The Agenda

David Weigel on Florida’s Profoundly Flawed Efforts to Combat Voter Fraud

Though I’m sympathetic to the cause of combating voter fraud, David Weigel of Slate makes a good point:

Here’s the paradox of the new voter ID crackdown, of the 38 states that have debated or passed legislation that puts more demands on voters. The new laws—and in Florida, new executive campaigns—ask voters to show driver’s licenses at the polls, or prove their eligibility with birth certificates, or prove that they’ve never had a felony, or prove that they are citizens of the United States.

Doing that involves navigating your state’s bureaucracies. Those bureaucracies have been shrunk or frozen by years of belt-tightening. They rely on data from other cost-cutting organs of the state. Imagine giving some endomorphic amateur athlete a low-calorie diet and limited access to a gym. He’s training for a mile-long fun run, so there’s no pressure. All of a sudden, you panic about the threat of Sprinting Fraud or something, and you inform the runner of his new task: Run a timed 3.5-mile circuit, tomorrow.

This isn’t quite how I’d characterize belt-tightening efforts. Indiana and Utah are states that have demonstrated that public services can be improved even as spending constraints are fairly tight. But spending constraints don’t automatically lead to enhanced efficiency. For that you need serious organizational reform, and that requires effective leadership and flexibility on work rules, among other things.


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