Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Voter Fraud Myth

Republicans beating the drum on the concept of voter fraud isn't really new. It's no secret that candidates that benefit the most from low voter turnout are Republicans, so the practice of finding ways to impede those voters who are of lower income, are minorities, or who work during voting hours is a hallmark of Republican policy.

John Engler twice vetoed motor-voter laws during the 1990s in Michigan, in no small part because automatic voter registration would have reduced the impediment of voters to turning out to vote. (As it turns out, he overestimated the Michigan Democratic Party in the 1990s, but I digress).

Moving on, once the 24th Amendment was passed, Republicans had to come up with new and interesting ways to keep people from voting them out of office. So whether it's closing DMV offices in Democratic areas, unconstitutional voter ID requirements or voter purges that are of dubious legality or are flat out illegal, they most certainly have managed to do so.

But any good disenfranchisement campaign needs some solid rhetoric to back it up, and that leads us to voter fraud. And, like any good rhetorical campaign, it's important to muddle the issue as much as possible.

To help make sense of the issue, it is necessary to differentiate between voter registration fraud, and actual voter fraud.

Voter registration fraud is at the heart of the ACORN issue. Voter registration fraud is legitimate, problematic and ultimately undid ACORN. Voter registration occurs when people either willfully submit purposely misleading registration information to a county or state board of election, or when, in certain states, people are financially incentivized to do so. By law, in most states, county or state boards of election are required to accept voter registration forms, and to weed through tens of thousands of fraudulent ones is impractical.

However, you might register Mickey Mouse at your address, as if he were a resident. That topic is altogether different than actual, honest to goodness voter fraud. Actual voter fraud occurs either when someone both submits fraudulent registration information and then actually campaigns for office on it and/or actually votes based on it, or when one willingly sells their votes to others.

Once you set aside the old white conservatives screaming about ACORN and get to the heart of the voter fraud issue, the actual voter fraud problem is so small it's silly.

This is a list of every conviction of voter fraud since the year 2000. I'm a bit lazy this morning, but if you sat down and added up, I'd bet you'd come up with around 310 in 46 states. (For comedic purposes, the source of that information is the Republican National Lawyers Association).

What I'm not too lazy to add up is the total number of ballots cast over the same period. Fortunately, the United States Elections Project at George Mason University helps with that.

The total number of ballots cast in elections over the same time period where there were 310 convictions for voter fraud?


So if you're scoring at home, or on the road, 310 of 506,832,881 ballots were proven to be fraudulent over the previous decade. That's 1 in every 1,634,945 ballots, or a whopping 6.1*10^-9% of all ballots cast.

That should more or less shut down the voter fraud debate in it's tracks. Or at least, serve as an effective counter to those who would seek to cloud an issue while they continue to disenfranchise the voting rights of others.

So just what's wrong with requiring a state issued ID when you vote, anyway? Well, for starters, those who are poor, rural, or unable to travel can't acquire them. But let's assume for a moment that you don't actually care about the poor, rural, or those who are unable to travel (which makes you more or less every Republican politician) and look at this from a legal perspective.

First, acquisition of a state issued ID, be it either a drivers license or a state issued identification card, costs money. If you are under the age of 65 in Michigan, this ID is $10 to acquire, and $10 to renew.

Second, because you have to pay money to acquire an ID card (or a drivers license), you are paying money to the state. Because this ID is required to vote, you are paying a poll tax to participate in an election, in violation of the 14th and 24th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

Now, could a case be made for requiring IDs to vote if both Drivers Licenses and state issued IDs were free? Sure. But ID laws as they stand currently are illegal. But the 24th Amendment doesn't really exist in their version of the Constitution anyway since it doesn't benefit their constituents.


  1. Good point Mr. Cromartie... voter ID laws are indeed a poll tax and this should make them illegal!

  2. And this furthers the argument that Barack Obama needs to be re-elected in 2012. For if this issue goes to the supreme court, we need judges that see the issue clearly...