Tag Archives: fraud

voter fraud vs. voter suppression

To here the news lately, you’d think we live in some third-world dictatorship, unable to administer a fair election.

The press keeps touting the fact that we are due for the greatest voter turnout of all time.  One group, which tends to be Republican and/or conservative, spin tales of fraudulent voter registration rolls — of elections being stolen by the likes of Mickey Mouse and Yo Momma, or possibly of immigrants that are ineligible to vote, or possibly by people voting several times under different identities.  Another group is sounding the alarm against voter suppression, citing that names are already being removed from rolls or are being allocated provisional ballots that can be suppressed for all kinds of minor reasons…  of course that groups tends to be Democrat/liberal.

First things first — I don’t think voter turnout is going to be all that great.  “The youth” that everyone thinks is so energized about this election; isn’t that the same “youth” that was going to turn the tide in 2000?  and 2004?  I know, technically it’s not the same youth, as those youth are no longer young (prematurely middle-aged by the inability to get a home mortgage in these crazy times).  But seriously, “the youth vote” always seems to find something better to do November 4th, so don’t count on them.

The big chunk of ‘undecided’ voters are equally unlikely to make a difference; a Pew study I heard about on NPR this afternoon demonstrated that almost half of those ‘undecided’ in days leading up to the election just end up not voting.  No reason to think that will be any different this year; and frankly, do we really want people going into the polling stations thinking “eeiny, meeny, miney, mo…?”  Stay home, undecided voter.

Of course, now that the media has convinced us it will be an unprecedented turnout, when numbers are below expectations they can easily reason that huge numbers of votes have “been suppressed”.  If Obama doesn’t win, or it’s close, you’ll hear this before the end of election night.  No, it’s not a card the Republicans can play.

The Republican card is voter fraud, and it’s decidedly more difficult to play with a straight face.  Sure, it’s possible that people could vote multiple times in different precincts with easy-to-obtain fake IDs.  But it’s a lot more difficult logistically to make this happen than it is to make a few thousand votes disappear from a Diebold machine.

Both sides can argue breathlessly that their ideological constituents are being wronged here, but it makes me wonder which is the greater transgression?  Is there a corollary of Blackstone’s formulation?

“Better that ten illegitimate persons cast votes than one legitimate citizen have there vote cast asunder” ?

“Better than ten legitimate votes be withdrawn than to have the will of the people thwarted by a single illegitimate vote” ?

Neither one sounds right; either way, here’s my prediction — voter fraud/suppression will be in the secondary headlines on November 5th.

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Filed under politics, stupid government

have I been under a rock? or should I now take refuge under one?

maybe I’m the only person in the world that hadn’t heard of Lori Drew and the MySpace suicide, but her federal indictment for ‘bullying a young girl on the Internet’ was news to me.

I’m not going to comment on the nature of the bullying or the outcome — clearly tragic, bordering on horrific. I’m not going to argue against punishment in general, but I have to express concern over the origin of the charges.

“federal charges for fraudulently using an account on MySpace” — seriously? what constitutes fraudulent use of MySpace? if I overstate my hot-ness, is that fraud? what if I accept friend requests from people who aren’t really friends? if I LOLZ at things that aren’t really funny?

I know, the indictment focuses the three counts on “accessing protected computers without authorization to obtain information to inflict emotional distress”:

  • “accessing protected computers without authorization…” – this asserts that Drew wasn’t legally authorized because she gave false registration information, posing as a 16-year old boy. it’s not like she hacked into their system, she used their weak/unaudited registration system. and if accessing with falsified information is a crime, there are literally millions and millions of illegal logins everyday through MySpace, Hotmail, Yahoo, WordPress — you name the system.
  • “… to obtain information…” — I’m not a legal scholar, but this law sounds like it was written to address hacking: gaining unauthorized access to systems and obtaining stored data. Drew didn’t use her bogus account and it’s basic access to launch a more sophisticated hacking attack on MySpace. nor did she use that account to access stored data on her target, like accessing a database full of credit card numbers or SSNs. she used the platform (messages and IM) and social engineering — no different than if she had called the girl on the phone and pretended to be a young man. if she had done that, would she be facing this same indictment? how about if she got the phone service through bogus registration information? if she just attacked her verbally or through rumors would there be conspiracy charges, or are we to believe that the Internet somehow makes this different?

in the indictment, it spells out what an Internet Service Provider is (“provides access to the Internet”) and what a Social Network Service is (“building communities… [often] providing email and IM”) and then proceeds to incorrectly specify that MySpace is an ISP. ugh. hire a bit-head/packet-herder for an hour, get the technical details right.

did you know that it is an “Overt Act” to induce someone else to write something in an Instant Message? apparently Drew induced her victim to write, “aww sexi josh ur so sweet if u moved back u could see me up close and personal lol.” I can see how you might induce someone to agree with something you wrote, something simple like that, but how do you induce someone to write something unscripted?

“Anyone who engages in harassment and violates the law similar to Ms. Drew is subject to investigation and prosecution on the right facts.”

so millions and millions of people who knowingly use accounts with false registration data run the risk of prosecution “on the right facts” — what kind of Orwellian language is that? they didn’t charge her with Harassment, they charged her with Conspiracy.

in Do Something, for the children!, I said that Cyber-Bullying is “a problem that only affects losers.*” now, this may come as a shock to you, but my real name is not st4rbux and I am not a Ignignokt, as my avatar might suggest. I’m pretty sure the date of birth and zip code I entered in WordPress is also not legit. given this combination of facts — attacking losers and false registration information — could I be indicted? could you?

the thrust of the legal argument seems to be that violation of Terms of Service makes the system access “unauthorized”, and then you’re into potential legal trouble. so if I set up a web site and buried an obscure clause in the Terms (“use of the word ‘whatnot’ in any forum, private message, or instant message violates the Terms of Service”), then I could get the federal government to prosecute anyone who used that phrase? I thought Terms of Service were contractual agreements between service providers and customers, and violations would be a contractual matter and not criminal. oh who am I kidding, everything that is not expressly permitted is forbidden; isn’t that where we’re headed?

after all this, I found a follow up on Wired:
Experts Say MySpace Suicide Indictment Sets ‘Scary’ Legal Precedent. I’m not an expert, but it’s never too late to go back and get a law degree…

In their eagerness to visit justice on a 49-year-old woman involved in the Megan Meier MySpace suicide tragedy, federal prosecutors in Los Angeles are resorting to a novel and dangerous interpretation of a decades-old computer crime law — potentially making a felon out of anybody who violates the terms of service of any website, experts say.

“This is a novel and extreme reading of what [the law] prohibits,” says Jennifer Granick, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “To say that you’re violating a criminal law by registering to speak under a false name is highly problematic. It’s probably an unconstitutional reading of the statute.”

exactly.

* I hadn’t heard about the Drew/suicide case at the time, and might have shown more tact if I had known. probably not, but it’s nice to think so.

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Filed under stupid government, whatnot