Making sense of the gun debate: The numbers

Another day and another gun massacre in the United states. On May 23rd 2014 we saw a gun massacre occur in Santa Barbara California, another one added to the long lists of massacres. We saw another sympathetic speech from the president over the issue, another gun debate on the mainstream media, another hysterical warning that the government was going to take guns away from rightwing conspiracy theorists. It all seems like a never ending cycle of gun violence in the U.S and a never ending debate to boot and it seems like every man and his dog is coming out with ‘the answer’ to the matter. I’ve followed the gun debate since the Columbine shooting back in 1999 and over the years I have tried to make sense of the matter. It is difficult however to get around to understanding the gun issue as a whole as it is a complex issue that stems back to the founding days of the United States. It is an issue that spans a number of other issues, it spans ideologies and national culture. It is difficult for me to fit the entire gun debate into one article so in this one I will start off with mostly the statistics of it all.


The stats: Guns in the United States
First off let’s look at the statistics of guns and gun violence in the United States against the rest of world. As of April 2013 there were approximately 88.8 firearms to every 100 persons in the United States (1) compared to Switzerland and Finland which come up at just over 45 firearms to every 100 persons (1). The United States is well ahead of the rest of the world for firearm related deaths where there are 10.2 incidences per 100,000 in the United States in comparison to 3.84 incidences in Switzerland which comes in second. More americans have died at the hands of guns on U.S soil than all the wars since 1968 (2). In 2011, the latest piece of data I could find on this, 8,583 americans were murdered by use of guns, this takes 67.7% of weapons used in murders (3) in the United States. In comparison, death by cutting or stabbing (involving knives) amounted to 1,694 or 13.3% of all murders in the United States as of 2011 (3). So it is a matter of fact that guns are the main instrument of murder used in the United States, it by far outweighs the use of other tools to commit murder. It’s also evident that the United States seems to have more of a problem with gun related crimes in comparison to the rest of the world, the stats clearly indicate so.


Gun access
Let’s start with one sobering reality, gun numbers. In 2012 the congressional Research service found that there were 310 million non-military firearms in the United States (4). That’s about a gun to every single person in the United States from new borns to elderly. Add to that the fact that it is fairly easy to legally get access to a gun in many states in the United States. We can compare this to India which has the second largest number of non-military owned firearms, 46 million (7) and what’s more, they have 1.2 billion people sp per capita, it is about a fraction that of the United States. In Alaska for example a permit is not required to purchase a gun (5) and Arizona takes this a step further by not requiring a permit to carry one in public provided you’re 21 or over (5). In many of the States that do require permits to carry weapons, getting them are relatively easy and what’s more in Utah for example, by getting a gun permit there you can use your permit in 32 other states (6).
Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the pair responsible for the heinous act committed at Columbine Highschool in 1999 were both underaged (under 18) to acquire the arms used in the shootings. However they were able to get a friend (former prom date of Dylan Klebold) who was 18 years old at the time was able to purchase the weapons for them instead (8). Seung-Hui Cho, responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre, was able to acquire his weapons from a pawnbroker and a gun dealer despite his history of mental illness (9). Cho apparently had to go through backround checks to acquire these weapons (10) however these backround checks did not include the fact a Virginia Court ordered him to undergo treatment at a mental facility. Cho however was obligated to mention this in the backround questionnaire but did not do so.


Gun fluidity

Gun proponents have argued the futility of tough gun laws and have pointed to this as evidence that tighter gun control is not the answer. They further argue that because gun laws have done little to change the mass shootings that have occured over the years and that this is indicative of their argument that the issue has little to nothing to do with gun accessibility. Firstly the gun proponents are correct in the argument that gun laws have done little to prevent the occurence of mass shootings over the years. Connecticut is one such example where the Sunnyhook shootings took place. It has been rated as having one of the toughest gun laws in the United States by the pro-gun control Brady campaign (11). California has been rated as number one for tough gun control laws in the United States (12) yet we had the more recent Santa Barbara shooting occur. While I give gun proponents a fact check approval on that argument, it’s important to understand the context behind why these laws have not been effective.
In a country like the United States with some 300 million guns within it’s borders alone, it is very hard for any state to prevent the flow of weapons coming in and out. The same could be said for cities and counties. Chicago is a city well known for its restrictive gun laws yet more gun were seized for unpermitted use there than New York and Los Angeles (13). Gun violence in Chicago is higher than most other cities. So given this fact, why has Chicago struggled more so with gun violence than many other cities despite it’s restrictive gun laws? Well as a concerned Chicago christian minister, Reverend Ira Icree, put it to the New York times:

“Chicago is like a house with two parents that may try to have good rules and do what they can, but it’s like you’ve got this single house sitting on a whole block where there’s anarchy,” (13)

