13 thoughts on “Pilot Editorial: Lower barriers to voter access in Virginia

  1. RE: “In theory, it is perfectly OK to erect barriers to voter access.”

    The argument takes several forms. One holds that the statistical outcome of an election will tend to be the same regardless of the participation rate. In other words, you’re likely to get the same result whether 10 people vote or 10,000, all else being equal. Opinion pollsters exploit this principle when they establish the sample size for a survey.

    Another form of the argument holds that you tend to get government that is just as good regardless of who does the voting. The governments we elect may be different in some ways depending on who is in the voting pool, but most people get along just fine under most governments. So, within limits, it doesn’t matter all that much what sort of government comes to power.

    Finally, there’s the argument that some barriers to voter access are simply legitimate. For example, most people would agree that foreigners should not vote in our elections. A barrier to voter access for them would be legitmate.

    The point is that removing barriers to voter access doesn’t necessarily serve democracy or improve the quality of government.

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    1. “In other words, you’re likely to get the same result whether 10 people vote or 10,000, all else being equal. Opinion pollsters exploit this principle when they establish the sample size for a survey.”

      However the selection of sample participants is the key to quality polling.

      Elections are ideally not selecting voters other than by eligibility to vote. This is why campaigns work so hard to get certain segments to vote. Suburban women were a key constituency in the last election.

      Similarly the GOP in North Carolina was called out by the courts as passing laws that affected the minority voters with “surgical precision “.

      Both campaigning and voter access legislation are trying to skew the election results. Except the former is trying to encourage participation and the latter restrict it.

      History shows that large voter turnouts favor Democrats. So sample size is important when it comes to actual voting rather than polling.

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      1. _RE: “History shows that large voter turnouts favor Democrats. So sample size is important when it comes to actual voting rather than polling.”

        In theory, again, that would be a good reason to limit voter turnout. If higher turnout tends to elect government type A instead of government type B, then you can deduce that the polling sample is skewed. In other words, the election results reflect “mob rule,” not the actual, demographically adjusted will of the people.

        “Mob rule” by skewed demographics within the polling sample may be an acceptable imperfection, but that’s only because governments type A tend to be about as satisfactory in general as governments type B.

        It all depends on what we want. Do we want election results that accurately reflect public opinion in all its variations, or are we comfortable with crude approximations?

        If crude approximations are to be the rule, then many forms of limiting access to voters — such as photo ID — become justifiable on practical grounds.

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        1. As always, the idea of the citizenry actually deciding on who represents them is anathema to right wingers. If higher turnout favors Democrats then the GOP solution SHOULD be to mend their ways so that is no longer true. THAT is how democracy ought to work. Instead we get Gerrymandering and barriers to voting that serve no legitimate purpose.

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          1. RE: “If higher turnout favors Democrats then the GOP solution SHOULD be to mend their ways so that is no longer true. THAT is how democracy ought to work.”

            Instead of scientific accuracy, then, we should have brute-force competition?

            I”m OK with that, but you can’t call it “democracy” in any meaningful way.

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          2. Your logic which finds that the choice is between “scientific accuracy” or “brute-force competition” needs some sort of clarification. It is unintelligible as it stands. It is also unclear how the people deciding who represents them is not democracy?

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          3. _RE: “Your logic which finds that the choice is between ‘scientific accuracy’ or ‘brute-force competition’ needs some sort of clarification.”-

            The only way to get a correlation between voter turnout and Democrat victories is for Democrats to be over-represented among people who vote. Democrats might be a natural majority of people who vote, but in that case the correleation between higher turnout and Democrat victories would not exist.

            Thus, as I keep pointing out, if you want the citizenry to elect the government democratically, instead of competitively, you must use scientific polling methods that take into account the actual demographics of the electorate. I’m not in favor of this, but it is what it is.

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          4. OOOOps.

            To be precise: “The only way to get a correlation between HIGH voter turnout and Democrat victories is for Democrats to be over-represented among people who vote.

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  2. “some barriers to voter access are simply legitimate”. Meaning voters should be properly registered, then at time of voting; produce identification to validate the individual is the legitimate registered voter. I honestly cannot understand why this is a partisan issue.

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    1. RE: “Meaning voters should be properly registered, then at time of voting; produce identification to validate the individual is the legitimate registered voter.”

      I agree. Some people emphasize the importance of having voters prove that they are who they claim to be. I’m OK with that, but another purpose of voter ID is to validate the registration database. It’s a quality check, and it needs to be done using the same criteria used to create a registration record in the first place. Otherwise, it is not a valid quality check.

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  3. That national elections are relegated to one 13 hour period on a workday is needlessly restrictive, particularly for wage earners and those who hold multiple jobs.

    Election Day should be a national holiday and polls should be open round the clock for 48 hours. 12 hours before the holiday and 12 hours after. This in addition to absentee voting without restrictions should increase participation among all Americans.

    Is there any reason that permanent resident aliens, green card holders, are denied the vote? After all they pay taxes, own businesses, serve in the military and are generally subject to the same rights and responsibilities as citizens. In addition they have been vetted thoroughly and are net producers.

    Just sayin’.

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  4. “Do we want election results that accurately reflect public opinion in all its variations, or are we comfortable with crude approximations?”

    We have 3 elections that determine the makeup of our government.

    The House, which should give a very accurate reflection of public opinion in all its variations except for Gerrymandering. Get rid of that, and the districts will vary according to region with regards to the will of the electorate.

    The Senate, which is just a refinement of the House, but with more attention to the states as political entities rather than regions within them. And it gives more power to the rural and farm states to balance the heavily populated urban areas. Yet it does accurately reflect public opinion insomuch as it gives power to conservative and liberal states on an equal footing.

    The Presidency, which should be a popularity contest because he will represent the entire country.

    So we essentially have all the protections necessary to express the will of the people without the danger of mob rule. After all, we are a representative form of government, a republic, and not pure democracy.

    No need for crude approximations, just better voter participation to guarantee that.

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    1. The “mob rule” effect I have described is a statistical subtlety that occurs in all three of the elections you mention. If an electorate consists of 40% type A voters and 60% type B voters, then to avoid “mob rule” either every single voter must vote, or the votes which are counted must be 40% by type A voters and 60% by type B voters.

      If either A or B is underrepresented in the sample that decides the outcome, you have the “mob rule” effect.

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