Political Animal


October 10, 2011 9:30 AM ‘There is almost no voting fraud’

By Steve Benen

When it comes to the “war on voting,” there’s no real debate as to whether the Republican tactics exist. Both parties already agree that GOP officials across the country are placing new restrictions — voter-ID laws, severe limits on voter-registration drives, closing early-voting windows, strict new limits on absentee ballots — all of which affect traditionally Democratic constituencies.

The debate is over the rationale behind the “war.” For Democrats, there’s no great mystery — Republicans are trying to rig an entire election cycle by putting the most severe hurdles between Americans and the voting process since Jim Crow. Feigning offense, Republicans dismiss such talk. “These efforts are about preventing voter fraud,” they say.

It’s worth pausing, from time to time, to acknowledge a simple truth. As the New York Times editorial board explains today, “There is almost no voting fraud in America.”

The most widespread hurdle has been the demand for photo identification at the polls, a departure from the longstanding practice of using voters’ signatures or household identification like a utility bill. Seven states this year have passed laws requiring strict photo ID to vote, and similar measures were introduced in 27 other states. More than 21 million citizens — 11 percent of the population — do not have government ID cards. Many of them are poor, or elderly, or black and Hispanic and could have a hard time navigating the bureaucracy to get a card.

In Kansas, the secretary of state, Kris Kobach (who also wrote Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law), pushed for an ID law on the basis of a list of 221 reported instances of voter fraud in Kansas since 1997. Even if that were true, it would be an infinitesimal percentage of the votes cast during that period, but it is not true.

When The Wichita Eagle looked into the local cases on the list, the newspaper found that almost all were honest mistakes: a parent trying to vote for a student away at college, or signatures on mail-in ballots that didn’t precisely match those on file. In one case of supposed “fraud,” a confused non-citizen was asked at the motor vehicles bureau whether she wanted to fill out a voter registration form, and did so not realizing she was ineligible to vote.

GOP officials are standing in the precinct doors, pointing to a problem that doesn’t exist.

It’s a thin pretense for an undemocratic scheme. The result is a new system that will likely keep 5 million Americans from participating in the next election.

It’s arguably the nation’s most important political scandal — and most of the country has never heard a word about it.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • Todd for VT House on October 10, 2011 9:37 AM:

    There's a 0.00009% rate of fraud. Last election that would mean 1179 votes out of 130M+ cast. Compare to disenfranchising millions. Golly, that's a tough call.

  • Ned on October 10, 2011 9:44 AM:

    Where is the Justice Department? It's not as if this Republican effort is a mystery.

  • martin on October 10, 2011 9:44 AM:

    Well, at least here in Alabama, thanks to our horrendous new immigration law, damn near every gov't transaction requires a photo ID. I now have to mail in a copy of my driver's license when I pay for my business license or pay my property tax. don't know yet if our income taxes will require ID.

    For a party that is supposedly obsessed with keeping gov't out of our lives, they sure love them some gov't id.

  • Grumpy on October 10, 2011 9:49 AM:

    Of course, there are still people who believe the 2008 election was stolen by ACORN because of the volunteers who registered dead people. Not that dead people actually voted, but y'know. Fraud!

  • RepublicanPointOfView on October 10, 2011 9:52 AM:

    It's arguably the nation's most important political scandal - and most of the country has never heard a word about it.

    Nor shall they, as long as our corporately owned media continue to fulfill their assigned roles as echo chambers and message amplifiers for republican messages!

    I continue to ask on what basis do Benen & his readers believe that the 6 corporations who own 94% of the broadcast & print media in the U.S. have any liberal tendencies?

    That most of the rest are not as obvious as Fox News does not make them any less an arm of the wealthy and their desire for republican control of government and power!

  • pol on October 10, 2011 9:53 AM:

    One that I've heard recently is that "those Hispanics have been stealing people's identities, so they can steal elections. Somebody has to stop them!" This from a highly educated woman down South.

  • majun on October 10, 2011 9:55 AM:

    It is time for a national ID card. Most other countries have them, but we've resisted for a very long time. Part of the Social Security Act was to guarantee that SS numbers would never be used for identification, but the "small government" Republicans are insisting on making it mandatory, so be it. From now on when a person turns 18, just like I had to do with my draft board in the 1960s, they will have to go down to a government office, register to vote, and get their ID. And I can name the seven states that will provide the test cases for the first offices in 2012.

  • c u n d gulag on October 10, 2011 9:56 AM:

    This is really quite simple:

    "Voter Fraud" is defined by them as someone voting for a politician who is not a Republican.

    And, since the demographics are going against them, well, they have to limit voting to the demographics that favor them.

  • T2 on October 10, 2011 9:57 AM:

    typical GOP misdirection. They scream Voting Fraud! and enact hastily concocted laws to prevent something that isn't happening.....all the while the real fraud, electronic voting machines, skate by under the radar, where the increasing GOP control of states, and thus the official voting process, can tinker with the results to change a % here and a % there to alter results in their favor.

  • Montana on October 10, 2011 9:59 AM:

    And yet these same Republicans think nothing about sending young Americans to invade and occupy countries around the world to "spread democracy." That is the real fraud.

  • DAY on October 10, 2011 10:05 AM:

    Perhaps this is not the big deal we are making of it.

    GOP voters go to the polls because they are motivated-(often by hatred of The Other)- not because it is "easy".
    But there are more registered Democrats, nation wide, than Republicans. So the job is to motivate them to vote. And if that means taking some effort to get voter ID, then let's do it, and quit whining that Republicans don't play fair. Since when is it news that they don't play fair?