In 2013 Chicago police recovered some 50,000 guns from various crime scenes and criminals and of that number 15,000 were traced outside of Illinois state lines (14). In 2012 in New York about 9,000 guns were recovered and seized by New York police. Only a fraction of that number, 1,595 guns, were traced within New York State lines (15). That’s about 80% of guns having originated from outside New York state borders used in crime. In 2011 that figure was higher in New York where approximately 90% of guns used in crimes were traced out of State (16). Putting aside the reality that gun flow is relatively free and unopposed in the United States regardless of State, even the most restrictive State laws do little to hinder gun access in my analysis of ‘gun access’. Despite California’s tough gun law Elliot Rodgers, the shooter in the recent Isla Vista massacre, was still able to purchase a number of handguns in California. Despite his mental history Elliot was still able to pass through California background checks, the fact he didn’t have a criminal history was not a factor at all (17).

“Even a diagnosis of serious mental illness, in itself, would not have prevented Rodger from buying a gun under California law, said Lindsay Nichols, staff attorney with the advocacy group Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.” (17)

So even the so called toughest of gun laws have not been tough enough in preventing the mass shootings that have occured.
To be continued.

(4) Congressional Research Service, Krouse, W (November 14, 2012), Gun Control Legislation. pp 8

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I’m back

So I’ve been busy for the past year or so… a lot of changes in my life. Regardless, I’ve found time and interest once again to resume my posts. I plan on posting a few new articles so stay tuned!

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Reminding Confederate apologists about the facts of the civil war, part 1

It’s been about 150 years since the American civil war and yet the motivation that sparked it is still under much heated debate among the American public today. There seems to be a good consensus among the vast majority of historians and experts over these event as to what that motivation really was (slavery) but to large segment of the public the reasons are still anything but. Over the last few years there has been rise in what I view as “confederate apologism”. Those who either deny or minimize the role the institution of slavery played in the secession of those states in the south. In response to this I thought I’d write an article once again addressing why history is contrary to the beliefs of confederate apologists and how silly their counter arguments really are.

Getting straight to the first point here, there is an overwhelming amount of evidence out there as well as historical accounts pointing to the institution of slavery being the issue that sparked the secession of the Confederate states in the first place. How do we know that Slavery was the core reason for Southern secession again? Well let’s start with the ordinances of secession and Declaration of immediate causes by some of those States whom declared secession from the Union between 1860-1861:

Texas ordinances of secession on February 2nd, 1861:

Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated States to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquillity and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people… ..She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery–the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits–a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time”

South Carolina declaration of immediate causes, December 24th, 1860:

But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution.

Mississippi declaration of immediate causes:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth.

Georgia declaration of immediate causes, 29th January 1861

The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery.

Alabama ordinance to dissolve the Union, 11th January 1861

Be it further declared and ordained by the people of the State of Alabama in Convention assembled, That all powers over the Territory of said State, and over the people thereof, heretofore delegated to the Government of the United States of America, be and they are hereby withdrawn from said Government, and are hereby resumed and vested in the people of the State of Alabama. And as it is the desire and purpose of the people of Alabama to meet the slaveholding States of the South,

Below is a letter sent by Alabama Commissioner, Stephen Hale, directed toward the then Kentucky Governor Beriah Magoffin, 27th December, 1860, concerning their stance on the civil war:
“Upon the principles then announced by Mr. Lincoln and his leading friends, we are bound to expect his administration to be conducted. Hence it is, that in high places, among the Republican party, the election of Mr. Lincoln is hailed, not simply as a change of Administration, but as the inauguration of new principles, and a new theory of Government, and even as the downfall of slavery. Therefore it is that the election of Mr. Lincoln cannot be regarded otherwise than a solemn declaration, on the part of a great majority of the Northern people, of hostility to the South, her property and her institutions — nothing less than an open declaration of war”

What about Florida, Louisiana, Virgina, Arkansas, North  Carolina and Tennessee? They don’t mention slavery in either of their ordinances or immediate causes do they? Well the fact of the matter is that not every Confederate State came up with their own declaration of immediate causes. Some Confederate States used declarations of Immediate causes and ordinances to voice out their grievences while the states to later join the secessionist movement allowed for their delegations to speak out about those grievances among their State legislators. We can only refer to the comments and accounts of and from the governors and the southern representitives of those States at that time in regards to the motivations for secession:

Louisiana Governor Thomas Moore, 1860-1864:

“I do not think it comports with the honor and respect of Louisiana, as a slaveholding state, to live under the government of a black Republican”

Florida Governor Madison Starke Perry, 1857-1861

“A President has recently been elected, an obscure and illiterate man without experience in public affairs or any general reputation mainly if not exclusively on account of a settled and often proclaimed hostility to our institutions and a fixed purpose to abolish them.

