The Fraud of Voter Fraud

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staticmapIf you were to listen to the GOP, there seems to be an epidemic of clear-cut voter fraud happening in every state. This must be true because dozens of states raced to enact draconian Voter ID laws. These states cut laws for early voting right after the Supreme Court struck down the essence of the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). This ruling allows states with a bad racial history to overhaul their voting laws as well as begin redistricting without federal oversight that had been previously required. Hurray for Justice!

The VRA was put in place specifically so these states had to have the approval of federal courts to change any part of their voting laws, such as requiring voters to present ID or re-drawing electoral district boundaries. Apparently the Supreme Court thinks we are in a more enlightened and post-racial era. How sweet. The Court seemed to think that just a few decades removed from Jim Crow, these states are a bright spot and treat everyone exactly the same, black, white or brown.

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Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who wrote for the majority, actually offered this:

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While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.

The current conditions are exactly the same as previous conditions. Now, I don’t know how Roberts can see clearly with those rose-tinted-life-is-beautiful glasses on, but I have to believe he was a bit dumbfounded by how lightning-fast some states moved to enact their voter-disenfranchising laws. These laws were passed in GOP-led state legislatures solely to keep Democratic voters from voting. There is no other reason to change existing laws that had been working perfectly well.

Let’s break down the two most terrible outcomes from the disastrous ruling.

Voter Fraud
The GOP claims voters need to show ID because there is so much fraud going on — so much that these laws are necessary to protect you, the voter. This nonsense about fraud is a red herring, a lie to protect the truth: the GOP does not want black and brown people voting. And now the GOP has the legal vehicle to stop them. That’s right, I said it, and I will stand by these words: the GOP will do anything to keep a reliably Democratic block from exercising its Constitutional right to vote.

Justin Levitt, a professor at the Loyola University Law School and an expert in constitutional law has been tracking voter fraud for years. He makes the point that voter ID laws can only work if the voter shows up at a polling place in person. These unnecessary laws do absolutely nothing to prevent fraudulent absentee voting, buying votes, officials stuffing ballot boxes or myriad other ways to commit voter fraud.

Levitt has been investigating accusations of fraud since 2008. He has followed up not just on those cases that were prosecuted but all fraud allegations. In a report by The Washington Post, he said:

I track any specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix.

So far, I’ve found about 31 different incidents (some of which involve multiple ballots) since 2000, anywhere in the country. If you want to check my work, you can read a comprehensive list of the incidents below.
To put this in perspective, the 31 incidents below come in the context of general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014. In general and primary elections alone, more than 1 billion ballots were cast in that period.

So, there have been 31 actual cases of fraud out of 1,000,000,000 votes over 14 years. Not really an epidemic of voter fraud. Not even a sneeze.

Restricting Voters
Ohio’s Republican-led legislature decided that voters should not be able to register and vote the week before Election Day. For no apparent reason, they happily cut six days from the state’s early voting period and ended the so-called Golden Week, when Ohioans can register and vote on the same day. And they eliminated Sunday voting, which was historically called Souls to the Polls as churches send congregations to vote after services. And most of these churchgoers vote Democratic. Many of them are elderly and Souls to the Polly is sometimes the only way they can get to their polling location — and most are (gasp!) African American. And Ohio went for President Obama twice, and that must be stopped before 2016.

North Carolina Vote Twicealso eliminated same-day voting. It was recently upheld by the Supreme Court, which blocked an appellate court order to stay parts of a sweeping voting law. So while this will affect 2014, the full trial opens next year.

Kansas also has been busy creating real laws for pretend problems. The Secretary of State, Kris Kobach, has led the charge to suppress minority voting. But in a blistering op-ed in the Wichita Eagle, by Michael A. Smith of Emporia State University, states what Kobach aims to do:

I recently completed research with Chapman Rackaway of Fort Hays State University and Kevin Anderson of Eastern Illinois University. Analyzing the change in turnout between 2008 and 2012, and accounting for other factors, we estimate that a county with 30 percent poverty will experience a voter-turnout drop of more than 3 percent because of the proof-of-citizenship laws Kobach favors. Indeed, under such a law, Kansas fell from 28th to 36th among the states for voter turnout between 2008 and 2012 – America’s third-largest drop. Other research finds similar effects for photo-ID laws.

Of course, we cannot forget Texas. Last Saturday, the Supreme Court ruled that Texas’ harsh voter ID law could remain in place for the 2014 midterm elections. It will disenfranchise over 600,000 mostly black and Latino voters. Legal voters. Please explain to me, Texas, how this helps the democratic process?

I’m absolutely convinced this is the GOP’s reaction to having their asses kicked in two consecutive presidential elections. There is no other reason to end previously legal early voting and the ability to register and vote on the same day.

What’s more, these new voter ID laws protect no one and deter imperceptible fraud. These self-proclaimed “patriots” are doing everything in their power to take away the constitutionally guaranteed right to vote from hundreds of thousands of legal voters. They wrap themselves up in the flag and the Constitution and claim to protect the precious electoral process and scream voter fraud yet are themselves a fraud about it. If there was one actual example of real, honest-to-goodness voter fraud out there, the GOP would play it 24 hours a day on every channel and every headline and we would know every detail. The silence is deafening.

To keep up on the various state laws and current court cases, I refer you to the Brennan Center for Justice, The State of Voting in 2014.