Exhaustive analysis finds fraud that might be deterred by polling place photo ID restrictions "virtually non-existent."
A new nationwide 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, reporters from the investigative reporting project "News21" 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.
10 cases. 10 cases of in-person voter impersonation that might have been deterred by polling place Photo ID restrictions --- restrictions which, according to study after study, could keep as many as 22 million perfectly legal eligible voters from being able to cast their legal vote.
But, again, the Republicans who have been enacting these laws are doing it for exactly that reason: to keep those who are most likely to lack the type of state-issued Photo ID required to vote under these new restrictions --- the elderly, minorities, the poor and students (read: Democratic-leaning voters) --- from being able to cast their legal vote.
For those in the corporate mainstream media still unaware of what this is called (this includes you, NPR), it's called Voter Suppression.
And this exhaustive new study, once again, makes that case crystal clear...
The 'voter fraud' fraud
There is much to take from the new analysis, including a searchable database of all known election fraud cases in the country since 2000, detailing the type of fraud involved.
Here are a few highlights from the study by News21, a program of the Carnegie Corporation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, headquartered at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.
In-person impersonation fraud --- the only type of voter fraud that can even possibly be deterred by polling place Photo ID restrictions --- is incredibly rare, and the least likely way to commit voter fraud.
According to the study, of the few cases of voter fraud across the nation since 2000, "fewer than five tenths of one percent of the total cases in the News21 analysis are voter impersonation."
The News21 database shows one of the rare instances of voter-impersonation fraud occurred in Londonderry, N. H., in 2004 when 17-year-old Mark Lacasse used his father’s name to vote for George W. Bush in the Republican presidential primary. The case was dismissed after Lacasse performed community service.
The database shows the nine other voter impersonation cases were in Alabama, California, Colorado, Kansas and Texas. All were isolated and showed no coordinated efforts to change election results.
Absentee ballot voter fraud
Where voter fraud is a problem, it's almost always done by Absentee Voting. "This is one of the most frequent instances of fraud," the News21 analysis finds [emphasis ours]:
There is more fraud in absentee ballots and voter registration than any other categories. The analysis shows 491 cases of absentee ballot fraud and 400 cases of registration fraud. A required photo ID at the polls would not have prevented these cases. “The one issue I think is potentially important, though more or less ignored, is the overuse of absentee balloting, which provides far more opportunity for fraud and intimidation than on-site voter fraud,” said Daniel Lowenstein, a UCLA School of Law professor.
Felons or noncitizens sometimes register to vote or cast votes because they are confused about their eligibility. The database shows 74 cases of felons voting and 56 cases of noncitizens voting.
We have long argued against the push for absentee voting and/or Vote-by-Mail that both of the major political parties continue to advocate for, since it allows them to micromanage their own voters to increase turnout, etc. Unfortunately, it makes it makes it much harder for the citizenry to oversee the accurate tabulation of those votes, and also creates striking additional security concerns. Such as it is, however, this report underscores again that where actual voter fraud is a concern in this country, it is by and large via absentee voting that it is accomplished. Republican polling place Photo ID restrictions, however --- passed under the guise of deterring "voter fraud" --- do absolutely nothing about adding security for absentee votes.
Moreover, voting by felons and noncitizens, which is rare, but frequently done accidentally when it occurs --- since the laws for felon voting are different in each state, and noncitizens are occasionally handed voter registration forms when obtaining driver's licenses --- is also not curbed by polling place Photo ID restrictions, since both former felons and non-citizens are usually allowed to obtain state-issued driver's licenses that can then be used for voting purposes.
As we have also asserted for many years, where election fraud occurs, it is usually not regular old voters who do it --- since the risks of huge fines and long prison sentences make the risk of casting one illegal vote incredibly stupid and virtually worthless. Rather, it is election insiders and campaign officials who are most likely to carry out coordinated schemes to defraud elections. The analysis by News21 "shows 185 election fraud cases linked to campaign officials or politicians involving absentee or mail-in ballots."
Furthermore, the ability to commit fraud via absentee ballot is also much greater than the very risky notion of in-person impersonation, since, as John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center notes in the News21 study, "the person casting the ballot can be pressured or coerced."
Again, the GOP polling place Photo ID restrictions being enacted around the country --- even if we were to pretend they have anything to do with deterring voter fraud (and they do not) --- do absolutely nothing to actual deter fraud and vote buying and selling via absentee ballot. That is no accident. These laws have nothing to do with deterring fraud and everything to do with enhancing the suppression of legal voters.
Republican National Lawyers Association fraud
One last point. We first began covering the voter suppression beat, in earnest, shortly after the 2004 election when we were the first to identify a high-level Republican astroturf group calling themselves the "non-partisan" American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR), as operatives of the Bush White House and the RNC. Specifically, the ACVR was headed up by a man named Thor Hearne who had served as the General Counsel for Bush/Cheney '04, Inc., and as a star of the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA), before pretending to become a "long time voting rights advocate."
The job of the ACVR was to create blatant propaganda to help make the case for the polling place Photo ID restriction we are now seeing in many states. After the ACVR was outed as a GOP voter suppression scam organization, and forced to disband, the RNLA took up much of the slack in creating false "voter fraud" propaganda for incurious wingnuts and Fox "News" fans to eat up.
Often, when Rightwingers are forced to offer evidence for their unsubstantiated claims of "massive Democratic voter fraud", they'll point to the page set up by the RNLA to detail such allegations, even though, if one bothers to read it, it does not contain what it pretends to contain.
That page, you'll be shocked to learn, was also found to be a fraud by the News21 analysis:
Voter-impersonation fraud has attracted intense attention in recent years as conservatives and Republicans argue that strict voter ID laws are needed to prevent widespread fraud.
The case has been made repeatedly by the Republican National Lawyers Association, one of whose missions is to advance “open, fair and honest elections.” It has compiled a list of 375 election fraud cases, based mostly on news reports of alleged fraud.
News21 examined the RNLA cases in the database and found only 77 were alleged fraud by voters. Of those, News21 could verify convictions or guilty pleas in only 33 cases. The database shows no RNLA cases of voter-impersonation fraud.
So, in short, the page created by the RNLA to help push for polling place Photo ID restrictions, offers absolutely no evidence of the type of fraud that might be deterred by polling place Photo ID restrictions.
Who coulda guessed it? Oh, yeah. Us. For years.
So we have yet another study, officially finding what we have known, and argued here for years. But it's good to have still more independent corroboration, and the wide breadth of this study, and its very helpful searchable database, are certainly most welcome.