Voter fraud is a fraud

The New Yorker's "Voter-Fraud Myth" by Jane Mayer is a good, fair, investigative piece tracking the rise of the Republican orthodoxy that says that voter fraud is rampant, and that it favors Democrats. Mayer makes a reasoned, factual case to show that there is no substantial voter fraud problem (much-vaunted incidents like the scores of dead voters in Georgia were later revealed to not have a single verifiable instance of a dead person voting). Mayer also shows how anti-fraud measures disproportionately target young people, poor people, and visible minorities. This is a great piece to refer to when discussing the subject with friends who've been convinced that voter ID laws amount to anything other than partisan voter suppression.

Von Spakovsky offered me the names of two experts who, he said, would confirm that voter-impersonation fraud posed a significant peril: Robert Pastor, the director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management, at American University, and Larry Sabato, a political-science professor at the University of Virginia. Pastor, von Spakovsky noted, had spoken to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about being a victim of election fraud: voting in Georgia, he discovered that someone else had already voted under his name.

When I reached Pastor, he clarified what had happened to him. “I think they just mistakenly checked my name when my son voted—it was just a mistake.” He added, “I don’t think that voter-impersonation fraud is a serious problem.” Pastor believes that, compared with other democracies, America is “somewhere near the bottom in election administration,” and thinks that voter I.D.s make sense—but only if they are free and easily available to all, which, he points out, is not what Republican legislatures have proposed. Sabato, who supports the use of voter I.D.s under the same basic conditions, says of the voter-impersonation question, “One fraudulent vote is one too many, but my sense is that it’s relatively rare today.”

Hasen says that, while researching “The Voting Wars,” he “tried to find a single case” since 1980 when “an election outcome could plausibly have turned on voter-impersonation fraud.” He couldn’t find one. News21, an investigative-journalism group, has reported that voter impersonation at the polls is a “virtually non-existent” problem. After conducting an exhaustive analysis of election-crime prosecutions since 2000, it identified only seven convictions for impersonation fraud. None of those cases involved conspiracy.

The Voter-Fraud Myth


  1. Of course Republicans think voter fraud is rampant. Their egos just can’t accept that there are that many people out there who can resist their refined method of hoodwinking. 

    1. Refined?

      No, not refined I say.  Romney is going to reduce vote fraud and increase voter turn out. He’s going to reduce taxes and pay off the national deficit. He’s going to make more money for poor people and he’s going to make more money for rich people. He’s going to pave streets in gold AND rubies, while paying with it without subsidies  He’s going to promote green industry and cut green subsidy. He’s going to cut PBS funding and watch big bird.

      Seriously, the guy sits there making opposite contradictory statements. I don’t understand how anybody believes he’s got a well reasoned plan that does what he says it does. 

      1. America has no shortage of people ATTRACTED to cognitive dissonance.

        A bunch of bullied plebes desperate to be told what to do by yet another perfect bully.

    2. Well, they are conservatives and the time-tested manner of rigging an election is owning the voting machines.

      1. As in, Romney’s family just bought the voting machines used in five states.

        In any sort of just system, this should mean Romney is disqualified. Of course, it’s hard to imagine a just system that would permit private ownership of voting machines, anyway. I strongly doubt that the Democrats will utter a word of official protest, however; they would rather lose the election than rock the boat, or worse, win by too large a margin and actually have to deal with questions about why they never enact progressive policies.

  2. Photo IDs aren’t free for those who don’t have them.  Voter ID laws are another poll tax, part of the legacy of Jim Crow we should all be ashamed to see making a comeback.

    1. Since 1999 the conservative ground game has been to shamelessly attack every single progressive gain (everything that costs the owners their money) since the time of Jefferson, attack them simultaneously, and whether the players believe in the mission or not. They tried to legalize DDT for chrissakes. I think it’s to take up our time so we can’t fight for more progress. But you know what? We can!