Virginia Governor John Letcher, 1861-1865

“The Northern States must strike from their statute books their personal liberty bills, and fulfill their consitutional obligations in regard to fugitive slaves and fugitives from justice. If our slaves escape into non-slaveholding states, they must be delivered up”

North Carolina Governor John Ellis, 1859-1861

“Such, gentlemen, are the parties to the contest. The issue between them should be clearly understood, especially here at the South. I assert, and shall maintain it with the proofs, that this issue is, whether African slavery shall be abolished here in the States, where it now exists? Let us not be deceived upon this point. Men may talk about our rights in the territories, but depend upon it they are not the questions now in issue. The abolition of slavery here at home is the design of our opponents. This is the bond that cements all the anti-slavery elements in one solid column against us.”

Arkansas Governor Henry Rector, 1860-1862

“Is it to be the Union without slavery,” he asked, “or slavery without the Union?”
“In answer to your requisition for troops from Arkansas to subjugate the Southern States, I have to that none will be furnished. The demand is only adding insult to injury. The people of this commonwealth are freemen, not slaves, and will defend, to the last extremity, their honor, lives and property against Northern mendacity and usurpation.”

Tennessee Governor Isham Harris, 1857-1862
7th January, 1861

The systematic, wanton, and long continued agitation of the slavery question, with the actual and threatened aggressions of the Northern States and a portion of their people, upon the well-defined constitutional rights of the Southern citizen; the rapid growth and increase, in all the elements of power, of a purely sectional party, whose bond of union is uncompromising hostility to the rights and institutions of the fifteen Southern States, have produced a crisis in the affairs of the country,

Further on, more evidence from the leaders and movers of secession at that time…

In 1861, Jefferson Davis, prior to assuming the role of president for the future Confederacy, made a farewell speech in front of the senate chamber on the 21st of January 1861. In that speech he made it clear that the motivation for secession was based on what he viewed as an attack on Southern Social institutions. Jefferson then narrowed down that specific social institution that was under attack by stating that (1):

‘our Constitution was formed, the same idea was rendered more palpable, for there we find provision made for that very class of persons as property; they were not put upon the footing of equality with white men’.

Just over 4 months after making that speech, by that time as president of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis again made it clear what the civil war was about and what the motivation of Southern secession was about:

‘In twelve out of the thirteen States negro slavery existed, and the right of property in slaves was protected by law. This property was recognized in the Constitution, and provision was made against its loss by the escape of the slave’ (2).

So Jefferson made his view rather clear on what the core motivation for secession was.
Accusations against Lincoln and the Republicans of an abolitionist plot
Even prior to the civil war, southern governors and representitives accused Lincoln and the Republican party of planning to enforce a Federal ban on slavery once they assume office. They warned that if Lincoln were to win the elections (which he eventually did) secession would be the only viable option given the abolishonist sentiment in that party:

The straw that broke the Southern camel’s back was the election of Abraham Lincoln, a Republican and avowed opponent of slavery who was supported by many vocal abolitionists. Fearful that the North, which was richer, more populous, and industrial, would even more insistently impose its will against them, the Southern states felt they had no recourse but to pull away from the Union and form their own nation.

Abraham Lincoln actually went on record prior to the elections stating that the institution of slavery would be preserved under his administration, however this could not quell the secessionist sentiment:

The Southern image of Lincoln began as a mere sectional stereotype, and Southern hostility to his presidential candidacy was largely impersonal. Secession, although undertaken in response to the outcome of the election of 1860, had nothing to do with the particular qualities and qualifications of the man elected. It was the “Black Republican party” that Southerners hated and feared, whoever might happen to be the party’s official leader.;view=fulltext

What do the Historians have to say?The vast majority of historians agree that slavery was the core grievence for Southern secession. In 2011 on a panel discussion held by PBS with three Civil War historians, Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University, Edna Medford from Howard University and professor Walter Edgar at the University of South Carolina, all three agreed that the civil war was sparked over the issue of Slavery (3).

‘historians are pretty united on the cause of the Civil War being slavery.

And the kind of research that historians have undertaken, especially in the years since the centennial, when there has been so much interest in this question of the role of race and slavery in the United States, that research has shown pretty decisively that, when the various states announced their plans for secession, they uniformly said that the main motivating factor was to defend slavery’

Ralph Mann is an associate professor of history at the University of Colorado:

“The war was about slavery,” Mann says.

Princeton professor James McPherson:

‘Everything stemmed from the slavery issue,’

David Blight of Yale:

‘No matter what we do or the overwhelming consensus among historians, out in the public mind, there is still this need to deny that slavery was the cause of the war.’,9171,2063869,00.html#ixzz2Ga5q2avc

So what can we conclude from all the evidence piled up above?
1. That slavery is clearly made the core grievence in the immediate causes of ordinances of secession.
2. That Southern Governors went on record both before and after the 1860 elections, citing slavery, and a fear of a black Republican party, as the core reason for secession.
3. That warnings were made of secession if Lincoln won the 1860 general elections due to his abolitionist support.
4. That the vast majority of historians have concluded that the cause of the American civil war was about the institution of slavery.

