Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Yet Again--the Fraud on Voter Fraud: My Comments on Politics Nation

Yet again the fraud on voter fraud rears its ugly head.

James O’Keefe of Project Veritas tried to punk New Hampshire election judges by impersonating dead people and seeking to vote. Unfortunately for him the only fraud committed may be by him. I comment on O’Keefe’s scam on Al Sharpton’s Politics Nation and in Talking Points Memorandum.

The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein closes his Tractatus with the wonderful line: “Of which we have no experience, we must remain silent.” His statement is a plea about the need to have empirical proof to resolve many matters of debate. Wittgenstein’s admonition precisely addresses the debate on proof about voter fraud. I have commented on this point before and will do again in light of the video alleging voter fraud in New Hampshire.

First, producers of the video are caught in a contradiction. They want to demonstrate how easy it is to commit in-person voter fraud by simulating it. However, one of two things are true. First, if they want to demonstrate how easy it is to commit this fraud they actually need to consummate the act. They did not do that if they actually did not cast a vote. Had they cast the vote then voter fraud occurs. But if they stopped short of that we actually do not know if they would have gotten away with the fraud. We do not know if they have been caught and prosecuted once records were check to see if any dead had voted. We also do not know if the canvass or any complaints would have been filed to catch them. Thus, we really do not have in this video here clear examples of voter fraud.

Conversely, if the producers in the video did actually commit voter fraud to prove their point then they are essentially estopped from claiming they did not violate the law.

But more generally, isolated case studies are a few examples of false impersonation here do not constitute good empirical evidence of widespread voter fraud. The fact that this video depicted potentially how easy it is to commit false impersonation does not support the proposition that in fact widespread voter fraud exists. A robbery at one bank does not prove banks are unsafe. As the saying goes one swallow does not constitute a spring. Single case studies are the weakest form of empirical evidence there is. Thus, this video, for whatever it says, fails to say much about the reality of voter fraud.

Immanuel Kant spoke of metaphysical versus empirical statements. Too much of the voter fraud discussion is simply the former-broad assertions without real evidence. It is like faith-based claims. Voter fraud is an empirical debate but is not treated as that. It is an article of faith for those who believe it does and rigorous social science inquiry will not resolve the issue. Voter fraud is a political narrative asserted on a plain that is not about empirical evidence. No amount of evidence will resolve the issue. It is like debates over whether the Loch Ness Monster or Big Foot exist or whether there was a second shooter on the grassy knoll.

I have made these comments several times. I have also sought to make this point in a piece “Is Voter Fraud Like Littering?: Empirical and Methodological Considerations.” However, regardless of my pointing out the circularity of the debate on the topic of fraud, it goes on and I am confident that it will persist regardless of what the evidence does or does not say.

No comments:

Post a Comment