Facts, reason, and voter ID

Just because there has never been a case of voter impersonation in Nebraska doesn’t mean it isn’t actually happening. Right? Wrong.

Since Sept. 6, when the Secretary of State announced that a voter ID initiative would be on Nebraska’s Nov. 8 ballot, we’ve witnessed the playing out of a familiar ritual. It goes like this:
 ›› Those opposed to imposing strict voter ID requirements note that in the long history of voting in our state there is no problem with our election security, and point out that no one can recall any prosecutions for voter impersonation fraud in Nebraska.
 ›› Voter ID enthusiasts respond with a “Yes, but.” They ask, Rumsfeld-like: How do we really know there’s no voter fraud? 
›› This is quickly followed by strict voter ID being held up as a surefire way to identify and stop fraud (you know, just in case it does actually exist, and our election officials across the state have somehow been oblivious up until now).
In other words, if one believes something is happening, then it must be in fact happening – and here’s our ready-made way of stopping it. This is a version of the classic The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence argument: Just because there has never been a case of voter impersonation in Nebraska doesn’t mean it isn’t actually happening. Right?
Wrong. It remains a fact that no one has been prosecuted for voter impersonation in the history of the State of Nebraska. It also remains a fact that our election systems’ tried-and-true safeguards have ensured election integrity in Nebraska since time immemorial. The politicians aiming to make it harder for you to vote know this, too, but they’d rather you not dwell on it. Right next to voter ID’s multimillion-dollar price tag, it’s not exactly their strongest argument.
We can say with confidence that if voter impersonation were happening, it would not go undetected. We have one of the largest sample sizes available – an election. Each election year, hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans go to vote. If people were being impersonated, even on a small scale, we would know. Someone would show up at their polling location to vote and be told “you already voted.” If they noted that they had not voted, that would raise red flags – including a criminal investigation, news coverage, and extensive attention from election officials. 
Impersonating someone at the polls is a huge risk and is a felony. An impersonator would need to find out where the person they’re impersonating lived, identify their polling place and go to that polling place on Election Day and hope: 
›› The poll worker does not know who they are or who the voter is; 
›› That the actual voter does not show up to try to vote later on Election Day (or even worse yet, at the same time); and 
›› That there is no camera footage at the polling location site. Then they would have to do this again and again at multiple polling locations to even begin to change the outcome of an election. 
Ask yourself: If claims of voter fraud were true, is it likely that evidence of its truth would exist? Given the state’s well-established electoral guardrails against fraud and impersonation – which have earned Nebraska a national reputation for efficient, safe, secure elections – the absence of such evidence is in fact material evidence that strongly suggests such claims are false.
We get it. It’s human nature to have lower standards of evidence for what we want to believe, but an impossibly high standard of evidence for what we don’t want to believe. This predisposition is as old as our species, but until fairly recently it hadn’t really posed a serious threat to our American institutions. Of course, all that began to change in the middle of the last decade. Since at least 2016 we’ve been inundated with fact-free accusations of Elections Gone Wild. It’s no wonder, then, that some of us reject the evidence of our eyes and ears and rely on feel
The problem with this mindset, though, is that it’s too easy to be lulled into accepting a false dichotomy. As presented by the voter ID devotees, there are only two options. Do you want elections that are safe and secure, or do you want elections that are rife with unseen, undetectable, mass cheating? This is a tool of manipulation, designed to strong-arm us into supporting and voting for policies that our logical, fair-minded brains would otherwise dismiss as imprudent, unfair, or unsound. In 2022, it’s a ballot initiative that will make it harder for all Nebraskans to vote – not just the Nebraskans in the “other” party, or Nebraskans some would prefer didn’t vote, mind you. All Nebraskans.
Spreading disinformation about unfounded and unproven voter fraud foments mistrust in our election systems. This is particularly problematic when it is repeated and amplified by state officials. It also fails to appreciate the thousands of Nebraskans across the state whose mission is to faithfully conduct safe and secure elections. By all accounts, these Nebraskans have done so successfully.
The biggest problem with our elections is that many of Nebraska’s eligible voters are choosing not to vote. If politicians truly do want to strengthen our elections, they might consider doing all they can to encourage voters to participate. Spreading disinformation – and supporting unnecessary voter ID requirements – will accomplish the exact opposite.

Learn more about the harms of voter ID at NoHindrance.org.

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