Confirmation Bias or Contrived Ignorance: The New York Times and the Inadvertent Voter Fraud of Mario Hernandez

Accidental illegal Mario Hernandez waits to finally get the citizenship he thought he already had. Those 10 votes he cast without being eligible don't matter, because he wasn't trying to defraud anyone. What else is there to the story? That's it, right? Problem solved!

Accidental illegal Mario Hernandez waits to finally get the citizenship he thought he already had. Those 10 votes he cast without being eligible don’t matter, because he wasn’t trying to defraud anyone. What else is there to the story? That’s it, right? Problem solved!

Last week, the New York Times happily related the heart-warming tale of Mario Hernandez, a former federal employee and an Army veteran who for decades thought he was a United States citizen but wasn’t. The problem was rectified at last when he was sworn in as a citizen in a ceremony in Jacksonville, Florida. In the process of telling the story, the Times casually notes that he voted in every major election since Jimmy Carter’s in 1976. The Times’ ethics alarms are long dead: to them, this is just a detail on the way to arguing one of its pet agenda items, that the immigration system needs fixing. It does, but one weird story where a series of record-keeping errors resulted in a botched citizenship status doesn’t prove it. Because he has a different concern, however Wall Street Journal blogger James Taranto did the math. Hernandez, a non-citizen, voted in ten elections, by his own admission, and nobody knew.

That is significant, and does prove something. It proves that the Democratic, NAACP, Eric Holder mainstream media claim that there is no evidence that people are voting in elections who shouldn’t is a problem worthy of addressing is a cynical excuse to cry racism to tar Republicans who are pushing for an obvious, practical, responsible requirement of photo ID cards to establish voter eligibility. As Taranto points out, such a system would have not only prevented Hernandez’s invalid—but tallied*—votes, but also would have alerted him decades ago of his citizenship problem. More important, the incident illustrates the inherent dishonesty of the argument that because a large number of such votes by non-citizens haven’t been caught, they problem doesn’t exist. If one non-citizen, however innocently, could have voted ten times over decades without it being noted, it is fair to assume that there is a problem. Voter IDs address the problem; it is irresponsible not to address the problem, and to argue that only racism could be behind an effort to improve the integrity of a system that allows a single non-citizen to cast ten votes is unfair, irresponsible and intentionally misleading.

The remarkable thing, however, is that the New York Times is so focused on the immigration side of the issue that it didn’t even occur to the writer or the editor that the incidents raises and clarifies the issues in the voter ID controversy. The kind interpretation of this failure is that it is confirmation bias: so made up is the collective mind of the highly-respected propaganda organ (at least among its editorials staff) of the Democratic party that it is only capable of interpreting the facts as supporting its position, and the other obvious and undeniable implications of ten illegal votes are just buried in the blur of bias. The more sinister interpretation is that this is contrived ignorance: the Times chooses not to follow the part of the story that may lead to facts that undermine the beneficial race-baiting of its political allies. In either case, incompetent, naive and inept, or politicized, cynical and deceptive, it is lousy journalism.

The Instapundit, law professor Glenn Reynolds, has opined that if  the majority of illegal or fraudulent voters were believed to be Republicans, it would be Democrats pushing for voter IDs. He leaves out the flip side, which is that in that hypothetical scenario, Republicans would certainly be singing the same tune Democrats and the Times are now. But who takes the ethically correct position and why is irrelevant to the validity of the position itself. Is some, much, even most of the verve behind Republican efforts to require voter ID’s based in part on the realization that it will inconvenience more Democratic voting groups than likely Republicans? Sure. Are some, much, or even most of those Democrats, including judges, who argue that voter IDs are inherently racist really exploiting the issue for political advantage and to preserve a reliable bloc of illegal Democrat voters? Almost certainly.

None of this changes the inherent and objective reasonableness and self-evident wisdom of having a measure in place that requires voters to be who they say they are, and what they are supposed to be: U.S. citizens. If journalists did their jobs ethically and reported the issue fairly, the various unethical motivations of the two parties wouldn’t matter.

* Including in the 2000 presidential election, and in Florida. How many Hernadezes would it have taken to make Al Gore President? Not many.


