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The propagandist’s advantage

Discouraging, but we have to address the world as it is.

Democratic state Sen. Royce West of Dallas was making a point.

The number of prosecutions for voter fraud cases in the state of Texas is low. In its 15 years of existence, the Texas Attorney General’s Election Integrity Unit has prosecuted a few dozen cases in which offenders received jail time, but none of them involving widespread fraud.

And though his colleague, Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, was talking about another voter fraud indictment in his home county of Gregg, that was one case in one county in a state of 254 counties and 30 million people.

But Hughes had a ready retort: “How much fraud is OK?”

“How much fraud is OK?” he repeated. “I want to know.”

Game, set and match. Hughes pushed forward with his bill, an omnibus piece of legislation he says will reduce voter fraud and opponents say will suppress the votes of marginalized communities.

The argument is a familiar one to followers of voting legislation over the last two decades, as Republicans in statehouses across the country have moved to stiffen voting regulations, arguing that such changes are necessary to combat voter fraud.

And it’s an effective point. It puts the proposal’s opponents in the unenviable position of having to defend the low level of fraud cases that happen as a normal part of any large election system. Who wants to be pro-fraud?

“The difficulty for Democrats is that it’s kind of hard to sell the argument that you won’t eliminate 100% of fraud but that even a small number of cases isn’t a big deal,” said Patrick Miller, a political scientist at the University of Kansas who researched arguments over voter fraud bills. “For the public, even one case can legitimize the view that fraud is rampant and impacts the outcome.”

“In their over 20 years of this being an issue… Democrats have never come up with an effective counterargument,” Miller said.

That’s because Americans by and large do not trust the government’s handling of elections and perceive that there’s more voter fraud than actually exists, he said.


But Brandon Rottinghaus, a political scientist at the University of Houston, said the idea should be flipped on its head.

“Just because occasionally there’s a bank error doesn’t mean we should shut down ATMs. We have to make it better,” Rottinghaus said.

To do that, lawmakers would dedicate more resources and people to elections, like some of the state’s major counties have done. Instead those counties, Harris in particular, are being attacked for the new voting options they offered.

There are a lot of ways to respond to grandiose but wrong claims that “any amount of fraud is too much”. Professor Rottinghaus is on the right track, and one can expand that example in a limitless number of ways. Credit card fraud should never happen, but the fact that it does happen doesn’t mean we should all shred our Visas and MasterCards. Amazon screws up deliveries all the time. To put this in my professional bailiwick, computer viruses happen all the time, but no one is arguing that we should shut down the Internet until we can ensure they never happen again.

Indeed [puts on cybersecurity hat], the assumption in the enterprise IT world is that it’s a matter of when your network is successfully attacked, not if. While there are all kinds of protections and controls in place – which still have to balance out the need of your staff to actually do their business; again, no one is shutting down the Internet any time soon – there’s a premium on detecting viruses and other bad things when they happen, and quickly limiting the damage that they do. A stance that only having zero cyber-incidents is acceptable is not only completely unrealistic, it’s damaging and unproductive. There’s far more bang for the buck by assuming that some bad things are going to happen but we’ll catch them when they do because we’ve invested in that.

There’s also the fact that what the Hughes bill and the House bill aim to stop are things that carry little to no risk for election security. Limiting mail drop boxes and curtailing early voting hours and restricting the number of voting machines at voting locations will do a good job of making it harder to vote, but can’t and won’t do anything to make voting more secure because none of those things were insecure to begin with. Most of the actual “fraudulent” activity that the state has attempted to prosecute in recent years has involved the kind of behavior that could just as easily be classified as inadvertent mistakes, the equivalent of overstaying at a parking meter by five minutes, and most of what these bills aim to criminalize further is more of the same. Even if one were to accept that there’s a huge electoral crime wave going on, this would be like the police cracking down on jaywalkers.

Enhancing penalties for existing offenses, even the serious ones, is unlikely to matter as well. From a criminal justice perspective, our “tuff-on-crime” spree from the 80s and 90s has left us today with thousands of people serving decades-long sentences for pot possession and shoplifting. Our profligate use of the death penalty did precious little to curtail the murder rate back then, too. The main effect, then and now, is to more harshly punish a lot of people who weren’t doing anything we needed to be afraid of.

Finally, and this cannot be stressed enough, this entire premise about “fraud” is built on a foundation of lies. None of it is true. Our elections are quite reasonably secure, and the most fanatical “fraud” hunters on the planet cannot provide any shred of evidence to the contrary. Their arguments largely boil down to “Do we need for someone to find proof of Bigfoot’s existence before we pass all these anti-Bigfoot laws that everyone knows will have negative effects on our political opponents?” The rationale falls apart under the barest of scrutiny, but someone once said that if you’re explaining you’re losing, so there’s that.

The Republicans want to pass these laws because they have the power to pass them, and because they think passing them will be to their benefit. The rest is just pretext. The fact that the likes of Dan Patrick freak out whenever they get any pushback tells you more than anything I could ever say.

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  1. Flypusher says:

    “How much fraud is OK?” he repeated. “I want to know.”

    Literally less than one in a million isn’t bothering me one bit. The proper question is where do you prefer to err?

  2. SocraticGadfly says:

    Speaking of propagandists, that would be the Royce West who joined most other Senate Dems in holding hands with Senate Republicans in the idea expressed by Samuel Johnson that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel?

  3. Mark says:

    Maybe someone should ask Hughes how much suppression is OK?

  4. brad says:

    “How many lying, hypocritical, conspiracy minded, tantruming Republicans is OK?”

    In the this instance the evidence is truly overwhelming and rampant.

    We should legislate away the Republican Party immediately.

  5. Susan says:

    Senator Eckhardt did.

  6. Bill Daniels says:

    Two weeks of early voting, including a Saturday, 12 hours per day, plus 12 hours on election day itself, is more than enough time to vote. Requiring people to actually walk or roll into the polling place to show their ID and vote isn’t suppressing anybody. Offering mail in balloting only in very limited circumstances isn’t suppressing anything. Trying to move voting away from the watchful eyes of poll watchers, as in the case of drive through voting, voting in the dead of night, etc., has only one purpose….CHEATING. People who aren’t doing anything wrong don’t have a problem with showing up at a polling place, confidently strolling in, and voting. People looking to scam, are always looking for an angle.

    In this respect, voting is a lot like getting a license plate sticker for your car. People who follow the rules just get their car inspected, pay for insurance, have a driver’s license, and go pay at the tax office.

    Then there’s everyone else. Find a shady mechanic to sell you a passing inspection because your car won’t pass. Then, go from grocery store to grocery store, until you find a clerk that doesn’t care, who won’t demand you show an insurance card and a driver’s license in order to sell you that registration sticker. How do y’all think all the illegals are able to drive around with a current stickers on their cars? They have no driver’s license, and most of the time, no insurance either, yet….those stickers are miraculously current.

    Maybe you bought a car but don’t want to pay the sales tax and registration. Follow the same strategy. You can’t just show up and do things normally, because the tax office will not sell you a sticker if the registered owner of the car isn’t you. You have to do shady stuff. That’s EXACTLY like what Harris County tried to do with voting. Heck, I’m surprised Harris County didn’t try to let people vote at the courtesy booth at Fiesta, Food Town, or La Michocana, where ID’s wouldn’t be checked.


    How much suppression is OK? I don’t know. Let me know when any Texas voter is BEING suppressed, OK? Did you manage to vote last go round? I bet you did.

    And let me issue you this challenge. Why not go to Sunnyside, Acres Homes, Southpark, or Denver Harbor, and walk around telling people on the street that their vote is being suppressed because they are too poor and stupid to be able to vote. Only Whites are smart and wealthy enough to vote, which is why non Whites are having their voting rights taken from them. Report back on how that little experiment goes.

    I’d put $ 20 on you get punched in the face, or worse.

  7. Bill Daniels says:


    “We should legislate away the Republican Party immediately.”

    Yes! We really only need one political party. Our CCP friends have shown us the way. Totalitarianism is the way; crush, jail, and murder the political opposition. Maybe round up all the undesirables, Christians, Whites, super straight people, Republicans, libertarians, populists….any who oppose us should be rounded up and sent to re-education camps like our friends in China do to the Uighurs, the folks in Hong Kong, the Tibet folks, etc.

    This is why getting the guns is so important, right Brad?

  8. Jason Hochman says:

    After the Russians hacked the 2016 election, we need very strict laws to protect election security. No Russians were prosecuted for their fraud, so prosecutions are not a measure of the enormous level of election fraud.

  9. Flypusher says:

    “ Trying to move voting away from the watchful eyes of poll watchers, as in the case of drive through voting, voting in the dead of night, etc., has only one purpose….CHEATING.”

    If that is true, then why was so little cheating found? Literally less than 1 in a million, and it’s not like Paxton et. al weren’t highly motivated to find cheating.

    Nothing prevented poll watchers from watching all those expanded voting options. All you have is lies Bill, which don’t hold up well in the light of actual data.

  10. Manny says:

    Bill, states;

    “How do y’all think all the illegals are able to drive around with a current stickers on their cars? They have no driver’s license, and most of the time, no insurance either, yet….those stickers are miraculously current. ”

    Manny answers;

    They buy them from white trash like the Bill Daniels of the world, cause the Bills of the world don’t think they smart enough to do it themselves.

    Bill, why not expose all those clerks and grocery stores. If you can’t prove it must be lies.

    For example, how do you explain the Bill’s of the world that can walk, talk, and the type and don’t have brains?

  11. Jason Hochman says:

    @ Bill, I don’t know where you see so many cars with updated registrations. I see tons of expired registrations. I call it in and HPD never comes out. They could be making a lot of money for the city by fining the scofflaws. And I don’t mean registrations that just expired this month, and which should have a grace period, especially if you are working on repairs to pass inspection and then need to drive a few days to reset the computer to re-inspect. I see cars with stickers from 2017, 2019, 2020, all around.

    Also, if you renew at the grocery store, they don’t need to check a drivers license. You don’t need to be a driver to renew the registration. Also they don’t need to check insurance–that should be done by the inspection station. The same with online renewal. When I renew online and enter the plate number, the computer knows if the car has a current inspection.

  12. Kibitzer says:


    Kuff’s analysis is right on point. If only we had more of this genre of high-quality commentary from the media, the tweetoverse, the blogosphere, and the Kommentariat!


    Alas, not only is Election Fraud Bigfootism pervasive in contemporary politics, it has also been embraced by the highest echelon of the judiciary.

    At oral argument in one of the election law cases last year (State v. Hollins), one justice asked whether the court should allow any voting fraud.

    As in: Is even one even case acceptable?

    This just goes to show how pervasive this obsession with the specter of election fraud is among in a Trumpified GOP, including the judicial branch thereof. As if there were no countervailing values and interests at stake. Instead, it’s “Election fraud suppression über alles!”

    The retort in the high court context: (1) It’s not the business of the state supreme court (even if itself elected) to ferret out cases of election fraud, not to mention permit or deny it; (2) The SCOTX is not a public prosecutor. (3) if there is a criminal case, any ensuing appeal goes to the CCA, rather than the SCOTX, such as the current appeal in State v. Chrystal Mason, No.

    More fundamentally, and as a matter of election system design: A zero-occurrence standard is patently unreasonable. And there are already plenty of provisions in place in the Election Code to promote and protect election security, and consequences for violations.

    Nor is it merely a question of what works or doesn’t in fraud prevention. The benefits of any such mechanisms must obviously be balanced against other values that stand to be adversely affected by the measure being evaluated or contemplated: such as the individual right to vote and ability to exercise it. Not exactly an insignificant matter that may be ignored. After all, the fundamental purpose of elections is to transform individual preferences into collective decisions on who shall occupy office.

    Even when fraudulent votes are cast and counted (note that Mason’s provisional vote was *not* counted, and the validity of her conviction is dubious), the outcome of the race is rarely affected. And in races decided by a close margin, the losing candidate can bring a legal challenge and request a recount.

    As for what to make of the few proven cases of vote fraud: Well, the obvious conclusion is this: We don’t live in a perfect world. When deterrence fails, there is the law enforcement system. Compared to other crimes, however, voter fraud cases are rare notwithstanding AG Paxton’s investigatory exertions and ample expenditure of public resources.


    Going all the way with this form of public policy absolutism (and concomitant failure to consider countervailing values), the logical conclusion would be that the only way to prevent *all* voter fraud from ever occurring is to abolish elections.

    Let’s slide down the slippery slope and end electoral democracy as we know it. After all, when you let people vote, such a system of mass participation will never be free of all error and fraud.

    Election integrity ad absurdum.


    Nor does the fraud-suppression-über-alles mantra just animate the GOP-controlled state institutions. In the Trump-friendly Fifth Circuit, actual evidence of voter fraud was deemed irrelevant last year.

    We were informed that the GOP-controlled State of Texas’s asserted interest in preventing the possibility of voter fraud was enough. LULAC v. Hughs, No. 20-50867, 978 F. 3d 136 (5th Cir. Oct. 12, 2020) (“Texas need not show specific local evidence of fraud in order to justify preventive measures.”)


    If policymakers are incapable of weighing competing values and exercising sound judgment regarding the relationship of ends and means, they shouldn’t be policymakers.

    Same if they are cognitively capable but unwilling.

  13. Bill Daniels says:


    Here’s an easy explainer on why midnight voting, drive through voting, mass mailing of ballots, etc. is bad and should be outlawed: fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers. Shit, why not have 6 months of early voting? Build massive Taj Mahal like structures with drive through lanes! Mail out separate ballots for each line item up for vote! We could just call it infrastructure, and spend billions of dollars on voting in Texas! The sky is the limit, and since it’s taxpayer money we’re spending, money is no object.

    How about stop dreaming up new ways to waste our money and just fix some potholes and synchronize some traffic lights, Harris County? Or mow the grass. Or spend it going after illegal dumpers. I can think of dozens of better ways to spend the taxpayers’ money than paying overtime wages to have a month of round the clock voting, drive through voting, mass mailing of ballots and ballot applications, etc.

    And since no one in the history of Texas had ever voted before by drive through, or in the dead of night, are you saying that every single Texan has been disenfranchised, right up to that moment in 2020, in Harris County, TX? Do we have a class action suit against the state for voter suppression? Were you suppressed in 2018? 2016?

  14. Flypusher says:

    If you want an actual discussion, ditch all the bullshit, hyperbole, and slippery slopes that don’t slide. The bottom line is that Harris Co., and every other county, had to pull off a major election in the midst of a once in a century pandemic. Yes, there was some improvising, but the election was free and fair, with increased turnout, and no evidence of significant cheating (confirmed by GOPers multiple times, BTW). These people should be applauded for what they pulled off. But lying, authoritarian sore losers can’t abide that, so you try to pass laws based on election fraud fan-fic, as opposed to offering any fixes towards real problems.

    Put up or shut up, you liar. Show us the actual fraud that’s widespread enough to justify all these new restrictions.

  15. Jason Hochman says:

    Flypusher, the Russian infiltration of the 2016 election justifies the new restrictions. Thanks for asking.

  16. Flypusher says:

    The Russian interference was spreading disinformation, not the actual alteration of election results, or fraudulent votes. So again, no good reason for wasting time on more voting restrictions, as opposed to fixing the energy grid.

  17. Bill Daniels says:


    ~Russian cheating in the 2016 election, tilting the election in favor of Donald Trump, over the clearly superior candidate, Hillary Clinton.

    ~GOP cheating in Georgia that cost Stacey Abrams her rightful position as governor of Georgia Stacey never conceded, because she was clearly cheated…..a clear case of election fraud on a massive scale. Or are you calling Stacey Abrams, Hillary Clinton, CNN, and the whole Democrat party liars, Fly?

