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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Solution To Voter Id: Facial Recognition

The Representation Segment Is RACIST!
The left and right don't agree on Voter ID--and why not? The demographic of people who were born outside of hospitals in the 40's--and never acquired birth certificates are disproportionately black and Democratic. Everyone has skin in the game!

For Democrats, the picture is clear: Republicans want to make it harder for their partisan voters to take action at the polls. Why, with no proof whatsoever of widespread voter-fraud, what else could it be?

For Republicans, the picture is clear: Democrats get names of people on the voter-roles who are not coming to the polls and then send in operatives to vote in their names--several times. Now, this hasn't been caught ... but how could it be? Democrats oppose this because they rely on voter fraud.

The Solution

The Omnivore suspects that if the Republican theory were happening in significant numbers, it would be caught. There are certainly enough people looking for it and every person on the role who showed a vote would have to lie and say "Yes--I voted!" when asked (Which would make them complicit in fraud) for this to remain a secret.

However, that doesn't mean we shouldn't have some way of validating voters. Firstly, if there are people who have a hard time getting photo-ID, that's no reason specifically to deny them a vote--especially if we could make it safe.

Secondly, there's a cost effective way to handle a person voting multiple times at different locations: Facial Recognition.

Now, FR is a fairly expensive technology to deploy but it is not an expensive technology to feed. If every polling outfit is equipped with a digital camera (it doesn't have to be an especially good one) then any voter who cannot show ID (which should be a small percentage) can be photographed and the photo uploaded to the mothership where it will be checked by FR against the database of all other non-ID voters.

This shouldn't slow things down too much, only impacts a small number of voters who don't have ID, and should not be especially expensive: a single FR system could handle a whole state--maybe, given enough time--the whole nation.

14 comments:

  1. At this time I would have to oppose this idea on pragmatic grounds: the best available FR tech, according to the FBI, has an upper bound on its Type I errors (false positives) of about 20%. Multiply that by an electorate of something like 129 million (the 2012 turnout), and you have an upper bound of 26 million false positives (if nobody had valid ID). So what would you call "a small number of voters who don't have ID"? One percent? That's 260,000 false positives and (as the Republicans would disingenuously insist) a potentially similar number of Type II (false negative) errors.

    I'd want to see an error rate at least two orders of magnitude lower, demonstrated by an impartial third party under real-world conditions, with all relevant firmware and software legally required to be open-source and peer reviewed. That might change my mind.

    Absent any of that, forget it.

    Until that day.

    -- Ω

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    1. Compared to the massive number of false positives ('false positives') we have for Voter Fraud today, I think your numbers would be an improvement!

      Also, FR is getting good--really good. I'm not sure what the FBI is running but consider that Facebook is like 97.25%--and these pictures would be face-forward against a neutral background--not Taco Bell at 2 AM.

      http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/03/18/deepface_facebook_face_recognition_software_is_97_percent_accurate.html

      -The Omnivore

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    2. I hope you're not seriously suggesting that cases of provable voter fraud (multiple voting, voting as someone else, etc) in the last few national-level elections have numbered anywhere close to my hypothetical figure of 260,000 - because that claim is completely unsupported by anything save right-wing lies and delusions. As you yourself have admitted, recent pushes for tighter voter-ID requirements amount to little more than a smokescreen for preemptive disenfranchisement of likely Democratic voters. I have no objection in principle to a better validation system, but I'd have to be convinced of its fairness and unobtrusiveness.

      Retail election fraud does happen, but all available research is consistent with its incidence being far below any level of statistical significance. Wholesale election fraud, however - that's another story (and, by its nature, far harder to prove; the available evidence is almost all circumstantial and/or statistical in nature).

      The real problem isn't fraud; it's the two-party duopoly and the resulting lack of any meaningful choices. It's a dumb-show; it's entertainment; it's panem et circenses.

      -- Ω

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    3. No--the 'false positives' I spoke of are Fox News headlines. Those number in, depending on who exactly you ask, the millions!

      -The Omnivore

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    4. Ah, I see what you meant now. But perhaps there is a distinction to be drawn between "statistical false positives" and "political false positives" - that is, dishonestly fabricated ones. And one big benefit of a provably reliable FR tech, were any to be deployed for this purpose, would be the removal of such scare tactics from the neocon arsenal - no doubt to be immediately replaced by something even more sinister and divisive.

      What I find especially galling is that while the Republicans nowadays are the undisputed masters of such dirty tricks, it wasn't always so: they learned a lot of them from Southern Democrats in the bad old days before World War II. Some of the crazy elections in 1930s Louisiana (involving Gov. Huey Long) involved shameful stuff like identical vote totals across multiple precincts, unanimous results for the Kingfish, and precinct totals in excess of the number of eligible voters. It's worth noting that, were such shenanigans to happen in some Third World backwater, the United Nations would theoretically be within its rights to invade the place under the auspices of Chapter VI of its charter.

      But once Pres. Nixon pulled the trigger on his infamous "Southern Strategy" in the late 1960s, there was no going back: a lot of the worst practices of the (Democratic) antebellum South became part and parcel of the modern Republican Party. The Republicans had always been identified with the wealthy, but they were the party of Lincoln after all, and white Southerners wanted no part of that. For about a century, anyway. In the end, a little race-baiting was all it took to bring them around, it seems.

