Max Brantley Has No ID

Liberal blogumnist Max Brantley is setting new records on the outrageometer.  In a recent tirade against Voter ID laws — which the majority of Americans support, by a 3-to-1 margin in one recent poll — Brantley makes several demonstrably false claims.

Here is Brantley’s “analysis:”

Despite no evidence of a single case of voter impersonation at the polls, Republicans push for these laws. Why? Maybe to disqualify the 10 elderly nuns denied a ballot in Indiana. Or maybe to bar college students whose photo IDs were insufficient because they didn’t contain their dorm room number. Or maybe to block poor people who can’t get a state ID because THEY DON’T HAVE AN ID to qualify for an ID. It’s insidious, anti-American and wildly successful at suppressing the privilege that so many Republicans claim as sacred as they spit on it for people who aren’t like them. They’ve even brought back poll taxes in required fees for the IDs.

So let’s take these distortions one at a time.

Brantley Distortion #1: No evidence exists of a single case of voter impersonation at the polls.  (He’s careful to qualify this statement with “at the polls” because, well…)  This claim is easily proven false by a simple Google search.  Here is one New York City case, reported on by The Heritage Foundation:

The grand jury detailed a widespread conspiracy that operated without detection for 14 years in Brooklyn. This conspiracy involved not only impersonation of legitimate voters at the polls, but also voting under fictitious names. As a result, thousands of fraudulent votes were cast in state and congressional elections.

One of the witnesses before the grand jury described how he led a crew of eight individuals from polling place to polling place to vote. Each member of his crew voted in excess of 20 times, and there were approximately 20 other such crews operating during that election.

Other examples of vote fraud are also listed in that same story.

Brantley Distortion #2: The 10 nuns were disqualified from voting and denied a ballot in Indiana.  A closer look at this story reveals that the nuns could easily have voted if they had wanted to.  From The Wall Street Journal:

The nuns had all been told earlier that they would need an up-to-date ID to vote. But none of them had asked to be taken to get an ID, and some flatly said they did not want to. Then on Election Day the nuns all showed up to vote.

They could have been given provisional ballots, which would have counted if they had shown up at a county clerk’s office within 10 days to show an ID or sign an affidavit testifying to their identity.

The nuns would have none of it. According to the Associated Press, they told Sister McGuire that they were not interested in getting an official state ID.

In short, this was political theatre cooked up by activists in habits. The WSJ also reported that the nun running the polling location declined to offer the nuns a provisional ballot because she decided it was “futile.”

Furthermore, there are also provisions provided for the elderly under the Indiana law:

But if their mobility is restricted, the Indiana law provides other ways in which they could have voted. Nursing homes can get a waiver of the ID requirement for residents to vote. And any Indianan over 65 is automatically eligible to cast an absentee ballot.

To summarize: the nun anecdote is a manufactured non-event designed to inflame credulous partisans who want to believe in vast conspiracies to deny voting rights. It’s acceptable that ordinary citizens swallow this sort of thing whole, but we’re entitled to expect better from those who would call themselves journalists.

Brantley Distortion #3: Voter ID laws keep poor people from voting. This claim is also demonstrably false. In fact, there are provisions made for those who cannot afford IDs.  Indeed,  every state that has implemented a voter ID law has also made free IDs available to voters who don’t have them:

Kansas has a new voter ID law. Through May of this year, only 32 out of 1.7 million registered voters have applied for a free photo ID because they didn’t already have one. In most of the six years that Georgia has had a voter ID law in place, fewer than 0.05 percent of the state’s 6 million registered voters have received free IDs.

Facts are stubborn things.

