Law Prof Finds a Whopping 31 Cases of Voter Impersonation

Law Prof Finds a Whopping 31 Cases of Voter Impersonation August 8, 2014

Justin Levitt, a Loyala University law professor who specializes in election law, has done a comprehensive review of every single allegation of voter fraud in the country since 2000. He’s found a total of 31 possible cases of voter impersonation in the entire country over 14 years. First, he points out what photo ID laws can do:

Election fraud happens. But ID laws are not aimed at the fraud you’ll actually hear about. Most current ID laws (Wisconsin is a rare exception) aren’t designed to stop fraud with absentee ballots (indeed, laws requiring ID at the polls push more people into the absentee system, where there are plenty of real dangers). Or vote buying. Or coercion. Or fake registration forms. Or voting from the wrong address. Or ballot box stuffing by officials in on the scam. In the 243-page document that Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel filed on Monday with evidence of allegedly illegal votes in the Mississippi Republican primary, there were no allegations of the kind of fraud that ID can stop.

Instead, requirements to show ID at the polls are designed for pretty much one thing: people showing up at the polls pretending to be somebody else in order to each cast one incremental fake ballot. This is a slow, clunky way to steal an election. Which is why it rarely happens.

Right. So here are the results of his investigation of voter impersonation, the only kind of voter fraud that ID laws can potentially combat:

I’ve been tracking allegations of fraud for years now, including the fraud ID laws are designed to stop. In 2008, when the Supreme Court weighed in on voter ID, I looked at every single allegation put before the Court. And since then, I’ve been following reports wherever they crop up.

To be clear, I’m not just talking about prosecutions. I track any specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix.

So far, I’ve found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country. If you want to check my work, you can read a comprehensive list of the incidents below.

To put this in perspective, the 31 incidents below come in the context of general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014. In general and primary elections alone, more than 1 billion ballots were cast in that period.

Some of these 31 incidents have been thoroughly investigated (including some prosecutions). But many have not. Based on how other claims have turned out, I’d bet that some of the 31 will end up debunked: a problem with matching people from one big computer list to another, or a data entry error, or confusion between two different people with the same name, or someone signing in on the wrong line of a pollbook.

Just another piece of evidence that the Republican campaign to make voting more difficult has nothing to do with stopping actual voter fraud, which is exceedingly rare. The goal, rather, is to keep those who are more likely to vote Democratic less likely to be able to cast a ballot. This is also why they continually try to restrict early voting and enact other measures for the same goal.

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  • Yes, but isn’t it true that in most elections, the “winner” wins by only 29-30 votes!!??! We need those laws!!!

  • Chiroptera

    I’m also guessing that of those 31 maybe possibly fraudulent votes, there aren’t much more Democrat voters than Republican.

  • Chiroptera

    theschwa, #1:

    Especially when those votes are spread out over all federal, state, and municipal elections over a 14 year time span!

  • moarscienceplz

    It’s not the size of the fraud, it’s the principle, dammit! The American people have a right to be confident in the legitimacy of the electoral process, and if thousands of legitimate votes (for Democrats) have to be disenfranchised to weed out those 31 frauds, well, that’s just one of the hard prices of democracy that the Republican party is willing to require others to pay. God Bless America.

  • …31 possible cases of voter impersonation in the entire country over 14 years…


  • Well, to be completely accurate, some of those 31 incidents include multiple cases (44 in one; 145 in another). However, it’s unclear how many of those are fraudulent and how many are clerical errors. Also, there’s at least one of the 31 that’s just hearsay. In addition, it seems like many of the actual fraudulent votes are people voting on behalf of otherwise hindered family members. Not condoning it, but proxy voting instead of using a valid absentee ballot is in a different category than maliciously stuffing the ballot box to unduly alter the outcome of an election in your party’s or candidate’s favour.

  • caseloweraz

    The comments on the Washington Post story are highly amusing. The most recent comment sets the tone:

    Dude is an idiot if he can only find 31 instances…

    Not to worry; the appropriate reply was made.

  • stubby

    Typical liberal, atheist, muslim, socialist trying to use facts to prove a point.

  • John Pieret

    Yeah, but if those 31 people voted 161,000,000 times over those 14 years, they could have changed the outcomes of all those elections!

  • pocketnerd

    Thus Spake Zaracaseloweraz, #7:

    The comments on the Washington Post story are highly amusing. The most recent comment sets the tone:

    Dude is an idiot if he can only find 31 instances…

    That’s pretty much the response I get from those rambling about “rampant election fraud” when I point out the vanishingly small number of actual cases ever found. “There must be millions more for each case we actually see! Like with COCKROACHES!”

    I get essentially the same response when pointing out that violent crimes are falling, not rising: “Violent crime must be rising, because I ‘know’ it is, and evidence be damned, so obviously this is only evidence that conviction rates are dropping due to namby-pampy soft-on-crime liberal policies that have crippled the justice system.” If the facts don’t fit the right-wing narrative, they must be explained away or denied.