      "Democracy," said H.L Mencken, "is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard."

      -- Ω

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  2. ... sure, and we can all agree that Fox (not) News headliner rants are oh so accurate and unbiased :).

    My lefty bias not withstanding, I find the logic difficult to avoid. Taking for granted that both sides are highly protective of their vote counts, and coupling it with the fact that if significant voter fraud were indeed true it would be just as present from the GOP voter side (if not more - tenacious bastards some of them are); it seems sadly likely that the true motivation behind the red-herring cry of "voter fraud!" is instead originating from a quiet malice to disenfranchise the opposition.

    Disenfranchisement is observably a never far from reach tactic of the more Machiavellian end of the GOP, and unhappily that group seems to have far too much influence and control. Consider as disturbing example, the almost utter lack of fair democratic voter-choice given to the passing of a constitutional amendment in NC regarding same-sex marriage: A vote that was timed for maximum GOP voter turn out due to a hotly contested presidential primary, and minimal DEM voter turn out (nothing much happening primary wise). If interested in it being a true vox-populi, it would not have been done this way.
    No clearer intent to disenfranchise have I ever seen.

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  3. No, this is pointless. Republicans don't want this because it doesn't prevent Democrats from voting, Democrats don't want this because it's a waste of money and effort.

    Voter fraud is not actually a problem. Time and time again, when it's investigated it turns out that pretty much nobody is committing it.

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    1. Most of those making the most political hay from this have, when pressed by journalists such as Greg Palast, been unable to document even a single case of honest-to-God voter fraud, much less any prosecutions for same. As you say, even a cursory analysis reveals nearly all claimed cases to have arisen from things like honest mistakes, incorrect or out-of-date address info, confusion from misspelled names, etc.

      And those claimed cases? Even if all of them were to pan out as deliberate fraud (see above), even the most generous estimates put them at a couple hundred per election, if that. So yes, it's a waste of time and resources to invest anything in chasing a nonexistent problem, except of course for the purely political benefits to claiming that your opponents are cheats and attempting to shift the burden of proof onto them. You don't have to prove that they did it; just fabricate the accusation and see if they'll legitimize it by taking the bait. Impossible to prove a negative of course, but the Democrats have occasionally been dumb enough to let themselves get suckered into trying anyway.

      -- Ω

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    2. Indeed--but consider this:

      (a) This proposal is VERY inexpensive. It would need some pretty good process-level protections but these are not extremely difficult to institute.

      (b) If you propose it and it shuts down Voter ID pushes then, from a lefty position, you win, don't you? Both sides are satisfied for, yes, a cost--but no one is disenfranchised.

      (c) If you propose it and the right shoots it down, well, then you've confirmed that this isn't about 'truing the vote,' haven't you? (Unless there is some other flaw).

      I rather expect that a lot of Democrats WOULD like it because it provides them with a chance to avoid the debate ...

      -The Omnivore

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    3. To be honest I wasn't thinking in terms of political strategy. I guess it might be worthwhile as a political move, but as policy it's a dud.

      And it would be more expensive than you're implying. Because anything implemented on this scale will have to contend with surreal levels of incompetence and inefficiency. Nation-wide electoral process changes are inherently expensive no matter what they are.

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  4. Assuming for the moment that this idea gains enough traction to become a 'mainstream talking point', I don't think it likely to make it to a passing-vote/implementation. As such, the idea will end up simply extending the unnecessary conversation, artificial controversy, and unnecessary confusion on this entire topic - thus perpetuating the status-quo on the matter.
    I'm afraid it would therefore fail at it's goal of "do a little of something to quiet the argument."

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    1. Because of the generally nonconfrontational nature of the geek tribe, we tend to seek technological solutions at least partly as a means of avoiding debate, as Ommie noted above. The trouble, as we all know, is that it's usually only technological problems which admit of such solutions. This isn't one of them, and the implementation of FR tech, however well-intentioned, won't "solve" anything - at most, it would serve only to shift or modify the same old fight.

      "Better the devil you know", it's said. I'm not sure that's always true, but in a situation where the general trend of the devilry is uniformly in the direction of "worse", it seems like wise advice.

      -- Ω

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    2. Ehhh ... Unnecessary? While the available evidence does, indeed, suggest this is unnecessary you have to understand that there is a very real belief on the side of a lot of conservatives that despite the lack of smoking guns, the Voter ID problem is real.

      Now, you can say that's just them being stupid but that's not the same as saying the *issue* isn't real. This is a way to help shore up the process (The Omnivore also wants a smart, data-driven review of Voter Rolls) that doesn't cost so much that people would object to it.

      The cost for this should be *fairly* nominal.

      Put another way--if it were to solve the problem, why NOT do it? Because it's a waste? So is [ The National Endowment for the Arts ] -- but the left likes that (put in whatever else you want in the brackets).

      But there's another reason you should endorse it ... a DARKER one. If the goal is to smoke out actual attempts at voter-disenfranchisement you should pay the cost for this gladly and see if the conservatives object to letting the people vote so long as fraud is much, much easier to catch!

      -The Omnivore

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  5. The NEA is not a waste.
    (There, I prove your point)

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