Brantley Distortion #4: Voter ID suppresses turnout. I don’t believe that there’s any evidence for this, but there’s certainly plenty of evidence that debunks his claim.  Here are just a few pieces, from Heritage:

  • A study by the University of Missouri on turnout in Indiana showed that turnout actually increased by about 2 percentage points overall in Indiana in 2006 in the first election after the voter ID law went into effect. There was no evidence that counties with higher percentages of minority, poor, elderly, or less-educated populations suffered any reduction in voter turnout. In fact, “the only consistent and statistically significant impact of photo ID in Indiana is to increase voter turnout in counties with a greater percentage of Democrats relative to other counties.”
  • A study by the University of Delaware and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln examined data from the 2000, 2002, 2004, and 2006 elections. At both the aggregate and individual levels, the study found that voter ID laws do not affect turnout, including across racial/ethnic/socioeconomic lines. The study concludes that “concerns about voter identification laws affecting turnout are much ado about nothing.”
  • A survey by American University of registered voters in Maryland, Indiana, and Mississippi to see whether registered voters had photo IDs concluded that “showing a photo ID as a requirement of voting does not appear to be a serious problem in any of the states” because “[a]lmost all registered voters have an acceptable form of photo ID.” Less than 0.5 percent of respondents had neither a photo ID nor citizenship documentation. A 2008 election survey of 12,000 registered voters in all 50 states found that fewer than nine people were unable to vote because of voter ID requirements.

You were saying, Max?

Brantley Distortion #5: Republicans brought back poll taxes in the form of ID fees.  Again, every state that has implemented voter ID laws have made IDs available free to those who could not afford them.  So what exactly is the “tax” Max speaks of?  Perhaps it’s the tax on the gas that is required to drive to the DMV and pick up the free ID?  Or the sales tax on the wallet required to store the ID?  I’m really not sure.

I admit it: I have no idea what anecdote Max is referring to when he claims that college kids were turned away at the polls because their photo ID didn’t contain a dorm number. But based on Max’s terrible record with respect to accuracy, I’m not sure I see why I should take this alleged occurrence at face value either. As a general matter, the facts are not on the side of opponents of voter ID laws. States that have enacted these reforms have seen positive results; the “concerns” raised by Brantley and others are essentially meritless. Voter ID is a reasonable, responsible way to shrink vote fraud in Arkansas.


  1. All the news I’m seeing about actual vote fraud is that conducted by Republicans. And I’m shocked, simply shocked.

    Of course, the fact that if I were a Mexican drug lord I could go to a gun show and buy as many AKs as I can fit into my Yukon for cash without ID, whereas my white-haired grandmother must now have an ID to exercise her constitutional right to vote for Obama, tells us as much about the priorities of the GOP as we need to know.

    Follow the money and you will find the rationale behind modern conservatism. Oh, for the days of Buckley.

    • Nic Horton says:

      Perhaps it’s time to stop reading The Arkansas Times and start reading The Arkansas Project:

      • sixholdens says:

        That would be trading one biased view for another biased view. Best be is to Google it and read as many different views as you can afford the time to read, then make a decision.

      • sixholdens says:

        Why trade one biased rag for another biased rag? Search the internet and get all sides of the story.

        • Nic Horton says:

          Seems logical–abandon facts and evidence for the plethora of misinformation on the internet. I support you in your efforts! Best wishes.

    • sixholdens says:

      You are right about it being driven by Republicans. They are making an effort to block as many voters as possible and voter ID fraud is an easy subject to rile the masses and the media reps like NH.

      An internet search will turn up masses of voter ID fraud ACCUSATIONS and a few actual cases, of which nearly all cases are not by individual citizens but by political machines bent on subverting the voting procedures. Voter ID laws, requiring a photo ID WILL NOT prevent this type of fraud, which is the only kind we have to fear.

      Many people fear the inaccurate voter lists because there are DEAD PEOPLE on them and they think anyone can come in a vote in their place. Not likely. Not if proper procedures are followed.

      Many of those complaining about dead people on the list are the very same people who were supposed to take proper documentation to the registrars office and have THEIR dead relative removed from the list. It is not automatic, someone has to make the effort to report them dead and gone.

      When the governments start paying for the ID’s, which NH claims is being done but I have yet to find where it is actually paid for by the government, and making it easy to get one without a waiting period, half a dozen different forms of ID to get the ID and someone to show me a Birth Certificate with an UP TO DATE PHOTO on it to prove who it says it is, I will support voter Photo ID requirements. AND I expect them to be issued by the voter registration office so that they are real.