Sources: WSJ, NYT, Instapundit

Graphic: NYT



43 thoughts on “Confirmation Bias or Contrived Ignorance: The New York Times and the Inadvertent Voter Fraud of Mario Hernandez

  1. Interesting assertions, but I fail to see how voter ID would have corrected this situation. He presumably, working for the federal government and a veteran, had photo id already. He also probably had a voter registration card to boot. Even if voter ID laws were in place, he still would have been able to vote.

    This would have been a problem that could be fixed at the registration level, not at the time of the voting booth. Probably during the 70s they didn’t have a good way to correlate social security numbers with citizenship claims, and no one wants to take the time and expense to go backwards through voter rolls to weed out the handful of people this might apply to. Not to mention the almost certainty of striking people off the rolls who are indeed citizens. Nowadays, they can cross check beforehand via the computer database, so it really isn’t much of an issue.

    However this is not a case that voter ID would have solved. Once again, voter id seems like a solution desperately in search of a problem.

    • Conceivably true, but that ducks the central issue. You could also argue—I would—that his votes should have been valid, since he should have been a citizen, so in practical terms, the harm of his illegal votes was technical rather than real.

      The point is that a non-citizen cast an illegal vote 10 times, and we just learned about it now. Voter IDs prevent non-citizens from voting, conduct that the Times and others claim never happens, or virtually never. It does happen. This proves it happens. It shouldn’t. Voter ID would make sure it doesn’t in the vast, vast number of cases. The fact that it wouldn’t in the bizarre case where a non-citizen has a valid ID and thinks he’s a citizen doesn’t change the fact the he voted, wasn’t a citizen, and did it 10 times without anyone checking or discovering it.

      • Why not place the same buyrdens on voting that NYC places on handgun ownership.

        In which case, perhaps we ought also to take a look at New York City’s gun-permitting process, which not only requires individuals who wish to buy a firearm to go through the apparently devastating process of obtaining an acceptable ID but also to provide separately a proof of residence, a proof of citizenship or permanent residency, and a Social Security card; to pay $431.50 plus the cost of two color photographs; to wait an average of eight months for the application to be processed, and then attend a lengthy in-person interview; and, if the applicant has not lived in the United States for seven years (and many immigrants can become citizens after just three years, remember), to provide a certificate of good conduct from their foreign government.

          • People kill. Guns, knives, fists, rocks, etc are just the means to an end. Guns are inanimate objects with no cognitive killing skills. I know, I’ve left my gun by the door all day and it hasn’t gone out and killed anyone.

            • It is highly irrational and irrelevant to dismiss the role the of guns in violence. An individual with a knife could be tackled, with perhaps only the tackler needing to make a heroic sacrifice. That same individual with a gun, however, could take down six would-be tacklers before they got within 5 feet of him.

              Yes, it is a violent *person* pulling the trigger, but that trigger amplifies his violence.

              • You are obviously unacquainted with the stats on how many people are killed each year with other inanimate objects (knives, bats,etc) and the potential lethality of other household items that can be turned into mass-destruction weapons (chlorine gas, improvised explosives, automobiles), not to mention the fact that even if the government issued a blanket ban and confiscation program, a massive, lucrative, and extremely violent black market would fill the void with home-made fully-automatic weapons (the easiest to build). Another little-known or ignored fact is that over 90% of firearm homicides are committed by inner-city “youths”. Being that these are the sorts who would be bashing each others’ (and our) skulls in if they didn’t have guns anyway, I say let them; just don’t take away my means of protecting my loved ones when their savagery inevitably spills into civilization. Also, lest we forget, our benevolent benefactors have guns, and as long as this sort of thing is in the realm of possibility , it would probably behoove us to cling to this natural and inalienable right with all tenacity, because once it’s gone, we’ll never get it back.

                • “You are obviously unacquainted with the stats on how many people are killed each year with other inanimate objects (knives, bats,etc)…”
                  — I said nothing that would logically lead to that conclusion.

                  “Just don’t take away my means of protecting my loved ones…”
                  — I very carefully said *nothing* about restricting ownership, I only addressed your irrational belief that guns do not disproportionately magnify violence.

                  “Another little-known or ignored fact is that over 90% of firearm homicides are committed by inner-city “youths”. Being that these are the sorts who would be bashing each others’ (and our) skulls in if they didn’t have guns anyway, I say let them…”
                  — I am not sure why you would share such a grotesque opinion if you expect to be considered credible.