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Catching up with those Tea Party freshmen


Remember those Congressional freshman and veteran lawmakers who were endorsed by Tea Party groups? The ones who pledged to change Washington from the status quo and vote independently? Well what happened to them? This is a very good question, and one that should be answered 2 years following those 2010 midterm elections. First of all, let me explain who the Tea partiers are and what the Tea Party movement is for those of you not unfamiliar.

Tea Partiers are conservative political advocates who form the Tea Party Movement. The Tea Partiers distinguish themselves from those establishment Republicans and other politicians in the mainstream over the basis of their belief in fiscal responsibility and the upholding of the constitution. Tea partiers insisted that their movement is purely grassroots, that it is a non-cohesive movement of different people of all back rounds. Essentially Tea partiers market themselves in the same way that Barack Obama did in 2008, you know, about “change” and restoring American and all that jazz. Tea Partiers claim that they are purely concerned with small government, fiscal restraint and the restoration of the American constitution. The Tea party movement only really became a nationwide movement after the election of Barack Obama in 2009 on Tax day, April 15th. However the movement can be traced back to before Barack Obama was elected, however prior to that it was a movement restricted to that of the Ron Paul Campaign of 2008 (2). You also had many tea partiers insist that their movement was not about the fact that Obama and the Democrats won the elections in 2008, but that it is purely about restoring the country supposedly to what the Founders intended it to be. So when the 2010 midterm elections came about, one would have really expected the Tea Party movement to change the old guard of congress as they so insisted was their intentions. It didn’t turn out that way.

To start, Tea party groups only really mounted support and endorsed Republican candidates in 2010. Many of these candidates were freshman politicians coming into congress for the first time and others were veterans, incumbents, riding the tea party movement for re-election. A total of 130 politicians running for the House of representatives were endorsed by the tea parties, but in the end only 40 tea party candidates were able to successfully win in their elections (1), all of them were Republican. Out of 10 Tea party United States Senate candidates endorsed by the tea parties, only 5 ended up winning those election seats. So the question is, what differences have those Tea Party endorsed politicians made in congress since coming off the wheels of “change” and the “constitution” in 2010? Did they really bring any change to Washington DC or within the Republican Party itself? Well the internet is a wonderful piece of technology and there is ample information to show the voting records of these politicians.

It will take a long time to go through voting records on all the bills introduced through congress since the beginning of session in 2011. Instead I have chosen to focus on three controversial bills and how each of these Tea Party politicians had voted on them. I chose to focus on the National Defence Authorization Act because of the additional powers it granted to the Federal government to indefinitely detain suspected American citizens (3). I also focused on the Patriot Act extension, because this bill continued the powers given to the government earlier during the Bush administration, powers to ease drop on suspected American citizens without much need for a warrant. Lastly I decided to trace the voting records of these politicians on their positions concerning military aid to Israel.  Since 2001 the United States had spent more that $15 billion on military Aid to Israel (4), money that could have instead been spent on other costs concerning American citizens. There’s nothing fiscally responsible about sending billions of dollars to a country half way around the world for a military agenda, especially when that military agenda serves a country that does not abide by American law. So what did we find?


Overall, Tea Party politicians consistently vote by party lines on these bills. In fact there were more establishment Republicans that broke from party lines on these policies than that of Tea Party endorsed Republicans. This is evident from the chart and in many of the other bills voted on since the first session of congress for 2011 (5). For example, looking at the chart itself, when it came to the extension of the Patriot act, a total of 27 Republicans broke off party lines to vote against it (the Patriot act was initially introduced and staunchly supported by the GOP). Only 8 of those who voted against its extension were Tea Party endorsed Republicans, 8 out of 27 Republicans.

Aside from the fact that these Tea Party lawmakers have evidently continued the status quo in Washington through their voting records, other issues further illustrate that they offer little change. 10 Tea Party freshman were found to have benefited a total of $169,499 in lobbying from Political action groups (6). The $169,499 from these Political Action groups was sourced from bailed out banks like JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America, according to a report from the Financial Services Committee (6). According to the House of Representatives Statement of Disbursements, 7 Tea Party Freshman were recorded spending more than $100,000 on personal cars.  Considering that the average salary for congressman is that of $174,000 (7), one would have to question why tax payer money needed to be spent for personal vehicles?

But they’ll just be voted out again anyway? Right?

Not necessarily. It is a reality that every once in a while politicians will fall back on most of what they initially promised on. However in these cases we expect their constituents to take the appropriate actions and voice their concerns (provided they are genuinely dissatisfied with their representatives). This is not the same case for Tea Parties and Tea Party groups. The fact these lawmakers voted to continue the Patriot act, the NDAA, is of little concern to the vast majority of Tea partiers and Tea Party groups. Why would that be? Well the simple answer is that most Tea Partiers are not all that concerned with the size of government, but rather with the fact that the Democrats are in power, and that Barack Obama is still president.