      This country has existed for over 200 years and voting has been quite easy until now. Now one party wants everyone to carry a photo ID, will the next requirement be travel documents? Or how about documents to prove you actually are a citizen? Maybe some more documents to prove you have a job and another to prove you live in a certain house or apartment? Where will it stop? When they put up the fences between townships to control your very movements? Will we have to request documents from Washington to go see our relatives in the next state so we aren’t traveling out of our area without permission? Is that what you really want NH? Because once voter ID laws become the law of the land, that is the next step in the restriction/control of the American people, one slow step at a time.

      • Nic Horton says:

        Six, you have me very concerned. Can you read?

        • sixholdens says:

          Better than you, I can read multiple sources and determine what is true and what is false.

        • sixholdens says:

          Can you? You can spew all manner of half-baked Republican ideas of how to restrict voters from voting so maybe you can, you just can’t deduce the underlying reason for their massive efforts in this election year.

          Tell me. Why have we not needed this until now? Why weren’t photo ID’s required as soon as the technology was invented if voter fraud is such a rampant problem? There should be a photo ID record going back to 1826 for every voter ever registered if this was 1/10,000 the problem Republicans are making it out to be. Prior to 2006 there were no photo ID laws and now, all of a sudden, there is a horde of fraudulent voters just itching to vote multiple times?

          The threat is not from the individual, it is from a political “machine”. Some candidates “team” is who you should be after, not the individual voter.

          • The fact that folks have not been prosecuted for voter fraud speaks to the unwillingness/inability of prosecutors to take such actions.

            Here’s a really simple question: If not required to produce ID to vote, how is a poll worker supposed to know somebody is not the person they claim to be? Is every poll worker required to know every individual at their polling place on sight? Are they all required to be handwriting experts and compare signatures?

            Just because there are few cases of successful prosecution regarding voter fraud doesn’t mean it can’t happen and isn’t happening already. Since voter fraud by its very nature is going to be extremely difficult to catch and/or prove, the lack of prosecutions is not proof that it does not exist.

  2. What about Brantley’s claim about having to have an ID to get a voter ID? Do you know what states require of those who want free voter IDs? I don’t mind the concept of voter ID laws, I just think the burden should rest on the state to pay for and get the IDs to its citizens since this is a Constitutional right we’re dealing with here.

  3. sixholdens says:

    If required to pay for the ID it is a poll tax and illegal in this country. I don’t have to pay for my citizenship and that is what allows me to vote. Maybe a few decades ago it was a requirement to pay for you right to vote but the citizens got that eliminated. Why start it up again?

    • Nic Horton says:

      Your comments are very interesting, and not actually based in reality. The Supreme Court holds a much different opinion:

      Indiana’s law was upheld by the Supreme Court in Crawford v. Marion County (2008). In that case, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Indiana law was “not like a poll tax” at all. The Supreme Court agreed. In Common Cause of Georgia v. Billups (2006), the decision that upheld Georgia’s voter ID law that was affirmed by the Eleventh Circuit, a federal district court dismissed the poll tax claim as entirely inappropriate because the “imposition of tangential burdens” is not a poll tax and no different than the cost of time and transportation to register and vote.

      • sixholdens says:

        And you, of course, agree with every decision handed down by the supreme court. Pity.

        Since a person has already “registered to vote”, the court is saying that it is okay to add another cost of time and transportation to what has already been levied against the voter. And you support that. So it won’t be a problem for you when they add another fee to be able to vote, and then another and another and another.

        I guess you haven’t learned how the system works yet since you support this method of restricting already registered voters from doing their duty.

  4. sixholdens says:

    Nice, sloooooowwwww posting of comments. Very slow. Must still be using 286’s to run the server, that or only 256K of RAM. Of course when it functions this slow it is an indication that no active debate is desired and only one view is considered important.

  5. If the issue of voter fraud is people impersonating other voters, then has there been a big problem with people showing up to vote at their designated polling place only to find that their name has been checked off as having voted already? Also, I would still like some answer to my earlier question about the requirements to get the free IDs.

    • Well, since voter participation rates hover around 50% and lists of people who voted are public records (as are lists of registered voters), it would be relatively easy for somebody to go get lists of registered voters who haven’t voted and get nefarious folks to vote as those people. This would be almost impossible to detect until well after the fact (and hence almost impossible to prosecute).


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