The Voter Fraud FraudsBy
“We think that voting actually is not just a private vote for the person who gets the vote, but a public good, and that the more people who vote, the more legitimate the elected officials are, and that they represent the actual values of the electorate.”
— Colorado Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon (D-Denver)
On the other hand, some people really don’t want you to vote. Every couple of months, their agents (figuratively) fling smoke bombs into newsrooms and yell “voter fraud.” By the time the smoke clears and reporters realize there’s no fire — and no fraud — all viewers remember are hearing the words “voter fraud” over and over again, and the eye-popping crawlers on the news at six about dead people voting. Thus is spread an urban legend.
This urban legend is brought to you by the same people who warned Americans about Iraqi aluminum tubes and yellowcake uranium, about mushroom clouds and mobile bio-weapons labs and stockpiles of WMDs, people who looked America in the eye and said, “We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat.” They were lying then. They are lying now.
Rick Hasen, a professor of law and political science at the University of California, Irvine names names behind the voter fraud lie for Talking Points Memo in The Fake Voter Fraud Epidemic and the 2012 Election. Susie Madrak at C&L presents this handy video on the subject from The Young Turks. One name in particular stands out: Hans von Spakovsky, the Republicans’ point man. Spakovsky is the GOP’s Professor Harold Hill — a traveling Voter ID salesman — and just as good at conning innocent townspeople. He’s successfully duped almost three-quarters of Americans into believing the voter fraud crisis he’s ginned up is a real problem. Like The Music Man, he’s arrived to sell you a solution to your imaginary problem. Never mind that his solution aims at disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of American voters so his party can hold onto power.
Hans von Spakovsky, one of the charter members of the Fraudulent Fraud Squad, claimed that there was such “recent” evidence of a problem with impersonation fraud, and he cited to a grand jury report issued in 1984 by the Brooklyn (N.Y.) district attorney’s office. (Put aside the fact that 1984 is not so recent.)
I asked von Spakovsky for a copy of the report. I heard nothing from him, even though he had contacted me in the past pitching items to include on my Election Law Blog. I wrote to the president of the Heritage Foundation, where von Spakovsky works, asking for the report, and noting that good scholarship requires that scholars make their data available for verification. Silence. TPM ran a story on it. Silence.
A law librarian at UC Irvine finally was able to track down a copy of the report from the district attorney’s office. And guess what? The grand jury found lots of shenanigans by election officials and party officials (including party officials hiding in the ceiling of the men’s room of the Brooklyn Board of Elections to change voter registration after dark). But virtually no cases of voter impersonation fraud and nothing done without the collusion of election officials.
This is consistent with subsequent studies such as the ones Cenk Uygur mentions, including one just out from News21, an investigative reporting project of the Carnegie Corporation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (emphasis mine).
A News21 analysis of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000 shows that while fraud has occurred, the rate is infinitesimal, and in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tough voter ID laws, is virtually non-existent.
In an exhaustive public records search, News21 reporters sent thousands of requests to elections officers in all 50 states, asking for every case of fraudulent activity including registration fraud, absentee ballot fraud, vote buying, false election counts, campaign fraud, casting an ineligible vote, voting twice, voter impersonation fraud and intimidation.
Analysis of the resulting comprehensive News21 election fraud database turned up 10 cases of voter impersonation. With 146 million registered voters in the United States during that time, those 10 cases represent one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.
“Voter fraud at the polls is an insignificant aspect of American elections,” said elections expert David Schultz, professor of public policy at Hamline University School of Business in St. Paul, Minn.
“There is absolutely no evidence that (voter impersonation fraud) has affected the outcome of any election in the United States, at least any recent election in the United States,” Schultz said.
News21 even filled in gaps in its database with citations from a Republican National Lawyers Association report that cites over 300 cases of voting irregularities, with scant evidence of in-person fraud, the only kind Election Day voter ID laws might prevent.
Not that stops voter-fraud activists. You have to give to them — they are relentless. This Spakovsky surrogate stormed out of a Wake County, North Carolina Elections Board hearing yesterday after kicking the doors open and throwing a “temper tantrum”:
Earlier this year, DeLancy brought the Wake Elections Board some 550 challenges to voters he says are not legally entitled to vote in the US – proven, he says, by DMV and jury duty records that say they’re not citizens.
Elections board investigators and voting-rights advocates who looked into the allegations say DeLancy used old DMV records and mismatched names, and failed to understand how the county collects data.
Only 18 challenges rose to the level of further investigation. All 18 were dismissed today.
Like vote Terminators, they’ll be back.