Voting Fraud is a Myth Meant to Defend Voter Suppression Laws
[Updated 11/18/20] During his years in office, Donald Trump and members of his administration promoted the myth that there is rampant voter fraud in the United States. In fact, voter fraud is extremely rare, and there is a stack of evidence to prove it. The myth persists in conservative circles, especially talk-radio, because Republicans need a reason to create policies which reduce voting by the poor and minorities.
The research on voter fraud is unambiguous and voluminous, its extremely rare and has no measurable impact on US election outcomes. The Brennan Center did a comprehensive literature review of the studies done on the issue.
The Brennan Center, NYU: "The Brennan Center’s seminal report on this issue, The Truth About Voter Fraud, found that most reported incidents of voter fraud are actually traceable to other sources, such as clerical errors or bad data matching practices. The report reviewed elections that had been meticulously studied for voter fraud, and found incident rates between 0.0003 percent and 0.0025 percent. Given this tiny incident rate for voter impersonation fraud, it is more likely, the report noted, that an American “will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.”
US News and World Report: A 2012 study from Arizona State University exhaustively pulled records from every state for all alleged election fraud and found the overall election fraud rate to be "infinitesimal." A 2012 assessment of Georgia's 2006 election found "no evidence that election fraud was committed under the auspices of deceased registrants." When Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a longtime proponent of voter suppression efforts, reviewed 84 million votes cast in 22 states in a search for double voting, only 14 instances of fraud were referred for prosecution, which amounts to a 0.00000017 percent fraud rate.
Jesse Rhodes of the University of Massachusetts wrote a book recently about voter fraud and discussed his findings in an article for "The Conversation."
The Conversation, Jesse Rhodes, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst: "The claim that American elections are systematically tainted by widespread fraud by impersonation is a myth. Study after study – including a comprehensive 2007 investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice undertaken during the George W. Bush presidency – showed that there is virtually no voter fraud by impersonation anywhere in the United States."
"The most comprehensive investigation of voter fraud charges found 31 credible allegations of fraud out of nearly one billion ballots cast between 2000 and 2014."
"But what about the study, frequently cited by the president [Trump], that claimed to find evidence of noncitizen voting? It was thoroughly debunked by the researchers who organized the survey on which the original study relied."
"And what of Trump’s claim that voter fraud by impersonation was rampant in the 2016 elections? There’s no evidence for it. A team of researchers at Dartmouth College looked into the allegations, and found no evidence. Echoing this conclusion, the National Association of Secretaries of State – which represents most of the states’ top election officials – released a statement concluding “we are not aware of any evidence that supports the voter fraud claims made by President Trump.” Most of these officials are Republican."
The Conversation, Pippa Norris ARC Laureate Fellow, Professor of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney and McGuire Lecturer in Comparative Politics, Harvard University: “Voter fraud is very rare, voter impersonation is nearly non-existent, and much of the problems associated with alleged fraud in elections relates to unintentional mistakes by voters or election administrators.”...
"Scholars who have examined the evidence thoroughly, including Richard Hanson and Lorraine Minnite of Cornell, have come to similar conclusions. Documented incidents of duplicate voting are sporadic, largely arise from human error and are insufficient in number to sway the outcome of any election."
Despite all evidence to the contrary, President Trump and his fellow conservatives railed against voter fraud during the 2016 election, and after he took office Trump established a voter fraud commission led by former Kansas Secretary of State, Kris Kobach. Kobach's commission closed its doors early citing a poor response rate from state election agencies, but, in fact, it shut down because it couldn't find any evidence of voter fraud. It was an embarrassing outcome, but it didn't stop Kobach and conservatives generally from defending the myth.
Republicans need their base to believe that voter fraud is a crisis in order to pass state laws making it more difficult to register and vote. Why would anyone want to make it harder to vote? Republicans realized quickly that state measures enacted in the last few decades to make registering and voting easier such as automatic registration, same-day registrations, early voting, and mail-in voting encouraged minorities and the poor to vote. That was a problem for Republicans so they needed a reason to reverse the tide by enacting voter suppression laws.
Long-time conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly explained it In 2013 after North Carolina lawmakers pushed through a package of voter suppression laws, including restrictions on early voting, something that many African American voters had taken advantage of to support President Obama in 2012.
Schlafly: "The reduction in the number of days allowed for early voting is particularly important because early voting plays a major role in Obama’s ground game. The Democrats carried most states that allow many days of early voting, and Obama’s national field director admitted, shortly before last year’s election, that “early voting is giving us a solid lead in the battleground states that will decide this election.”
Another Republican official in 2012 in Franklin County, Ohio made it even clearer what the GOP intended to accomplish by limiting early voting opportunities, "I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter turnout machine." Yes, he really said "read African American."
And prior to the 2012 presidential election, Pennsylvania Republican House Leader, Mike Turzai said that a new PA voter identification law would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” He was wrong about the outcome, but the intent was clear.
Finally, you can listen to well known conservative activist Paul Weyrich all the way back in 1980 explain why Republicans don't want everyone to vote: Youtube Weyrich
The New York Times summed it up succinctly:
New York Times Editorial Board: "It’s become an accepted truth of modern politics that Republican electoral prospects go up as the number of voters goes down. Conservatives have known this for a long time, which helps explain their intensifying efforts to make it harder to vote, or to eliminate large numbers of people from political representation entirely."
And Republicans have been dogged in their determination to exclude minority voters. Professors Daniel R. Biggers, University of California Riverside, and Michael J. Hanmer of the University of Maryland, College Park, found in a 2017 study that states with Republican Governors and Legislatures and growing Black and Latino populations have the greatest propensity to enact stricter voter ID laws.
Moreover, Republicans have read the research and know that strict voter ID laws work to reduce voting by minority and poor voters. In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Politics, professors Zoltan Hajnal and Nazita Lajevardi of the University of California, San Diego, and Lindsay Nielson of Bucknell University found that strict voter ID laws have a "negative impact on the turnout of racial and ethnic minorities in primaries and general elections."
So, Republicans continue to push for new laws to suppress voting.
New York Daily News: "As President Trump hurls unfounded allegations of colossal fraud in last fall's election, lawmakers in at least 20 mostly Republican-led states are pushing to make it harder to register or to vote."
"Efforts are underway in places such as Arkansas, Iowa, Maine, Nebraska and Indiana to adopt or tighten requirements that voters show photo ID at the polls. There is a move in Iowa and New Hampshire to eliminate Election Day registration."
"New Hampshire may also make it difficult for college students to vote. And Texas could shorten the early voting period by several days."
"Supporters say the measures are necessary to combat voter fraud and increase public confidence in elections. But research has shown that in-person fraud at the polls is extremely rare, and critics of these restrictions warn that they will hurt mostly poor people, minorities and students — all of whom tend to vote Democratic — as well as the elderly."
Such tactics will continue until the voter fraud myth is finally exposed as nothing more than a fig leaf for a coordinated effort to suppress the political voices of minorities and the poor.
Post Script, Update : The scandal in North Carolina's 9th district in 2018 was not voter fraud; it was something quite different, vote tampering on a grand scale by a political contractor hired by Republican Mark Harris’s campaign. It's a serious matter which will likely lead to criminal charges, but there's no evidence that individual voters took part in the scheme.
By: Don Lam & Curated Content