There’s a reason why the Tea party movement did not start during the Bush administration when record spending occurred, when laws the likes of the Patriot act were introduced, where 1000’s of soldiers were killed off in an unjustified war. So long as Republicans supported religious teachings in school, so long as non-white peoples were targeted as terrorists in other countries, there was little concern from self described conservatives. Any “concern” for government spending and responsibility came about when the Democrats came in power and when it became a reality that either *gasp* Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would become president. The Tea Party movement is an Astroturf campaign, it is a rebranding of the Republican Party. It is not a genuine movement and their lawmakers have no intention of bringing about true freedom and small government, as demonstrated by the examples above. The only things Tea Partiers are concerned about is as to how Barack Obama will be removed from the presidency, how the Democrats will be removed from power, and how prayer could be established in public schools. While there are a small minority of Tea Partiers out there were real concerns (I’ll credit some Ron Paul Supporters), the vast majority have purely partisan concerns as evident by their continued support of lawmakers who continue to vote the status quo.









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Is there a correlation between drilling permits and the cost of crude?

After searching various sources and comparing numbers, I’ve come up with a nifty chart showing the amount of drilling permits under president compared to the cost of crude oil.

I’ll let the readers intepret this data themselves, personally I don’t see much of a correlation between the increase of drilling permits and the cost of crude oil. There is some correlation but it is not all that solid in my personal opinion. Hopefully this chart will serve useful to any readers wishing use a reference of some sort:


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My passion, grammar and motivations for this blog

I thought I’d just post a personal article for those few viewers to my blog.

My passion for politics spans for a good number of years, however it really began to grow with the 2008 general elections. Over the last 4 years I’ve learned more things from the various debates that I’ve participated in than through my entire life. I’ve participated in numerous political debates spanning all the core issues and at times I’ve found that I’ve I’ve been corrected. Most of the time I find myself in a debate with an unequal audience which may be unpleasant but in alot of ways it hardens my debating skills one way or another.

The good thing about being corrected is that you get the opportunity to learn something new and it gives you the opportunity to conduct more research. I’ve found that on many occasions when an opposing debater had corrected me on a topic, more than often I’d carry out research and in turn this would serve to strengthen my knowledge and my ability to debate. What I am saying is that I welcome criticism to my blog, I welcome new insights into the issues, it gives me an opportunity to re-examine my positions, so please don’t hesitate to correct me (provided you have the appropriate sources).

Now why would I post articles on a blog that barely gets any viewers? This blog is much like that of a storage unit to me where I prefer to express the things I’ve learned recently, my insights, and where I can save them somewhere for future references. I save my articles on my computer of course but it’s good to sometimes display them in public for anybody wishing to view them. This blog has been instrumental to my various debates on many political forums. It was never really intended for an audience although I do hope someday, once these articles are perfected further, that I can post them on websites the likes of The Huffington Post. That is a long way away so for now this blog will suffice.

I would like to apologize for my bad grammar throughout these articles, I’m not really all that perfect. That 4 years of University helped me significantly in writing essays and articles but I admit that I still have a long way to go toward perfecting my articles grammar wise, I only ask for your patience. From time to time I do come onto this blog to re-read my articles and to fix them up. My articles are very long so they take a while to completely restructure.

Finally, speaking about the lengths of my articles, they are very long compared to typical articles on other blogs. I’ve found that during my years at university where people had difficulty typing articles close to the word limit, I always found difficulty keeping my articles below them. I think I have a tendency to overthink things sometimes, but this is reality, that politics is an expansive creature. For example I’ve found that in all my years debating the civil war, there are still new arguments that I come accross that I feel should be addressed on that particular subject. There is a wealth of information out there on many issues so more than often it is very hard to properly assess a particular issue without going into great detail regarding context and circumstances. I also feel that it is often necessarily to refer to counter arguments of those articles to ensure they account for most of the questions from viewers.  My articles require patience, so for those of you willing to take the time to do that, this would be much appreciated.

Well that’s it from me, I hope to continue bringing articles for this year so please enjoy.

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What’s the deal with State voter ID laws?

Voter ID laws are being introduced in a number of states across the United States, the majority of them being red States. The purpose of these laws are supposedly to combat voter impersonation fraud that apparently has become a serious problem in the view of conservative lawmakers and advocates. Liberal groups are calling foul, claiming that these laws do nothing but discriminate against minorities and the poor, those eligible voters who typically do not possess any form of photo I.D.

There shouldn’t really be a problem with requiring people to present identification in order to vote provided that state governments are willing to issue I.D’s to those without them, at no cost. If governments can demonstrate that they are willing to transition their constituents to get the necessary I.D in order to vote then I fail to see an issue. So how do we define “cost barriers” when it comes to voter I.D laws? Well to state the obvious, state governments will need to provide I.D’s to those requiring them at no cost. The assumption here may be that because State governments are offering free I.D’s to those who need it, the problem is solved, right? Well as the old saying goes, “there is no such thing as a free lunch”.