                  • Why gruetesque? I’m not killing them, neither by acts of commission or omission. Nothing I or our elected officials do is going to stop them from slaughtering one another. It seems to be some sort of cultural malaise that no amount of taxpayers dollars can cure. All that more gun laws will succeed in doing is making more criminals out of the otherwise law-abiding. I’d prefer that they murdered no one, but if they’re hell-bent on murdering (which they certainly seem to be), I’d prefer they keep it contained rather than continue to have it spill over onto the innocent.

      • Voter IDs prevent non-citizens from voting, conduct that the Times and others claim never happens, or virtually never.

        How? I see the claim, but I don’t see the mechanism. If a non-citizen gets on the voter rolls, the damage was done at the voter registration level. I personally don’t have a problem with the state cross checking everyone’s social security numbers in a database to see if they are eligible citizens before registering them to vote.

        Scrutinizing someone’s id at the voting booth wouldn’t fix that. The horse has already left the barn at that point.It would presumably show them as being eligible to vote, and so no potential fraud is fixed. The only type of fraud I can see voter photo id fixing would be in-person fraud, where someone is masquerading as someone else, yet has no id to back up their pilfered identity. But realistically speaking, how often does that happen? And does it happen often enough to be worth disenfranchising people who are otherwise eligible to vote?

        • And does it happen often enough to be worth disenfranchising people who are otherwise eligible to vote?

          Does NYC care if its onerous handgun registration process ends up preventing people from keeping and bearing arms if they are otherwise eligible to do so?

          If not, why should we care about collateral damage to voting rights?

          • You can always go elsewhere to get a gun, even legally. You can own guns, and store them elsewhere while waiting for your permits to come through. Also note that non-citizens are allowed to own guns. Deadly weapons should be highly regulated. I daresay the damage from voting getting into the wrong person’s hands is much, much worse than guns getting into the wrong person’s hands. The two situations are obviously different.

            You can’t go anywhere else to vote, legally, that is. You would have to move.

            Your argument essentially boils down into “tit for tat”, but it doesn’t even apply very well here.

            • Having to store guns elsewhere while waiting for those on high to bequeath you (or not) with the right to protect yourself sort of defeats the purpose, no? Also, “Deadly weapons should be highly regulated” is an opinion; one not shared by millions of Americans and thus, still a point of heated contention and not the foregone conclusion that you seem to be painting it as.

            • Fairly simply, actually. At least in Texas, in order to get a state ID or a drivers license, you have to provide a copy of your birth certificate. If you’re not a citizen, you don’t get the ID. Therefore, you can’t vote. QED

    • I think we do need an election-specific picture ID that proves citizenship. Not where you work, not that you live in the right jurisdiction to be voting there, etc.

      My theory is that Democrats don’t want an election-specific ID, masking it in the dreaded national ID card controversy. When I was in college in Chicago, a classmate of mine told me that her mother voted for Richard M. Daly ten times in one election… when she was 12 years old. Any wonder he had a stranglehold on Chicago for so many years? Democrats don’t want to know who’s voting: they only want the numbers.

      • Vaguely reminiscent of the lady who proudly proclaimed that she had voted for Barack 6 times. The same lady who, upon her release from jail for…wait for it… voter fraud was introduced to an NAACP rally and got a rousing round of applause. Jack did a post on it, I think.

  2. My initial thought (apart from noting the anecdotal nature of the case in question) was that, since non-citizens can get driver’s licenses, nothing would have changed had Mr. Hernandez been required to show identification, which is the big push of the voter-ID folks. Do all states have a code or something on driver’s licenses that identifies non-citizens? Do any? (These aren’t rhetorical questions. I don’t know the answer. I know only what the answer should be)

    Moreover, I don’t think I needed a birth certificate to get a driver’s license back in the 1970s. If I’m remembering correctly, then, photo ID doesn’t solve this problem, while creating others. My NH license was the only ID I needed to get a NY license, which was all I need for IA, and so on. And a valid driver’s license is all I’ve ever need to register and vote.

    I’m not convinced, in other words, that the solution isn’t worse than the problem. I don’t see a foolproof means of disenfranchising non-citizens while ensuring the franchise of legitimate voters without completely starting over: a complex, time-consuming, and costly procedure… and one subject to the same degree of bureaucratic incompetence that led to Mr. Hernandez’s case.

    A couple of years ago, I advocated a presumption system: if you’re already registered, someone has to prove you shouldn’t be for you to lose your right to vote. If you’re not yet registered, you need to prove that you deserve that privilege. The more I think about it, the more I think that’s the only way to go.

    • I’d agree with that, presuming you have to prove citizenship to register. Illegals cannot drive in most states.

      Anecdotal isn’t really an accurate description of 10 instances of what opponents to ID claim is a myth—-unless you’re saying that we don’t know that he really voted. If Nessie came on land, ate ten tourists, and that was cited as an indication that the monster was real after all, would you call that “just an anecdote”?

      • I think the claim is that in-person impersonation fraud, the only kind of voter fraud that voter photo id would really guard against, is pretty rare. Which makes sense, because as far as crimes go, it’s dumb. You would have to do it a lot of times to have a hope of effecting the outcome of the typical election, and it’s pretty easy to get caught (like for instance, if the real person actually showed up to vote before the impersonator).

        But any other instance of voter fraud, like your example from this post, would not be stopped by voter id laws, and those types of fraud are more common (but still rare). Voter id stops way more eligible people from voting than it would at preventing in-person impersonation fraud. So unless that is the aim (ahem), it doesn’t seem worth the time and expense of implementation.

  3. I don’t know that anyone is saying that voter fraud never happens–I’m certainly not saying that (and, in the piece I linked, suggested the likelihood that it does happen). What I am suggesting is that I see no evidence that it is endemic. If Nessie ate ten tourists, I’d want to step up security around Loch Ness. I wouldn’t forbid everyone from visiting all lakes everywhere until some government agency declares them monster-free.

  4. Wait a minute. The guy didn’t know where he was born? This is hard to swallow. If he was not born in the USA, he wouldn’t be a citizen unless he became a naturalized citizen. Or possibly he could have gotten a green card which would allow him to work here but not vote in elections. So this guy has probably committed fraud. Of course he will not be prosecuted for it.

    • The guy didn’t know where he was born? This is hard to swallow.

      To be honest, the only reason *I* know where *I* was born is because people have told me. I mean, after all, I was there in person . . . but I was very VERY young at the time.


    • He knows where he was born. He thought his parents took care of the paperwork to have him naturalized; they hadn’t. He served in the armed forces at a time when that alone would have been sufficient for naturalization, but the process wasn’t automatic. There’s plenty of bureaucratic incompetence, but nothing more.

  5. The guy was a Federal employee. That requires multiple forms of ID and sometimes a background check. Even in those states advocating for picture ID, he would have been fine.

    If we want a “special” picture voter ID for everybody, I have no complaint against it as long as: (1) there is NO fee; and (2) the gov’t has to come to you at your work place or home if you cannot for work, child care, health, age, income, etc. reasons get to the DMV to get it done. If people cannot agree with this compromise, then it is really about keeping the poor from voting.

    • And keeping the poor from using hotels, opening bank accounts, driving, cashing checks, renting cars, getting into Federal buildings…its all a big conspiracy. No, wait, voting’s not as important as any of those things, so what the hell, let’s use the honor system. That works so well.

    • I don’t really care if the poor vote as long as they’re born in the USA or naturalized citizens. Your conclusion is bogus.

    • Don’t poor people have to have some form of I.D., and show up somewhere and wait in line, to get things like welfare, food stamps, WIC, Section 8, and HUSKY? Furthermore, do you really think expecting the government to hire and deploy untold platoons of overpaid drones, with the necessary equipment, to service the millions who would claim to meet the very wide criteria you’ve described is a reasonable compromise? Then again, maybe these could be the “shovel-ready” jobs Dear Leader promised us. Somebody stated above that this whole controversy boils down to either preventing voter fraud, making it more difficult for poor people to vote, or perhaps both. I think it’s safe to assume that preventing voter fraud is a good thing for all concerned, as this is something that either party could use to steal elections. Preserving voter fraud seems like it would be an indefensible position, regardless of whether or not it actually exists (it does), or whether or not it’s significant enough to affect outcomes (I think it is), so let’s, for a moment, assume that both sides are above-board on this and the argument is settled. This means that we’ve reached the conclusion that your side is fighting to preserve the poor vote. Now, if I were to ask why that’s so important (and I’m surprised it isn’t more often), you would no doubt claim some noble intention, and I would call bullshit. There is no way in hell that you could convince any astute observer that the left would be fighting this hard if they thought the poor in this country would not vote the Democrat ticket en-masse. Now, we could chalk this up as merely rational self-interest, something that either side could use without necessarily being guilty of something pernicious, but I’m not buying that either. The left has unabashedly displayed their willingness, especially recently, to part ways with every facet of their supposed central ethical dogma when it suits their purpose; the ends always justifying the means, as it turns out, being the prime directive. Specifically, I think that Democrats have finally succeeded in creating the conditions that have swelled their voting ranks beyond critical mass, and they’ll be DAMNED if they’re going to relinquish that advantage. After all, it’s one thing to break ranks in the voting booth because you don’t agree with a candidate on some periphery issue like abortion, gay rights, or whatever, and quite another to bite the hand that literally feeds you and yours, so we can pretty accurately predict which way the poor vote is going to go. Hell, you probably don’t even need the dead-people vote, but why take chances? This may be conjecture, technically-speaking, but I can tell you with complete sincerity that I would stake my life on the veracity of this claim. It adds up in so many ways.

