Democrats are calling attempts, usually led by Republicans, to try to prevent voter fraud as racist attempts to suppress the vote. Democrats complain that voter ID laws and similar proposals are tackling a non-existent problem. But John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky say that the issue is more complicated than that:
Voter fraud is so rare that “you’re more likely to get hit by lightning than find a case of prosecutorial voter fraud,” asserts the liberal Advancement Project. An August study by News 21, a group of journalism students, claimed that to find only 10 prosecutions of in-person voter impersonation nationwide since the year 2000.
If state legislators worried about voter fraud are just imagining the problem, then it’s that much easier to block laws requiring voters to use photo ID to prove they are eligible voters. But that’s not quite the whole story. Evidence used to dismiss the problem turns out to be thin.
A large number of the nation’s 3,031 counties never provided data, and the News21 researchers report that they sent out only 2,000 queries. Nor did the study mention the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding voter ID laws, which found an “extreme difficulty of apprehending a voter impersonator” if ID isn’t required. While voter impersonation is hard to detect, it is easy to commit. Earlier this year, James O’Keefe released a video of a 22-year-old undercover reporter who obtained Attorney General Eric Holder’s ballot in Washington, D.C., and could easily have voted if he had chosen to.
Chaotic voter registration rolls make it too easy to commit voter fraud. A February study by the non-partisan Pew Center on the States found one in eight voter registrations were inaccurate, out-of-date or duplicates. Nearly 2.8 million people were registered in two or more states, and perhaps 1.8 million registered voters are dead.
Critics of voter ID laws also fail to note they are designed not just to stop voter impersonation but also multiple voting, non-citizen voting, people voting in the wrong precinct, out-of-state voting and voting in the names of fictitious people.
Examples of fraud are plentiful. Three non-citizens were arrested in Iowa last month for voting illegally in the 2010 general election and 2011 city election. A Democratic nominee for Congress resigned in Maryland last month after allegations that she had voted in two states at the same time. A 2004 New York Daily News study found that 46,000 people were registered to vote in both New York City and Florida, and that 400 to 1,000 had voted in both states in the same election. Florida decided the 2000 presidential election by 537 votes.
What I want to know is, simply, this: If there is no voter ID law, what is to prevent me from showing up at the polling place, telling the poll worker that I’m you, and taking your vote? (When you show up, the poll workers will think you’ve already voted, and you might get charged with fraud!) Policies need to prevent abuses, not just punish them after the abuse takes place.