As I reported earlier this week, forcing voters to show a photo ID at the polls is a GOP boogyman, a “solution” to a non-existent problem.
Now comes two researchers — Jesse Richman and David Earnest — from Old Dominion University, who claim that “6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008 and 2.2 percent of non-citizens voted in 2010.” Their Washington Post blog post has more than 3,300 comments, has sparked a cottage industry in conservative media inflammatory headlines, and has extensive criticism from political science academics. [icopyright one button toolbar]
And a significant concession from one of the research authors.
Researcher agrees that truthiness is MIA
Mark Robison writes a fact-checking column at the Reno Gazette. He reviewed the claims made in “Could non-citizens decide the November election?, published in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage political-science research blog.
[I]t’s a lone study on a controversial subject with data that even the authors admit is not ideal. It’s fodder for discussion but not for fears of election fraud.
Truth meter: 4 (out of 10)
And then study author Richman replied, agreeing with the 4-out-of-10 truth meter assessment.
Conservative media field day
The research, slated for publication in the journal Electoral Studies, led to a flurry of conservative media siren songs: Voting by Non-Citizens Tips Balance for Democrats (Breitbart); Here comes the 2014 voter fraud (WSJ); Report: Non-Citizens’ Votes Could Affect Senate Race (NewsMax); and Non-Citizens Are Voting (NRO).
Let’s unpack those study claims
The researchers are extrapolating from the 2008 and 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES), which uses people who have opted-in to an online survey platform as a basis for fashioning a pool of answers that “matches” a representative population sample.
That representative sample contained about 1 percent in each survey who identified themselves as non-citizen immigrants (339 in 2008, 489 in 2010). The researchers then estimate how many non-citizens voted. Note: the percentages appear disarmingly large — they actually represent the percent of the 1 percent of the total respondents, so move that “dot” two places to the left: 11.3% is actually only 0.113% of the total study.
Reed College Professor Paul Gronke “expressed concerns” about the study and Washington Post summary due in part to the “number of very heroic assumptions [needed] to be able to claim that non-citizens were voting in significant numbers.”
Also at the Washington Post Monkey Cage, Brown University political scientist Michael Tesler criticized the researcher’s methodology:
The 2008 and 2010 CCES surveyed large opt-in Internet samples constructed by the polling firm YouGov to be nationally representative of the adult citizen population. Consequently, the assumption that non-citizens, who volunteered to take online surveys administered in English about American politics, would somehow be representative of the entire non-citizen population seems tenuous at best (emphasis added).
[Theh authors] were only able to validate the votes of five respondents who claimed to be non-citizen voters in the 2008 CCES.
The most interesting factoid overshadowed by conservative media headlines
During the 1800s, non-citizens had the right to vote in the United States in at least 22 states and territories. At the beginning of the 20th century, that number had dwindled to 11 states.
In 1874, the Supreme Court ruled that male-only suffrage was unconstitutional and noted that citizenship was not a prerequisite for suffrage.
Male non-citizens could vote but female citizens could not?
It is contended that the provisions of the constitution and laws of the State of Missouri which confine the right of suffrage and registration therefor to men, are in violation of the Constitution of the United States, and therefore void.
[C]itizenship has not in all cases been made a condition precedent to the enjoyment of the right of suffrage. Thus, in Missouri, persons of foreign birth, who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, may under certain circumstances vote. The same provision is to be found in the constitutions of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, and Texas.
Raise your hand if you knew this. I sure as hell didn’t.
Who is YouGov?
YouGov conducted the CCES on behalf of a consortium of U.S. political science researchers. It is an international market research company headquartered in the UK with offices around the world, including the U.S. Co-founder and former CEO Nadhim Zahawi is now a “British Conservative Party politician who has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for Stratford-on-Avon since 2010.” Co-founder and current YouGov CEO Stephan Shakespeare (birth name, Stephan Kukowski) is also a conservative British politician.
Can voter ID laws “fix” this problem, assuming it exists?
In a word, no. Voter ID laws are designed to prevent someone from impersonating another person at the polls. Laws that require a voter to show an ID to vote do nothing to prevent a non-citizen from getting on the voter registration rolls.
Should non-citizens be allowed to vote?
In local elections, state elections, federal elections?
If they are in the process of obtaining citizenship?
It’s not prohibited by the U.S. Constitution.
It may come as a surprise to learn that “several municipalities … currently allow non-citizens to vote in local elections.” Moreover, “65 countries, on 6 continents, have provisions granting the exercise of some voting rights to foreigners and/or for certain categories of foreign residents.”
What do you think?
Known for gnawing at complex questions like a terrier with a bone. Digital evangelist, writer, teacher. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill, wiredpen.com