asserts that Schedler has resisted this change out of concerns of fraud Tyson dismisses.

Yet Tyson seems entirely unaware of the inconsistency attached to his two central claims. In the case of the suit, which he says Schedler should just settle as other states have, the Pres. Barack Obama Administration had launched an ideological crusade to bully states into registering more voters through threats and intimidation like the suit. The strategy is built on the supposition that constituencies favorable to Democrats disproportionately do not register to vote, and that the state should spend more time and money to push registration to this population, courtesy of a federal law that mandates that state agencies that largely deal with the public provide registration opportunities.

Schedler, in defending agianst the federal Department of Justice, rightly notes there is no causal connection showing the state deliberately obstructs the process and would rather fight the injustice of the request instead of caving in as Tyson suggests. Although Tyson’s expertise lies in property law, not election law, it’s not commendable as a model to the future lawyers he teaches to advocate settling in court instead of resisting government when it is wrong.

And, this position where he agrees that the state registers too few people is distinctly at odds with his claim that he state registers enough but too few vote, the basis of his argument for same day registration. His cavalier view that this change, which in the dozen or so states that practice it typically entails registering at the polling place often but not always involving a government identification card such as a driver’s license, poses no threat to election integrity is shockingly ignorant.

The sad fact is these election irregularities are far more common than widely known, with same day registration providing a convenient gateway to foster fraud that led to an estimated over 6 percent of ballots fraudulently cast by noncitizens in 2008 and over 2 percent in 2010. State laws which allow for some time between registration and election get removed with being able to do both on the same day, creating avenues for corrupting elections.

For example, while not easy, Louisiana’s laws make it possible for illegal registration. Louisiana law does not unambiguously require government-issued identification to be able to vote, nor does registration. Were these to be tightened, such as in needing unambiguous presentation of government-issued identification, that still is not an insurmountable hurdle to overcome. For example, the right combination of secondary documents, none of which would disqualify aliens, scores a driver’s license in Louisiana. Perhaps even more easily, the process of obtaining one by holding a valid license from another state requires no citizenship check, which includes licenses from the several states that do not check for citizenship from their applicants.

Tyson seems blissfully unaware of these possibilities, so at best his views on this subject are negligent. Nor does he even understand that this is a solution in search of a problem; when he supposes that Louisiana’s voting rates are too low, that indicates he is not informed on research on voting participation that shows, when holding constant the factors affecting voting turnout, that Louisiana actually has one of the highest turnout rates among the states.

This overall cluelessness disqualifies him from serious consideration for the job, as he conducts a campaign apparently long on ideology but short on facts. Still, to pretend to remain a significant force in statewide politics, Louisiana Democrats need to compete wherever possible, and it appears Tyson drew the straw here.

Even one fraudulent ballot can corrupt an entire election, and government must maximize efforts to ensure total honesty in elections. In the case of Tyson, voters should look elsewhere for a candidate for this office that does not so indifferently understands its role in maintaining elections integrity.

No comments: