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The Time I Committed Election Fraud

A true story, but I rigged it in favor of the candidate I opposed, and learned a lot about immigration and citizenship in the process.

by James Leroy Wilson
July 6, 2011

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The Time I Committed Election Fraud

I will tell you a story I've never told anyone before, of how I committed voter fraud, how it confused my views on immigration, and how they were clarified once again.

In the 1996 Presidential Election, I served as an election judge. Where I lived, the laws said that each precinct required 4-6 judges, split between Democrats and Republicans. At the time, I was very ambivalent about Bob Dole, but preferred him over Bill Clinton and I served as a Republican judge.

A naturalized citizen, a woman from Korea had trouble understanding the ballot and requested help. But not only could she not understand the instructions on the ballot, she could barely understand English at all. I had received minimal training and was new at the job, but I perceived that this was simply going nowhere. And so I broke the rules and simply asked her as best I could who she intended to vote for. She said, as best she could, Clinton (or Democrat). I literally guided her hand to punch the hole for Clinton (or the straight Democrat line; I don't remember).

Of course, an election judge should NEVER ask a voter who he or she is voting for. That's basically the #1 rule, legally and ethically, because it assumes there is no legitimate reason to ask the question, except to intimidate the voter.

But I went ahead anyway. The woman was so obviously ignorant of how anything works that she wouldn't have reported me. I basically voted on her behalf, expressing her wishes. I violated the law, but fulfilled its "spirit." My precinct was "safe" for Clinton that year, as was my state as well as the entire nation. My act of voter fraud on behalf of a candidate I opposed didn't make a difference.

She may have followed Korean translations of political speeches on television. Maybe others in her immigrant community told her who to vote for. In any case, the citizenship laws made her "qualified" to vote.

At the time, and for years afterward, I supported open immigration, and do so today. But I also thought, "Did this woman really have the right to vote?" How many close elections were decided by people as incapable as she was of understanding the process? How many were "helped along" by election judges like me? And were those judges as "noble" as I was by selecting the voter's preference instead of their own?

I have often said that your vote will more likely to be counted as error or fraud than that it will actually make a difference. I speak from experience.

And after some years, I confronted some theoretical and practical problems with immigration, such as population influxes that raise land values (and therefore rents and property taxes) and that depress wages. I realize now that neither were problems in and of themselves, but rather that the present existing anti-free market laws and regulations were the real reasons wages were depressed and land values so high.

I was concerned that immigration would be a burden on government social services, and thought that we should get rid of the welfare state before we have a more open immigration policy. Now I realize my mistake: Welfare isn't a good reason to prohibit open immigration; rather, immigration is a good reason to get rid of welfare.

Finally, I became concerned that there would be waves of immigrants from countries that have had scarce experience with anything resembling the Rule of Law, whether from the Middle East, Central Asia, Latin America, or elsewhere. But now I realize we shouldn't discriminate against individuals from particular countries, just because we "think" we know what their beliefs would be. If we discriminate against individuals, we become what we say we despise.

I realize now that I conflated two different concepts: immigration and citizenship. And I have that Korean lady to thank for it.

The lady was well-dressed. She was obviously from a prosperous family in the Korean-American community that was part of my neighborhood. She, or someone in her family, contributed positively to the nation's GDP. She had a right to be here. She had a right to work here.

I want a free market, which means I want a free labor market. And that means I support open immigration. I would rather have immigrants as legal residents and on the tax rolls. After all, if someone moved into a building I lived in and consumed heat and electricity, reduced available parking space, etc., then I'd want him to be paying rent, too. Otherwise, I'd have to pay more. By the same token, if I have to pay taxes, so should immigrants. And that means making them "legal."

I would say, however, that citizenship is another matter. The right to work is NOT the same as the right to vote. The right to work stems from everyone's right to do as they please provided they don't hurt anyone else. That means anyone should be free to make stuff in exchange for other people's money or goods. It also means the right to work for someone else for wages. It shouldn't matter where they live, or where they used to live.

The right to work is a human right that extends to children. They have a right to sell lemonade without a license. They have the right to do household chores for an allowance. By the same token, they have the right to stuff and lick envelopes - or do anything they are capable of - in exchange for an amount of money or some other reward they agree to.

But our laws say a native-born citizen has to wait at least 18 years before he's allowed to vote. It seems MORE than fair to expect the same of an immigrant who wants citizenship. And to have all ballots and instructions written in English.

"But," you protest, "An adult immigrant has greater knowledge and maturity than the native-born child!"

Maybe so, but that knowledge and maturity was never immersed in American laws, culture, language, and idiom. Someone who moved here, who was accustomed to different kinds of laws and a different culture will not really understand his new country in just a few years' time. Make him adjust for a good 18 years, the same we expect of native-born Americans, and THEN let him vote. By then, he will likely have had a much better understanding of the country. Moreover, if he wants to vote, he should pass a citizenship test and sign a loyalty oath, both in English, AFTER he or she has lived here for 18 years.

My ambivalence toward immigration was really my ambivalence about naturalized citizenship. The rules seem too lax. I think it is more than reasonable to require 18 consecutive years of residence (instead of 5 years) in order to vote, as well as English-only ballots with NO assistance from election officials regarding the instructions.

I say this with extreme ambivalance toward the existence of the United States, and the idea of voting at all. We'd probably be living much better if the highest form of government was at the county level.

But I say this in all honesty regarding the system we have. Extending the path to citizenship to 18 years will at least provide good evidence that the immigrant is fully-invested in the future of the United States. If these rules lead to the Southwest rejoining Mexico and the rest of the United States succumbing to Sharia Law, that will be the result of the failure of American values, NOT the force of foreign militancy.

If YOU say that it's is somehow racist or "anti-immigrant" to allow immigrants to vote after 18 years of living here, then I will with ALL FAIRNESS say this: if you think native-born Americans should wait 18 years instead of 5 years to vote, you must be anti-child.

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Roderick T. Long from Auburn, Alabama writes:
July 6, 2011
Do you also think immigrants should be exempt from taxes for their first eighteen years here? If not, then you favour "taxation without representation."

Also, isn't the ballot a venue for self-defense? Is it fair for immigrants to be disenfranchised and disarmed against native-born citizens who may use the ballot to advance their own interests at the expense of immigrants?

As for loyalty oaths: isn't the idea behind the American Revolution supposed to be that governments owe loyalty to their citizens, not vice versa?

James Leroy Wilson from Independent Country writes:
July 7, 2011
Long: Do you also think immigrants should be exempt from taxes for their first eighteen years here? If not, then you favour "taxation without representation."

Me: By the standards of the American Revolution, they ARE represented if they live in a state. They would be in a Congressional District. They would have two Senators. Just because they can't vote doesn't mean these members of Congress aren't duly obligated to represent them, just as they are obligated to represent children, people who didn't vote, and people who voted against them.

Children aren't exempt from taxes either. Don't they have to report income above a certain threshold? In any case, they aren't exempt from paying sales taxes. And yet, children can't vote.

Long: Also, isn't the ballot a venue for self-defense? Is it fair for immigrants to be disenfranchised and disarmed against native-born citizens who may use the ballot to advance their own interests at the expense of immigrants?

Me: If naturalized citizens voted for the Libertarian Party in large numbers, I would agree with the "self-defense" argument and probably wouldn't have thought to write this. They don't. They vote Democrat or Republican, which means they themselves use the ballot to advance their OWN interests at the expense of others.

Also, the same argument applies to children, even more so. Even if they couldn't vote, legal immigrants have FAR more rights and privileges than children. Who has been MORE disenfranchised and disarmed than children? They are essentially locked up for hours each day and prevented from earning an honest buck -- because they would under-bid ADULT laborers. If immigrants should be allowed to vote, then so should children.

Long: As for loyalty oaths: isn't the idea behind the American Revolution supposed to be that governments owe loyalty to their citizens, not vice versa?

Me: I didn't elaborate, but this suggestion was mainly to ensure the immigrant wasn't a "foreign agent" using his vote in order to advance the interests of his or her former country at the expense of our own. The loyalty would be to our country to the exclusion of all other countries, as opposed to loyalty to the government per se.

Again, I'm not persuaded that voting does much good for anyone. But I don't see why immigrants who came here by their own VOLITION should be entitled to this when tens of millions of native-born citizens are denied it.

Roderick T. Long from Auburn, Alabama writes:
July 7, 2011
"By the standards of the American Revolution, they ARE represented if they live in a state."

That's essentially the theory of virtual representation that the British used *against* the American revolutionaries. The concept of virtual representation was also used to argue against women's right to vote.

"Children aren't exempt from taxes either."

Maybe they should be. (I mean, even given the assumption that taxation is legitimate, maybe they should be.) But in any case, the case for treating children differently is that children's rational capacity is undeveloped. That doesn't apply to immigrants.

You say that what's needed is not just rational capacity but immersion in "American laws, culture, language, and idiom." By that standard, shouldn't native-born citizens be denied the right to vote if they've spent most of their lives abroad?


"If naturalized citizens voted for the Libertarian Party in large numbers, I would agree with the 'self-defense' argument and probably wouldn't have thought to write this. They don't. They vote Democrat or Republican, which means they themselves use the ballot to advance their OWN interests at the expense of others."

How do you tell what motivates any given voter? Lots of people vote for a major party candidate because they think they're less bad than the other one, and they don't even consider a third party because they think (not implausibly) that such parties' chances are minuscule.

In any case, if you think we should deny a tool of self-defense to certain groups based on the presumption that they are likely to use it non-defensively, then what do you think about gun control?

In my ideal libertarian system, there'd be no voting. (Well except in private clubs and such.) But as long as things *are* decided by vote, I think the right to defend oneself from the majority's vote is justified for the same reasons that gun rights are. And to take away someone's vote because they *might* use it irresponsibly is like taking away someone's gun because they might do likewise.

"Also, the same argument applies to children, even more so. Even if they couldn't vote, legal immigrants have FAR more rights and privileges than children."

I actually would have no problem with children voting. But as I said before, there's a special reason for treating children differently that doesn't apply to mentally competent adults.

"I didn't elaborate, but this suggestion was mainly to ensure the immigrant wasn't a 'foreign agent' using his vote in order to advance the interests of his or her former country at the expense of our own."

I think a lot more damage is done by people voting to advance the interests of their own country than by people voting to advance the interests of other countries.

James Leroy Wilson from Independent Country writes:
July 8, 2011
Broad strokes, then a couple of responses to a couple of specific questions.

Unless one is voting for candidates who explicitly favor protecting individual rights across the board, then one is NOT voting in "self-defense." He or she is, instead, voting to advance particular interests at the expense of other people's property and freedom.

So I just don't buy the "voting as self-defense" argument. How is it justified for, say, a naturalized immigrant to vote for a candidate who pledges to protect the rights and interests of his particular native group, but who ALSO pledges to loot the wealth and take away the freedom of others? This isn't protecting one's own rights, this is war by other means.

Voting is a tool where adults rationalize the oppression of others. It so rarely used as a tool of "self-defense" that it's hardly worth mentioning. All I'm saying is that an immigrant should have to wait 18 years before he starts oppressing me, the same requirement for the native-born.

"But in any case, the case for treating children differently is that children's rational capacity is undeveloped."

I disagree. Children may lack knowledge, but they invariably make rational conclusions based on what they're told. Perhaps we need MORE voters who apply the logical consequences of "Don't hit" and "Don't take what doesn't belong to you." Their "rational capacity" is just fine. The problem with adults is they have a "rationalization capacity."

In any case, I'm not calling for stripping the voting privileges of people who come here under existing laws. I'm saying that, after a law passes changing the requirements, immigrants - who come here by their own volition - would know that they won't vote until after 18 years of immersion in American culture, the same requirement as the native-born.

"I think a lot more damage is done by people voting to advance the interests of their own country than by people voting to advance the interests of other countries."

Tens of millions of native-born Christian voters have a greater allegiance to Israel than to the United States. So I disagree. Indeed, perhaps even the native-born should take a loyalty oath as a prerequisite for voting.

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