    We let them get away with destroying ACORN, vilifying Van Jones, and setting dogs on negroes in the 60's.
    Last I heard, the negroes are still here. Only now they are African Americans, and they do, indeed, vote. (Oh, and they know all about poll taxes, literacy tests, and will most certainly learn how to get the necessary ID)

  • Jeff In Ohio on October 10, 2011 10:19 AM:

    Almost as annoying as the gOP machinations about fraud are the liberal concern trolls. The day I need a picture Id to pray, speak my mind or enter my own house is the day I need a picture ID to vote. Voting isn't a privilege like driving. You are not entering a private club. There is no right to fly. VOTING IS A GODDAMN RIGHT GRANTED BY THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION.

  • Gretchen on October 10, 2011 10:22 AM:

    My favorite that the Wichita Eagle found was a dead guy Kris Kobach said had voted. The Eagle went over to the "dead" guys house and found him raking leaves. His response? "I don't think this is heaven or I wouldn't be doing yardwork". That was one of the cases Kobach used to illustrate the necessity of the law. I wrote to my state rep at the time to urge her to vote against the law, and she just didn't see the problem with people having to have photo id.

  • withay on October 10, 2011 10:24 AM:

    The October 3 New Yorker profiled an Indian software mogul, Nandan Nilekani. He has launched a project to provide photo IDs to the hundreds of millions without Such. Jane Mayer profiled North Carolina's Art Pope in the October 10 New Yorker. He has essentially funded obtaining control of the redistricting process in NC with Republican control of both branches of the legislature.
    Can we Democrats not get ourselves organized to help our fellow Democrats obtain the simple voter ID they will need to participate in and not be disenfranchised from elections? It won't cost as much as either Nilekani or Pope are spending. And, just like DAY said, there are more of us than there are of them.

  • zandru on October 10, 2011 10:26 AM:

    Some Definition of Terms

    In today's Republican Party© "voting fraud" is when someone votes Democratic.

    "Election fraud" is when a Democrat wins.

  • martin on October 10, 2011 10:27 AM:

    setting dogs on negroes in the 60's.

    That was mostly Democrats.

    ok, now captcha seems stuck. one more try

  • Todd for VT House on October 10, 2011 10:29 AM:


    Actually, that's not technically true. There are only restrictions against the government denying the right to vote based on gender or race, or to 18yos. Nothing in the Constitution explicitly provides for a right to vote, though you can certainly argue it's implied. And really, one could argue based on IX and X that we have as much a right to fly as to bear arms...

  • jjm on October 10, 2011 10:38 AM:

    Well, in Alabama, you can no longer get municipal water service without ID: making it into the "Nazi nation" the tea partiers claim they so fear coming in with Democrats!.

    But at least the NYT editorial page today called this what it is: phony. Voter fraud in a pig's eye.

    The new editor came to the NYT just in time.

  • dj spellchecka on October 10, 2011 11:14 AM:

    interactive map of the 50 states and which ones are working to block the vote


  • Jimmy7 on October 10, 2011 11:44 AM:

    How many rich folks with vacation homes vote absentee in both locations? I'll bet we can find more of them than they can find dead people voting.

  • JEA on October 10, 2011 12:13 PM:


    To: Democrats

    Adapt or die

  • Anonymous on October 10, 2011 12:24 PM:

    Was there ever a conclusion to the story of Ann Coulter voting in the wrong district? (I think it was Coulter.) What about Mitt Romney voting in MA when he didn't live there?

    The Rs need to be careful because some of them in high profile places are committing true voter fraud.

  • Anonymous on October 10, 2011 12:27 PM:

    Whoops: Bad editing...

    ...some of their high profile people are committing...

    captcha: ciizen GABBRO. I first read "citizen" which would have been appropriate, though I have no idea who "Gabbro" is.

  • zandru on October 10, 2011 12:56 PM:

    Jimmy7 asks "How many rich folks with vacation homes vote absentee in both locations?"

    This is an excellent question. Is anyone up to starting an investigation? How about Washington Monthly? TPM? MoJo? The Nation?

  • David Martin on October 10, 2011 1:58 PM:

    There's loads of anecdotes to the effect that the Obama Administration has been shipping hordes of illegal aliens into the US precisely so that they will vote, stuffing the ballot boxes.

    In the face of massive anecdotes, who's going to pay attention to mere statistics?

  • Crissa on October 10, 2011 3:38 PM:

    ...If you have to fax in your DL to do nearly anything in Alabama... Won't that mean identity theft will rise?

    And why doesn't anyone just point out that for the same cost they could put everyone's photo in the polls? There's a book there, with our names and addresses. It could totally have the remainder of our ID, simply and quickly, and nothing could get lost or stolen!

  • howie on October 10, 2011 5:09 PM:

    Since there isn't a damned thing we can do about it, all I can do is hope for zero tight races in these states and that, for the most part, the laws disenfranchise those who are already self-disenfranchised.

    Otherwise, I'd spend all my time way too upset to function over this.

  • Werewolf on October 10, 2011 6:49 PM:

    The Democrats who sicced dogs on Civil Rights protesters in the 60's are now, to a man, Republicans.

  • Becky Miller on October 10, 2011 8:59 PM:

    Let's turn this attack on voting into the biggest voter registration ever.Let's have the DCCC into every state (to prevent voter fraud along with the repubs) and get every voter the correct I D needed and the means to get to the polls on voting day. The repubs would hate it !!

  • martin on October 11, 2011 8:48 AM:

    The Democrats who sicced dogs on Civil Rights protesters in the 60's are now, to a man, Republicans.

    Or dead;>

    Wallace stayed a Democrat his whole life, though his son is now Republican.

    The point was that it is not the party but the philosophy (ie right wing). Being a Democrat does not absolve you from your sins.