  18. Manny says:

    K, state bar has a free online course in writing. May want to check it out.

  19. Bill Daniels says:

    As to spending money, wouldn’t it have been great if Harris County had spent the money they diverted to all night elections, to instead helping local power plants stay online? Dora failed bigly to keep the lights on in Harris County, but by God, those voters could mail in their votes by candlelight!

    You know what communists used for light before they used kerosene lamps?

    A: Electric lights!

  20. Mark says:

    As usual Bill can’t respond intelligently. Can you find a single person anywhere, not just texas, who posits that people are being suppressed because they are too poor or stupid?
    pro tip. when all you have is ad hominem you’ve got nothing.

  21. Jason Hochman says:

    Flypusher, in that case, the 2020 was rife with domestic disinformation. Not necessarily disinformation, perhaps, but opinion and commentary disguised as news.

    Now, we hear nothing about the Biden Border Cages. Biden put his boss ,Mrs Harris in charge of the border, but she has never even gone to see it as of yet. I can only imagine Joe Biden going there, sniffing the hair of children in order to select children for Mrs. Harris’s cauldron as she cackles and heats the boiling cauldron.

    The press has not speculated about invoking the 25th amendment after Biden’s gaffes, or tipping over on his way up steps.

    The violent crime wave is not being attributed to Biden. The police shooting in Mini Annapolis has not been credited to Biden’s racism. Trump’s dog whistle is silent, as he is cancelled from Twitter, Facebook, Insta Snap, Tweet A Gram, Tik Tok, You Tube, My Space, and any other social media. Clearly, Biden caused that shooting, but no blame is assigned, and no local protests led by the mayor, police chief, and Shirley Jackson. Biden was not ordered by the debate master to stand down his militia, and his militia, The Dog Faced Pony Soldiers, has remained activated. The Stay Safe Boys are out as well. Meantime, The Proud Boys are inactive.

    This is a mass media disinformation was documented in Time magazine, as to how they took huge steps to swing the election. So what about domestic disinformation will be done?

    I am all for less voters. If less and less people start showing up for the dog n’ pony show put on by the Big Two, and underwritten by their corporate and big tech masters, maybe some real parties will rise up.

  22. Kibitzer says:


    Private vs. Public Funding of Vote Facilitation Measures in Harris County

    Harris County received a large grant of private-source money to fund election accommodations during pandemic in 2020, as did other counties. This was unsuccessfully challenged in court. To the extent public money was involved, it is the prerogative of local governments to make budget decisions. Budget decisions reflect priorities and underlying values. Democracy must be worth spending money on to make it work. Here, the increased spending to facilitate safe voting during the pandemic benefitted supporters of both/all parties. It wasn’t limited just to Democrats; nor were other counties precluded from making similar funding decisions. So much for the statewide uniformity argument.

    Also note how Hidalgo talks about the inherent value of participation in elections irrespective of partisanship. If only the GOP were similarly committed to the fundamentals of a democratic republic! Without a basic values consensus, we are doomed.

    Control over local transmission of electricity

    As County Judge, Hidalgo had no control over, or political responsibility for, the local portion of the power grid, nor is the Houston served by a municipally owned integrated utility (unlike some other large cities) that owns and operates BOTH power generation plants AND transmission/distribution assets. So the mayor had no control either (other than city facilities with backup generators and such). See prior comment regarding problematicity of the gauging local leader performance when local leader is not at the controls (one component of a recent UH Hobby School poll).

    Instead, the orders for the amount, timing, and duration of the “load shed” was issued by ERCOT. The allocation for our area was based on some pre-existing allocation formula resting on historical load/usage pattern (at least that’s the official narrative).

    The decisions as to the off-lining of specific circuits/neighborhoods in the local transmission territory (and maintenance of others as serving critical infrastructure) was by CenterPoint (based at least in part on a pre-existing emergency plan, rather than entirely ad-hoc). This entity is the local regulated transmission/distribution provider (as distinguished from retail electric provider, among whom there was competition in our part of the ERCOT area). The retail providers didn’t control whether their customers were cut off.


