“California lets illegals vote!” A typical story from the Right’s misinformation machine.

Summary: The Right-wing misinformation machine is both effective and profitable. However implausible its products, they meet the need of conservatives. Here is a typical example — the exciting news that California has made it easier for illegals to vote!

GOP sunrise
GOP sunrise, from “Right Truth” website.


Which side lies the most, Left or Right? I would like to know. But I believe the Right makes more money doing so from their high-traffic and often professional news services and websites. They produce a stream of fact, exaggerations, misinformation, and outright falsehoods. These keep the people on the right excited, generating clicks. And clicks are money. Here is an example of how they work.

On 11 October 2015 California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB60. Conservatives went into a frenzy. “Jerry Brown Signs Bill That Could Let Illegal Aliens Vote” by William Bigelow at Breitbart. Fox News ran a series of shows (It will “Provide Shelter For Illegals To Vote”). Their analyst Andrew Napolitano (retired NJ judge):  “if you are an illegal alien in California, get a driver’s license, register to vote, you can vote in local, state, and federal elections in California and those votes count” (video here).

The far-right websites went hysterical. “Illegals in California Could Decide Election” by Brendan Kirby at Lifezette. “California Allows Non-Citizens to Vote, Which is Illegal, So Every California Vote should be Disqualified” at Eagle Rising. Google shows scores, perhaps hundreds, of these.

This is, of course, bogus. It’s astonishing that anyone believes it. But probably millions of Americans do, conditioned by years of conservative “news” to believe implausible things. The bill states that a driver licenses of an illegal “does not establish eligibility for employment, voter registration, or public benefits.'” See for yourself.

California AB60

Assembly Bill No. 60 – Chapter 524

“…Existing law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to require an applicant for an original driver’s license or identification card to submit satisfactory proof that the applicant’s presence in the United States is authorized under federal law. Existing law prohibits the department from issuing an original driver’s license or identification card to a person who does not submit satisfactory proof that his or her presence in the United States is authorized under federal law.

“This bill would require the department to issue an original driver’s license to a person who is unable to submit satisfactory proof that the applicant’s presence in the United States is authorized under federal law if he or she meets all other qualifications for licensure and provides satisfactory proof to the department of his or her identity and California residency.

“… The license shall bear the following notice: ‘This card is not acceptable for official federal purposes. This license is issued only as a license to drive a motor vehicle. It does not establish eligibility for employment, voter registration, or public benefits.’ …”

Also see “License to Vote: while California did pass a law to increase voter turnout, the state has not made it legal for undocumented people to vote” by Dan Evon at Snopes (the go-to website for information about urban legends). News stories from real journalists accurately describe the new bill, such as this in the Los Angeles Times.


There are similar stories on the Left. I do  not know which side is worst informed (my guess is the Right). A more important question — how can such a gullible people can govern themselves? Perhaps we should swear allegiance to the truth as the first step to reforming America.

About voter fraud

Despite intense attempts to find large-scale illegal voting, none has been found — although it has been common in the past (e.g., in 1960; see Slate’s burying the led in the penultimate paragraph). Liberals tell us that this means that our voting system should be vulnerable to fraud — and so distrusted — until after a political faction revives this effective tactic from the past. Only then can precautions be taken.

Until then voting will be unlike so many other common activities, from cashing checks to borrowing books from the library, not requiring identification.

For More Information

Fake ‘polling memo’ prompts the question: How much are partisans willing to believe?” by David Weigel in the WaPo. Answer: a lot, even when mind-bendingly false.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. See all posts about the Republican Party, about the right-wing, reforming America: steps to new politics, and especially these…

  1. The key to modern American politics: the Right-Wing Id Unzipped.
  2. A look into the GOP mind: untethered from reality and drifting in the wind.
  3. Mike Lofgren: Republicans Are Revolutionaries, Not Conservatives.
  4. Garry Wills explains The Triumph of the Hard Right.
  5. Important: American politics is a fun parade of lies, for which we pay dearly.

7 thoughts on ““California lets illegals vote!” A typical story from the Right’s misinformation machine.”

  1. The right wingers hate Snopes with a passion because of that. Every few years, I’ll see them pass around some dubious story claiming the Snopes founders are all Democrat donors, are involved in fraud, caught spreading intentionally-biased info, etc. Here’s an example: Factcheck looks at Snopes.

    That’s what my MI buddies called “information operations,” lol. (Yes, the irony being that disinformation is key to it)

    1. ch1kpee,

      I only recently noticed the right’s hatred of Snopes. It’s inevitable, since the Right’s misinformation machine relies so heavily on what are structurally urban legends. There are some good articles describing this in The Nation. “The New Right-Wing Smear Machine” and “Where Crazy Conservative Memes Are Invented“.

