Voter Fraud: The GOP Search For A Non-existent Problem
Earlier today I dared the Internet to send me examples of voter fraud — particularly of a scale that would justify erecting barriers against whole groups of voters through photo ID requirements and other such pernicious nonsense.
The Internet obliged, weakly.
A few readers reminded me that the conservative columnist Ann Coulter was accused of voter fraud in 2009, for voting by absentee ballot in Connecticut in 2002 and 2004 despite the fact that she was living in New York. The Connecticut Election Commission investigated, but decided to take no further action since Ms. Coulter was a registered voter in the state and did not vote elsewhere. I never imagined defending Ms. Coulter, but this does not seem like a threat to our democratic way of life.
Lots of people on Twitter directed me to posts on the right wing blog Red State, which put together a handy compilation of examples (apparently just for me). First among them was the case of the 2003 Democratic mayoral primary in East Chicago, Indiana, in which campaign workers for the incumbent paid voters to cast absentee ballots. Red State also mentions the investigation of a Troy, NY, city council race, a series of ballot “manufacturing” cases in Alabama, and an alleged plot by three poll workers to throw a 2005 state senate election in Tennessee to the Democratic candidate, Ophelia Ford.
Suspend the elections! Demand genetic fingerprinting at the polls!
If that’s the worst that’s out there, I’m sorry, but I’m still not afraid of voter fraud. Counting all the Alabama incidents separately and throwing in Ann Coulter, that brings us to a grand total of eight cases. That is most certainly not a national crisis requiring action from the government. (It’s an odd reversal, come to think of it: Liberals insisting the government butt out, conservatives demanding it butt in.)
Besides, from what I can tell every one of the Red State incidents revolved around corrupt poll workers or local officials or some other functionary messing with absentee ballots. That’s an age old problem but one that voter ID laws will not fix.
I’m still not seeing evidence of large numbers of individuals impersonating someone else to cast a ballot or voting despite the fact that they don’t meet eligibility requirements. Surely they must be out there, or the anti-voter-fraud lot would not be so up in arms.
So, just for fun, let’s consider an example that my Twitter followers did not cite. As the Times editorial board noted in October, Kansas’ secretary of state, Kris Kobach, pushed for an ID law on the basis of a list of 221 reported instances of voter fraud in Kansas since 1997. But when The Wichita Eagle looked into the cases, it found that they were almost all honest mistakes: “a parent trying to vote for a student away at college, or signatures on mail-in ballots that didn’t precisely match those on file. In one case of supposed ‘fraud,’ a confused non-citizen was asked at the motor vehicles bureau whether she wanted to fill out a voter registration form, and did so not realizing she was ineligible to vote.”
Maybe I’m still missing something really big (and no, not the 1960 elections or whatever LBJ may or may not have got up to in Texas more than 50 years ago). Or maybe voter ID laws, as the saying goes, are a solution in search of a problem.
By: Andrew Rosenthal, The Loyal Opposition, Published in The New York Times, November 7, 2011
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