      “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
      ― Alexis de Tocqueville
      “For Obama so loved the poor, that he created millions more of them”

      • I should probably clarify; I don’t really doubt the sincerity and good intentions of the rank-and-file Democrats nearly as much as I do their handlers.

      • If you are a minimum wage worker and have to take off a half day of work to get an ID, many won’t do it. And there are transportation problems — or child care problems. I don’t have a problem with this special photo requirement — I do have a problem with keeping the poor from voting.

        • If you are a minimum wage worker who is LEGALLY employed, you had to fill out an I-9 Employment Verification Form, and present a verifiable form of ID. What say we just do that with voting? They can just use the SAME, verifiable ID, for when they vote!
          Here’s how it works:
          Acceptable I-9 Documents

          Employees are required to present either one of the documents from List A or one of the following documents from List B and one of the documents from List C.

          List A (Documents that establish both identity and employment eligibility)
          •United States Passport
          •Permanent Resident Card or Alien Registration Receipt Card (I-551)
          •Temporary Resident Card (I-688)
          •Employment Authorization Document (I-766, I-688B, or I-688A)
          •Foreign Passport with temporary I-551 stamp
          •For aliens authorized to work only for a specific employer, foreign passport with Form I-94 authorizing employment with this employer

          List B (Documents that establish identity only)
          •Driver’s license issued by a state or outlying possession
          •ID card issued by a state or outlying possession
          •Native American tribal document
          •Canadian driver’s license or ID card with a photograph (for Canadian aliens authorized to work only for a specific employer)
          •School ID card with a photography
          •Voter’s registration card
          •U.S. Military card or draft record
          •Military dependent’s ID Card

          List C (Documents that establish employment eligibility only)
          •Social Security account number card without employment restrictions
          •Original or certified copy of a birth certificate with an official seal issued by a state or local government agency
          •Certification of Birth Abroad
          •US Citizen ID Card
          •Native American tribal document
          •Form I-94 authorizing employment with this employer (for aliens authorized to work only for a specific employer)

          There! All fixed now! Vote away!

            • If you have been employed at any time since 1986, you have had to meet the I-9 requirements. If you have not been employed, then school registration, welfare application, and cashing trust fund checks all require ID: so use that for voting.
              The argument that requiring ID to vote is a burden that will disenfranchise anyone is bullshit; one wonders then, why would someone make it?

              • To characterize them as racists, naturally. (Cue for someone to point to the idiot state legislator who enthused over the ID requirement discouraging black Democrats. That someone sees racial advantage in a reasonable measure does not make it a racist measure.)

                Now the argument has sunk to “if it means someone who is poor, rural, black or elderly needs to take a long bus ride or spend more time getting an ID than someone who isn’t, it’s like a poll tax.” People who are responsible citizens and who care about playing a part in a Democracy will not be dissuaded by a one time inconvenience or the investment of a few hours, and the cynical Democrats crying racism know it. They want the puppet voters who know nothing and will vote a straight ticket if you give them a doughnut and drive them to the polls–hey, maybe two or three times.

                • Exactly correct, of course. I wonder if there is a large group of big hearted, well meaning, liberals who honestly believe that there is some large group of poor, minority voters that an ID requirement would be unfair to? They can’t ALL be in favor of voting fraud. I’m pretty sure that some of them believe that vast swatches of ‘fly-over’ country are permanently 1922 rural Mississippi.

                • I never said anything about racism — I’m talking about poverty and people with significant health issues (like the elderly).

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