    Strangely and utterly unfairly, one commentator on Big Jolly took Hidalgo to task for not issuing an order during the power crisis, referencing previous local pandemic-fighting efforts. — What order? one would want to know, given that Abbott and Paxton had set a pattern of thwarting local emergency orders, asserting pre-emption powers that apparently have no basis in the constitution (unlike federal preemption under the Supremacy clause).

    Still, perhaps Hidalgo and/or Turner should have issued an emergency order anyhow. Such as, for example, for commercial building owners/management companies to shut down the nightime illumination of empty Downtown office towers while the human-occupied surrounding residential areas where blacked out and made to suffer the brunt of the freeze. Paxton may not have been able to get a court to quash such local order quickly enough during the blackout, and it might have done some good in the interim by reducing strain on the grid.

    Registering a vehicle vs. exercising the right to vote

    Finally, the analogy of voting and MV registration is not very good for several reasons: (1) You can own several cars or none, while the right to vote is one-only-per-citizen. (2) The right to vote is fundamental to a healthy democracy while ownership of a car or truck is not. (3) Vehicles can be owned by entities, and even human owners can rely on agents (per power of attorney) to get title transfers done without themselves having to appear at the clerk’s office.

    Voting in political elections is generally not by proxy or agent, and duplicate registration is less of a problem with vehicles than it would be with voting.
    So, while there is some basis for comparison of administrative structure and implementation for MV and voter registration/voting, the policy concerns are substantively distinct.

  23. Bill Daniels says:


    “Harris County received a large grant of private-source money to fund election accommodations during pandemic in 2020, as did other counties.”

    That you can’t see what is wrong with this is telling. How will you feel if me and my racist, sexist, bigoted, tranny hating White supremacists start giving grants to rural, conservative counties to help THEM get out the vote? Can you see the problem with that? Private ‘grants’ are partisan by nature. Facebook gave ‘grants’ to help Democrats, plain and simple. Twitter probably did, too. Do you think Facebook and Twitter are apolitical folks that just want to help? Can you say it with a straight face?

    Want to give a non partisan ‘grant’ to a county? How about a donation to the county library, or maybe donate some trees and lawn equipment to the parks department? Donating to pay for 24 hour voting, mass mail outs of ballots, etc., should not be allowed. It’s a friggen’ get out the vote drive for whatever the dominant party is.

    “Here, the increased spending to facilitate safe voting during the pandemic benefited supporters of both/all parties.”

    Objection! Facts not in evidence. Where’s your proof that Harris County conservatives took advantage of Midnight voting, drive through voting, and all the other circus like things Harris County spent extra money on that other counties did not? And even if conservatives did, the fact that Harris County is firmly blue means these policies benefited Democrats.

    “Without a basic values consensus, we are doomed. ”

    Yes! Probably the only part of your screed that I agree with. We ARE doomed. We’re doomed when half the country has been taught to HATE this country and it’s people, it’s founding fathers, the whole shebang. This is something that has been building, but we’re finally past the critical mass point. It’s mainstream to hate America, and to hate the people who built this country, Whites.

    That’s just something a country can’t come back from. It can’t come back from half the country actively trying to destroy it and turn it into a 3rd World Hellscape. In case you haven’t been paying attention, Wolf, that’s you and your team.

  24. Bill Daniels says:

    Meet Biden’s America hating, Frankfurt School Marxist, UN Ambassador:

    “White Supremacy is Weaved Into Our Founding Documents and Principles”

    Her hatred of Whites is so outrageous, it’s a wonder she would even be in the same room with Biden. I guess she’s a useful idiot for the cause, eh Wolf? Surely you don’t desire a world where a woman like this lives in your neighborhood, do you?

  25. C.L. says:

    Reading this back and forth, tit for tat, is like watching monkeys fu**ing a football….just not as entertaining.

  26. […] the Kuff analyzed the propagandist’s advantage in pushing voter suppression […]