      1. If you don’t have a Photo ID then you don’t have a car.  Potentially having to take time off to get an ID, getting to a place that issues the IDs, and so on can still cost even if the ID is granted without a fee (which is uncommon).  Forcing the elderly, poor, and students to go through that process to be able to vote is putting up an unnecessary hurdle to make it harder for targeted segments of the population to vote, as with other Jim Crow laws.

  3. It’s amazing that we’re still having to fight these racial scare and intimidation tactics in 2012, and a very real shame of our democracy that one of our major political parties openly supports this sort of fear-mongering fraud in order to limit the exercise of people’s rights.  It all reminds me more than a little of Birth of A Nation.

  4. I think the Republican argument is compelling, but only because of the suspicious increase in demand for fake moustaches around voting time.

    1. Amateurs. The experienced democrats know, if you want to commit voter fraud you gotta change your gender. I have a sun dress I get out of storage every 4 years, and I make sure to buy a couple of grapefruit to put under there on voting day.

      Ladies just have to put on a suit and make their voices deeper.

  5. I absolutely hate how arguments are framed by how this is an excuse because IDs are so easy to get.

    That’s straight up privilege and a lack of grasp on things used to be, especially for the very poor. First of all, it wasn’t common to register births as soon as babies were born like parents do today, cue the mismatched birthdays on different documents that always cause suspicion and problems. We’ve celebrated around four different birthdays for my parents. But how can that be? How can they not know their own birthdays?

    Because that shit just wasn’t done in the past and months would go by before children were registered. So when I hear about how easy it is to get an ID I call bullshit. It is not easy to corroborate birthdays from birth certificates or old baptism certificates or old, yellowed marriage licenses or old, rotting deeds. It takes time. It takes lawyers and legal fees. Quite frankly, it’s fucking obnoxious, and not always even possible for those in very poor districts that didn’t keep or maintain old records.

  6. When votes are stored electronically and tallied by unknown persons outside the country with no paper trail at all, nobody has any way to know if there has been a fraud or not. Which pretty much guarantees that there will be.

    1.  There are millions out there who can’t drag themselves away from Judge Judy, Honey Boo Boo and American Idol long enough to get registered and vote.

      If those people continue not voting, frankly I think the country is the better for it.

        1.  Then we need even more enticing reality shows, broadcast 24-7 from the start of early voting till the hour the polls close.

  7. ‘Pastor believes that, compared with other democracies, America is “somewhere near the bottom in election administration,”‘Says it all really. Come on, America. Get your sh*t together.

  8. Voter fraud is real enough, remember when Diebold elected GWB? Remember when Jeb Bush promised GW would get Florida and the hanging of the chads? Now there’s this

    1.  That’s not “Voter Fraud”. That’s “Election Fraud”. Those are two entirely different things, and if you continue confusing the issue for the Republicans like that, then you are fighting for them.

      Voter Fraud is walking up to the poll box repeatedly and marking down a vote with your own hand repeatedly – one man, many votes, via the rather quaintly old-fashioned process of doing it by hand. You can see why this just isn’t a big problem these days: labour intensive, slow, inefficient, difficult to outsource ;)

      You’re talking about Election Fraud, which is a broader topic and covers things like ballet-box stuffing (done in the back room by election staff), rigging of voting machines (by the manufacturer, by election staff, by crackers, whatever), or out-and-out bald-faced lying about what the results were from your station (harder to do these days than it used to be).

      1. In countries with even worse electoral systems than the US, you can also add theft and destruction of ballot boxes from districts likely to vote against your candidate, by armed hijackers if necessary, along with armed thugs posted outside polling stations. The US seems to have still managed to keep its head above that level, but as an outside observer, that’s still a terribly low standard.

      2. walking up to the poll box repeatedly and marking down a vote

        Agreed, but that’s increasingly a back-in-the-day scenario.

        The more absentee ballots, the more e-voting, the more everything other than going to the polls on election day, the more conceivable both kinds of fraud become.