Cost barriers

To provide “proof” to attain those free government issued cards it may still cost those individuals to apply for them as those applications may in turn require documents not in possession by those individuals concerned. The application process may also daunting as, believe or not, many of the less fortunate do still work and they may not have the spare time to apply for those I.D’s due to work and family obligations.  Another cost barrier to those individuals concerned may be their inability to travel to apply for those I.D’s (many of the poor live in isolated rural settings away from State buildings or post offices, many do not have access to the internet either). None of the State I.D laws that I am aware of offer a cost free solution to those less fortunate. Washington Post referred to a particular study that demonstrated the costs to eligible voters under voter ID laws (14):

The report said birth certificates can cost between $8 and $25. Marriage licenses, required in some states for married women whose birth certificates include a maiden name, can cost between $8 and $20. “By comparison, the notorious poll tax — outlawed during the civil rights era — cost $10.64 in current dollars,” the report states

Advocates of voter ID law may argue that those costs are minor sacrifices citizens must make in order to crack down on voter fraud. But even $8.00 is a lot of money to the less fortunate, $8 is a meal for a family of 4 to those less fortunate. These costs are deterrents to potential and lower class voters, but I highly doubt this is of a concern to proponents of these laws.

How does this all relate to poll taxes you may ask? Well let’s look at the Harper v. Virginia State Board of elections (13):

Held. Justice William Douglas (J. Douglas). No. “[A] State violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment whenever it makes the affluence of the voter or payment of any fee an electoral standard.” “[W]ealth or fee paying has, in our view, no relation to voting qualifications; the right to vote is too precious, too fundamental to be so burdened or conditioned.” The judgment is reversed.

Whether or not the costs assoicated with getting valid I.D is in the same nature as that of a poll tax is something the courts need to interpret themselves. So far none of the State governments I am aware of have demonstrated an interest in ensuring that their constituents are not left out of the voting process because of these laws.

In addition to the burden  ofcost on citizens associated with voter I.D laws, some State I.D laws are evidently biased in favouring certain forms of identification and not others, Texas is one such example (12):

More than one million students attend colleges, universities and technical schools in Texas. But because of the state’s new voter identification law, none will be allowed to use their student ID cards to cast a ballot.

When Texas state legislators moved to cut student IDs from the list of acceptable voter identifications in May, they actually made voting easier for some residents: Now gun owners in Texas are allowed to use their concealed-carry permits as valid proof of the right to vote.

One could rationalize that the fundamental differences between concealed-carry permits and Student I.D is that one is issued through the State and the other is given by private institution. However, just because concealed-carry permits are State issued does not mean it is any more of a valid form of identification than student I.Ds, this is not always necessarily the case. As a matter of fact, it has become significantly easier nowadays to attain state issued gun permits (15):

In just the past three years, 22 states have weakened or eliminated laws regulating the possession of concealed weapons, according to the Legal Community Against Violence, a public-interest law firm in San Francisco that supports more restrictive gun laws.

These measures are easing testing and eligibility requirements for obtaining a permit, opening up new public and private places where people can have concealed weapons, and giving new legal clout to those who use guns to defend themselves.

Numerous states have also lowered barriers to obtaining a permit. Since 2009, Virginia has allowed applicants to satisfy a training and safety requirement under the law by completing an online test. That has given rise to a cottage industry of instructors who promise results in about an hour – no prior experience necessary.

At the moment Federal authorities are looking into whether the Texas’ Voter ID law discriminates  segments of the eligible voting population (7), the matter is being looked into.

My personal position

I do sympathize somewhat with my conservative counterparts on this matter. Personally I cannot imagine how adults can function in life without some form of identification. For example you often require I.D for the following:

  1. The purchasing of alcohol
  2. To get your drivers licence (or to renew it) (1)
  3. To apply for welfare benefits (2)
  4. In most cases, employment
  5. To become a member at a video store.
  6. To apply for a passport
  7. To get a plane ticket
  8. To join the military (3)
  9. To lay-by items (or put them on monthly payment) (4)
  10. Applying for a credit card

The list of things you are required to present some form of identification are plenty and it would take me all day go down all of them. In all fairness you do not require I.D in every case of the list I provided above. For example, many adults are not necessarily asked for photo I.D at the liquor store because their age may be rather obvious. I am also aware of some places of employment that do not require identification e.g seasonal work. That being said, in many cases you do require some form of identification and I fail to see how even the poor can function in life without having some form of I.D. Regardless, it is a reality that there is a significant portion of eligible voters who do not possess any form of I.D. According to the Brennan Center, approximately 11% of eligible voters are without I.D and the vast majority of them are poor and minority (democratic leaning)(5).

