A Balancing Act in Georgia

Andy McCarthy is upset about actions taken by the Obama Administration’s Justice Department regarding voter fraud and intimidation. He is right to be. As yet, I haven’t looked into the details behind the Georgia case, but the standards they set don’t seem unreasonable on their face. I am deeply sympathetic to the impulse that no eligible voter be wrongly excluded from the ballot box, and contra Mr. McCarthy, the idea that minority voters might be disproportionately impacted by unfair standards in areas where they’ve been historically discriminated against doesn’t seem to me an anachronism.

Any system of voting that seeks to minimize disenfranchisement, however, must recognize that prohibiting an eligible voter from casting a ballot and allowing an ineligible voter to cast a ballot both have the effect of wrongly robbing a rightful voter of the influence they are due.

On the question of how best to balance these concerns, I am quite persuadable, but it seems to me that having no verification system in place is a powerful incentive to organized fraud. Isn’t there a superior compromise solution? Rather than prohibit Georgia’s verification system, for example, why doesn’t the Justice Department mandate a mechanism for reducing mistaken flags on eligible voters, and a review/appeals process that further reduces the number of people who are unfairly disenfranchised? Every system we ever adopt is going to be flawed, but the best response is surely constant intelligent tweaks that gradually diminish errors, rather than the wholesale scrapping of a system, so long as the existing system isn’t egregiously or deliberately discriminatory—and as long as it is better than nothing.

Is there a credible argument I haven’t seen that the Georgia system doesn’t meet that standard?