        Me for the old fashioned voting machine, as big as a walk in freezer, and voting from 7 AM – 7 PM on one day only, in person.

  9. …and visible minorities.

    Oh shit, there are invisible minorities still able to commit voter fraud?  Quick!  Somebody call James O’Keefe!

  10. Simple economics suggests that voter fraud by way of individual voter impersonation would be vanishingly rare. The cost of recruiting someone to go to the trouble would be far greater than the cost of get-out-the-vote efforts needed to bring one more marginal voter to the polls. I would expect any actual cases of such fraud to be either the result of confusion or else just someone’s personal desire to do mischief. Any actual attempts to manipulate election outcomes would surely use more efficient means, whether legitimate (ads, GOTV) or not (voter suppression, machine count rigging etc.).

  11. Like much of the legislation spewed forth by ALEC, voter ID is a solution in search of a problem. 

    1. Nope.  It’s a solution to a very real problem, just not the one the people who enact the legislation tell you it’s solving.

      To be clearer, it’s solving the problem that demographics are shifting away from the Republicans, and it would help the cause if less of the people who traditionally voted Democrat were eligible to vote in the first place. It’s very effective in that respect.

  12. Why is nobody talking about the real voter fraud problem… people being bribed to vote a certain way… by FOREIGN INTERESTS, possibly even FOREIGN TERRORISTS!  That’s right, every year, up to millions of votes are possibly corrupted in this way!   They receive huge payments from these foreign interests in the days leading up to the election.  They’re probably cleverly filtered through subsidiary companies so as to not arise suspicion

    That’s why I promote the new “voter bribery prevention act.”

    Anybody who makes more than $10,000 in the month leading up to an election is not allowed to vote.  We must be sure this foreign money isn’t some filthy rich terrorist buying their vote.

    1. Don’t you see? You have it backwards. People who already have a lot of money aren’t as susceptible to bribery because they don’t need the money. It’s poor people that really need the extra cash who are most likely to be bribed. I say anybody with a net worth of less than, say, $1,000,000 is not allowed to vote. We must be sure that rich foreigners aren’t buying poor people’s votes.

  13. You’re looking in the wrong place.  It’s not someone voting in another person’s name.  It’s about people being registered to vote are not allowed to, like convicted felons or migrant workers.

  14. The problem with this particular idea of voter fraud (the concept that people are going to show up at the voting booth and vote under multiple aliases) is that it’s not efficient, in fact it is completely asinine if you want to sway an election.  Think of the number of people you would need to mobilize, have them stand in lines all day at different voting locations (you couldn’t really expect to vote over and over at the same place and not be recognized) to get enough votes to change the course of an election.  Unsurprisingly, the GOP does not show interest in voter fraud caused by hacking voting machines, or by partisan election officials destroying ballots, both tactics that are far more efficient and documented. 

    Now, if the argument is that migrant workers or felons are voting, I wonder how many of them would chance voting if it meant getting in legal trouble– it’s hard enough to get out the vote already, with only about a 3rd of the US population bothering to show up on election day– why would I expect a huge number of felons or migrants to put in a stronger effort?

  15. Amazing timing of this post. Last night I was doing a toastmasters speech about how political consultants effectively control enough votes to deprive us of democracy.  In one sense, I think campaign consultants really are the biggest voter fraud we face. Technically not fraud as expressed in this article but fraud in its effect. If anyone wants to click through my slides I have them posted. Still have a couple of layout errors to fix and I intend to add more references. Need to make a few extra clicks for the transitions that didn’t make it tho HTML.  I think I read the original NewYorker article that inspired this from a link on Boing Boing. Thanks and keep up the good work!

  16. Thanks for linking to this article proving that voter fraud is rampant. The fact that the authors find absolutely no evidence of voter fraud is easily the best proof that the conspiracy to commit voter fraud is working perfectly.

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