The reality of voter fraud

Is there really a major problem with voter fraud in America? Is it as significant as many conservative new sources claim it to be? There is no doubt that voter fraud exists, but whether it is a major issue to begin with is highly questionable, there is no evidence to suggest that any of the State, congressional and presidential elections were significantly impacted by voter impersonation and fraud over the last 10 years. Let’s actually take a look at many of the incidences involving voter fraud in just the last decade alone:

I would like to note the key source: Levitt, J. (2007). The Truth about Voter Fraud. Retrieved 23rd July 2012 from:

In Missouri in 2000 and 2002, hundreds of voters were alleged to have voted twice, either within the state or once in Kansas and once in Missouri. The same analysis acknowledged that the “computer files contain many errors that show people voting who did not actually vote.”71 Of 18 Kansas City cases that reporters followed up, 13 were affirmatively shown to result from clerical errors.72 We are aware of public sources substantiating only four cases (amounting to six votes within the state),

In New Hampshire in 2004, citizens were alleged to have voted twice. In fact, on further investigation, many of the voters who were allegedly listed multiple times on the rolls actually represented different people with identical names; others were listed with multiple registrations, but voted only once. We are not aware of any public materials substantiating the claims of double voting.

In New Jersey in 2004, 4,397 voters were alleged to have voted twice within the state, and 6,572 voters were alleged to have voted once in New Jersey and once elsewhere.75 Many of these alleged double votes were actually flawed matches of names and/or birthdates on voter rolls.76 Only eight cases were actually documented through signatures on poll books

In New York in 2002 and 2004, between 400 and 1,000 voters were alleged to have voted once in New York and once in Florida. These allegations were also prompted by a flawed attempt to match names and birthdates.

In Wisconsin in 2004, dozens of voters were alleged to have voted twice. After further investigation, the vast majority were affirmatively cleared, with some attributed to clerical errors and confusion caused by flawed attempts to match names and birthdates. There were 14 alleged reports of voters casting ballots both absentee and in person; at least 12 were caught, and the absentee ballot was not counted. There were no substantiated reports of any intentional double voting of which we are aware.

The case of Alan Mandel:

Despite having died in 1997, Alan J. Mandel was alleged to have voted in 1998. On further investigation, Alan J. Mandell (two “l”s), who was very much alive and voting at the time, explained that local election workers simply checked the wrong name off of the list.88 Indeed, a 2007 investigation of about 100 “dead voters” in Missouri revealed that every single purported case was properly attributed either to a matching error, a problem in the underlying data, or a clerical error by elections officials or voters.

Other findings from investigations on alleged dead voters:

In Georgia in 2000, 5,412 votes were alleged to have been cast by deceased voters, upon investigation it turned out that it was an error, no fraudulent votes were found.

In Michigan in 2005, 132 votes were alleged to have been cast by deceased voters, only 8 cases were revealed as substantiated fraud.

In New Jersey in 2004, 4,755 deceased voters were alleged to have cast a ballot. In the end upon investigation it turned out to be a flaw on those managing the voters list.

In New York in 2002 and 2004, 2,600 deceased voters were alleged to have cast a ballot, again based on a match of voter rolls to death lists, there turned out to be no voter fraud in the end, upon investigation.

Allegations of voter fraud in the Colorado 2010 midterm elections

In 2010, Colorado Secretary of State, Scott Gessler (Republican) claimed that 5000 illegal immigrants or ineligible voters may have voted in those State elections. It did not take long for this claim to quickly spread among various conservative websites and blogs where many began to call foul in the elections. It is important to note that the Democratic incumbents were successful in holding their seats in those midterms against their republican competitors. So upon investigation, just solid was Gessler’s estimation of the voter fraud that had occurred in those elections? (16):

Andrew Cole, a spokesman with Gessler’s office, said he was attempting to make a point that our current system does not have the capability to effectively confirm with certainty the eligibility of voters in the state.

 In his statement before Congress, Gessler was able to say they were only “nearly certain that 106 individuals are improperly registered to vote.” Cole explained the 5,000 number arose from individuals who were identified as being ineligible to vote at the time they obtained their driver’s license.

In the end Gessler could only be certain that 106 individuals, around 2% of his initial 5,000 estimate, who could be accounted for possible fraudulent voter activity. The link to the article above explains in detail where the estimates of voter fraud went wrong in Colorado during the 2010 midterms and why their estimations were over the top.

Still 106 fraudulent voters is still somwhat significant and there are numerous examples of election results where the winner had won with less than 100 voters (see the most recent example, the Republican Iowa primaries of 2012). That being said, 106 suspected cases of voter fraud does not automatically equate to 106 convictions as many of our other examples demonstrate. Gessler had not demonstrated the actual number voter fraud and to date Gessler’s investigation is still inconclusive as to whether there have been any individuals whom had committed voter fraud(8).

