The media have teed up the issue of voter fraud nicely. On the one hand, we’ve been repeatedly told that, try as they might, no journalists can find any evidence of voter fraud. The local Cronkite Center chimed in with a well-publicized report claiming that voter impersonation, and by extension voter fraud, is pretty much nonexistent.
The other point driven home is that efforts to reduce voter fraud, such as a voter ID requirements, are thinly veiled attempts to suppress voter turnout. Democratic National Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz claimed that such measures “would literally drag us all the way to Jim Crow laws”. The Obama administration agrees.
Both claims are utterly baseless. Voter fraud isn’t found — except when it’s looked for and then it turns out to be everywhere. Troy, N.Y., City Councilman Anthony DeFiglio, who forged signatures on applications for absentee ballots, spoke some truth describing it as a “normal political tactic”.
American voters get that. In spite of the “nothing to see here, folks” message they receive regularly, 64 percent believed voting fraud was “serious” according to a Rasmussen poll.
Overwhelming evidence backs them up. In the 2008 Minnesota Senate race, Al Franken won by 312 votes. After a watchdog group identified 1099 votes cast by ineligible voters, prosecutors were forced by Minnesota law to investigate. So far, 177 people have been convicted of voting fraudulently and more are awaiting trial. A close gubernatorial race in Washington state in 2002 spurred investigations that also found thousands of illegal votes cast.
This year, Maryland congressional candidate Wendy Rosen dropped out after she was found to be voting in two states. Albany mayoral candidate Paul Etheridge was indicted last year on three felony counts of fraudulent absentee voting. NAACP official Lessadolla Sowers is in prison for perpetrating a massive vote fraud scheme in Mississippi.
It goes on and on. The undisputed champion of voter fraud is ACORN, supposedly disbanded in 2010, but actually still doing business under multiple names. Their operational model is to hire unqualified workers and incentivize them to “register” as many voters as possible at the last minute, thus overwhelming local election officials. When registrations are challenged, voter suppression is alleged, even though duplicates and obvious errors are common.
It’s more than an anecdote here and there. A study this year by the Pew Trust estimated that 24 million defective voter registrations are currently on file. Nearly two million dead people are still listed as voters, 2.75 million voters are registered in two places, 70,000 in three and 12 million contain incorrect addresses. One of eight registrations authorize voters to vote in elections for which they’re not eligible.
With all this going on, it’s frankly suspicious that the Obama administration still uses all the tools at its disposal to try to prevent states from implementing photo ID laws. Americans understand that, especially in an age of heightened security, a photo ID is a part of everyday life. It’s inherently reasonable to protect voter integrity with the same process needed to board a plane, buy a beer or cash a check.
Several surveys have shown that about 1 percent of eligible voters lack photo ID and the rest can easily obtain one for free. Yet Attorney General Eric Holder likens photo-ID laws to a “poll tax” and congressional Democrats have a bill in play that would void photo-ID laws in the 17 states, including ours, that have them.
Photo ID laws by themselves wouldn’t come close to eliminating voter fraud. If anything, it’s more important to clean up registration files. Unbelievably, the federal Motor Voter Act, for no good reason, actually prohibits doing this.
If we care about ballot integrity, we should also abolish early voting, except in true cases of need, and avoid Internet voting like the plague. It may be convenient to vote at home, but the only way to assure that voters are who they say they are is for them to appear in person. Anything else is just catnip for those hoping to cheat.
Although no fair-minded person supports voter suppression, November’s election could well be decided by illegal votes. Your vote counts only if it isn’t canceled by fraud.
East Valley resident Tom Patterson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a retired physician and former state senator.