The type of in-person voter fraud that voter ID laws are meant to protect against are virtually non-existent, according to a report by the Carnegie-Knight News21 program.
“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. “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.”
The organization sent thousands of requests to officials in all fifty states asking for every case of fraudulent activity since 2000. Of the 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases compiled by News21, only 10 involved in-person voter fraud — the kind of voter fraud that voter ID laws would prevent. In comparison, there were 491 cases of absentee ballot fraud and 400 cases of registration fraud.
“The fraud that matters is the fraud that is organized. That’s why voter impersonation is practically non-existent because it is difficult to do and it is difficult to pull people into conspiracies to do it,” Lorraine Minnite, professor of public policy and administration at Rutgers University, told News21.
The report backs up the findings of another report published in the Election Law Journal in March, which said voter impersonation cases “are notable for their rarity.”
“In the most prominent forum to date for collecting such allegations, proponents of these rules cited nine votes since 2000 that were caused either by fraud that in-person identification rules could possibly stop or by innocent mistake,” law professor Justin Levitt said in his report. “During the same period, 400 million votes were cast in general elections alone. Even assuming that each of the nine votes were fraudulent, that amounts to a relevant fraud rate of 0.000002 percent. Americans are struck and killed by lightning more often.”
Republicans have pushed voter ID laws through state’s legislatures across the country, saying the laws are needed to protect against voter fraud. Supporters of the laws have said the lack of in-person voter fraud cases is the result of the crime being hard to uncover.
But Democrats claim the new laws are merely an attempt to suppress voter turnout. They note that groups more likely to vote for Democrats — including minorities, the poor and elderly — are less likely to have the proper photo-ID now required to vote in many states.
Nine states — South Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Mississippi and Alabama — recently passed strict voter ID laws. But only the Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Kansas measures are likely to be in effect in November. The American Civil Liberties Union has challenged the Pennsylvania law on behalf of a 93-year-old woman who has been unable to obtain the proper photo-ID needed to vote.
[Voter casts a ballot via Shutterstock]