Convictions of voter fraud in Texas

With more than 18 million people of voting age, 15 million of whom participated in the 2010 midterms, Texas has the second highest population of eligible voters in the United States (9). Despite this number, Texas State attorney general, Greg Abbott ,only reported around 57 convictions of voter fraud since 2002 (10), over a period of 10 years. But even the figure of 57 convictions given by Abbott was not completely accurate, as Politifact reported (18):

Only two cases are described as “voter impersonation” on the list. Whether voter impersonation is a standing problem has been a hot button in the state’s legislative debates over proposed voter ID laws in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2011; Austin American-Statesman news stories say legislators mostly split along party lines, with Democrats claiming impersonation is rare and Republicans claiming the problem is significant. Abbott drew criticism in 2006 for creating a special unit to target voter fraud that by mid-2008 had yielded, according to a May 19, 2008, Associated Press news story, only 26 prosecutions.

Turns out 57 convictions is not accurate at all considering that this figure included 10 pre-trail diversions, 2 acquittals and 4 dismissals.

The 1982 Illinois Governors race

One of the older cases cited by many conservative websites on voter fraud.  The 1982 governors race in Illinois is touted as the States closest elections where Democratic Candidate Adlai Stevenson the 3rd and incumbent James Thompson were only seperated by a fraction of 1% of the total vote. It’s easy to understand by looking at the results of the elections as to how high tensions were and the allegations of voter fraud that followed. Following the elections a Grand Jury along with Illinios Attorney Dan Kebb had estimated that around 100,000 votes were fraudulent. This estimated figure has been touted around a number of websites as if that was the actual number of fraudulent votes that were cast during the elections, this is of course false. The actual convictions of fraud, the individual cases of proven fault, amounted to 58 convictions (17), less than 0.00060% of the initial estimate. 58 cases of fraud is still serious, but it is evident that the initial estimate of voter fraud was again grossly overestimated. More than 3 million votes were cast in Illinois’ gubernatorial elections, 1982.

Federal cases

Over the last 5 years around 120 cases were filed by the justice department on the basis of voter fraud yet only 86 of those cases resulted in actual convictions (11). UC-Irvine professor and election law specialist, Rick Hasen, stated the obvious about voter fraud in the United States (22):

There are “very few documented cases,” said UC-Irvine professor and election law specialist Rick Hasen. “When you do see election fraud, it invariably involves election officials taking steps to change election results or it involves absentee ballots which voter ID laws can’t prevent,” he said.

Voter fraud or voter impersonation is very rare. It is not, contrary to the many claims out there, a major problem of any sort. Voter fraud is a crime and those who commit it must be held accountable to the full, it is important that we secure the election process. Nevertheless it is false to claim that it has impacted on a number of election outcomes in recent years. As statistics show, this is not the case at all.

Effectiveness of current Voter ID laws

So just how effective have current voter I.D laws impacted in those States that have already implemented them? In 2006 Georgia was among some of the first States to implement a voter I.D law (6), in fact their law only accepted photo I.D from eligible voters. What difference did this law make in the following years in the case of Georgia? Well not much by the looks of it, isolated incidences of voter fraud still persist, unchanged from prior to the law (19) (20) (21):

State officials launched an investigation after an unusually high number of absentee ballots were cast in the July 2010 primary election. “As a result of their grand jury findings 12 individuals were indicted in that particular matter and we will be trying that case in a court of judicial law instead of a court of public opinion so that will be pending this next year,” said District Attorney Joe Mulholland.

(2008) A Hartwell businessman is under investigation for voter fraud in Georgia and Hart County Registrar Libby Forbes said she learned Tom Habel, of 54 Whitehall St., voted in both Hart County and Collier County, Fla., in October, when she was approached by a reporter for WSBTV in Atlanta, last week.


Jack Justice, a mentally disabled man in Dougherty County, Georgia was taken by an aide from his adult day rehab agency to vote and the aide filed out the ballot to his own specifications, rather than Mr. Justice’s.

Georgia is just one example of the States that had implemented these voter I.D laws only to find that they have had a minimal effect on the rate of voter fraud itself. GOP politicians have failed to clarify what changes these laws have really made over the years, aside from restricting a number of eligible and potential voters.


What have we concluded here? Well we’ve discovered that there have been no cases of significant voter  fraud over the last decade. Neither the proponents of these voter I.D laws or political analysists could cite an incident of voter fraud in recent years that had a serious impact on State, congressional or presidential elections. Voter fraud has been fairly minimal and insignificant according to a report conducted by the Brennan Centre (5). We’ve also found that reports of voter fraud still persist in those States that have already implemented voter I.D laws, and that these laws have no visible effect to those rare incidences of voter fraud.

So what are we left with after looking into this matter? Well we’re left wondering what motivations do Republican officials and conservative groups have in pushing through these laws putting aside the false claims of rampant voter fraud. The answer is rather simple, it’s all about politics and partisanship.
























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