      Misinformation on the Left has a different structure, such as the decades-long series of scares about pollution, overpopulation, nuclear power, GMO, and climate change. As on the Right, there is some basis for these fears — but the Left exaggerates and misinforms about them for the same reason as the Right — to arouse and control their followers.

  2. I find it hard to get outraged about the “voter suppression” effort surrounding ID requirements. Yes, I completely understand that Republican bureaucrats are the ones pushing these measures for cynical, partisan reasons. Yes, it’s true that getting a driver’s license (and perhaps even a state ID that does not allow one to drive?) requires paying a fee, which is similar in spirit to a poll tax; poll taxes have bad historical baggage associated with disenfranchising the poor. But Democrats seem to me to be equally driven by partisanship when they claim that ID requirements are an “undue” burden on the poor. No one, as far as I can tell, has proposed a *principled* criterion for what constitutes an *undue* burden associated with voter registration or validation. And so long as predictable discrepancies in party identification persist among those likely to be most affected by such requirements, no one’s motivations are beyond suspicion.

    Now you could argue that lacking any evidence that voter fraud is an important phenomenon, the burden of proof necessarily rests upon the (Republican) side arguing for upsetting the status quo. Fair enough. But I would counterargue that there are sound reasons to require *everyone* (not just voters) to have an official state identification document. In fact, even though I’m pretty libertarian and lean towards distributed, state-based policies in general, I think I’d favor a mandatory system of federal IDs, provided they satisfy the following criteria:

    1. They must not passively transmit any information about the bearer without his consent (e.g. via RFID).
    2. They must be required only for interactions with the federal government (e.g. logging in to a website to pay federal taxes, passing through border control, voting in federal elections).
    3. They should support some basic cryptographic functionality, to be leveraged by future e-voting systems.

    To be clear, states could *optionally* choose to use the federal IDs for their own purposes (e.g. issuing driver’s licenses, registering voters for state elections, etc), but this shouldn’t be required. However, I’d expect sensible states to do so.

    I do not think such a system would be unduly expensive, and I think it would provide substantial benefits. For example, I’m a resident of Hong Kong, where something pretty close to my envisioned system is in place. It really shines at the airport. Estonia has implemented a more sophisticated system that supports the extra cryptographic structures which I expect to be important in the future.

    There’s no reason why citizens need to be charged for ID cards, and there’s no reason they need to be renewed (although perhaps one would want to charge a replacement fee for ID cards, to discourage careless treatment that allows them to be lost or damaged). Once such IDs are mandatory, it’s a no brainer to use them for voter registration and validation, and I suspect this would actually save a lot of money in the long run, in terms of simplifying the voter registration database maintenance. Since plastic wallet cards can now easily contain data chips, it’s also a no brainer to replace the ridiculous legacy paper passport infrastructure with an electronic system.

    1. sfliht

      Nicely said. Also, that there is little or no organized voter fraud not doesn’t mean that it will not reoccur. After all, it has played a powerful role in America’s past. Why not take protection now?

      Re: voter suppression

      It takes other forms, which are imo more effective. Reducing the number of polling placed, the number of machines in each, cutting their hours of operation — these are being done by the GOP, and probably as part of a deliberate strategy.

      More controversial is the right of felons to vote after they have served their time. There are no mechanisms to track them, so they don’t vote on the honor system — which seems quite odd, to put it charitably. So many of what we consider felonies are actually small crimes imo not deserving of such drastic punishment. But it’s a complex matter.

    2. To be fair, felon voting rights are a salient issue precisely because Gov. McCauliffe made them one. There are ~5million felons, but I don’t know how much to believe the idea that they vote systematically for one party or the other. Statistically, felons are more likely to be black and thus (perhaps) Democrat. But inferences based on composing multiple demographic patterns are probably less robust than average.

      So why was Gov. McCaullife so willing to bet on felon voters? It would be foolish to doubt that he has good reason to believe these voters will support him in the upcoming election. But in future elections?

      1. sflict,

        “There are ~5million felons”

        That does not look right. It seems to be an order of magnitude too low. In 2013 there were 2.2 million in prison (Fed, state, local) and 5.8 million on parole.

        That most of those would vote democratic — if they could be motivated to vote — seems a good bet. That most could be motivated to vote seems unlikely, imo. Since nothing effectively stops them but the honor system, perhaps many or most of those few are already voting.

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