Political Animal


December 13, 2011 2:10 PM The ‘evidence’ bolstering voter-fraud allegations

By Steve Benen

To rationalize the “war on voting,” Republican policymakers point to the scourge of voter fraud. The problem, of course, is that the allegations of fraud are largely imaginary, and GOP officials are really just looking for excuses to block traditionally-Democratic constituencies from voting.

But wait, Republicans say, occasionally there really is fraud. In fact, the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) released a report last week to document all the cases of voter fraud that have been prosecuted over the last decade.

And what did the group turn up? A grand total of 311 cases. Given the larger national context — over 131 million Americans voted in 2008, for example — that’s an infinitesimally small number.

But as Julia Krieger explained, that’s really just the start of the problems with the RNLA’s findings.

What’s more, the RNLA is dishonestly representing their data when they describe it as “in the past decade”: A quick gander at the website’s evidence shows citations going as far back as 1997. Although they claim to have evidence of 46 states with voter fraud prosecutions in the last decade, their website only lists 44 states. For two of those 44, there are only examples from the 1990s up to 2000, bringing the state count down to 42. To be clear, that’s eight states where they identified no instances of voter fraud in the last decade.

Further, the RNLA brags: “The RNLA webpage presents evidence that there were at least seventeen cases involving prosecutions for non-citizen voting in 2005 just in one state: Florida.” However, according to the Department of Justice, at least four of the seventeen cases they list were dismissed.

Remember, we’re talking about a Republican group taking its best shot at this. RNLA officials could take their to do as much comprehensive research as they wanted, they could define their terms to their liking; they could massage the results to match their pre-determined conclusion; and they still couldn’t make much of a case.

And if the RNLA thinks these 311 cases from the last decade — some of which weren’t from the last decade, some of which were cases that got thrown out of court, some of which may have very well have been innocent mistakes — justify a national campaign to restrict Americans’ access to their own democracy, they’re wildly misguided.

Republicans support all kinds of new voting restrictions — voter-ID laws, severe limits on voter-registration drives, closing early-voting windows, strict new limits on absentee ballots — because they find it easier to rig voter eligibility than to win elections fair and square. It’s why all of these restrictions affect traditionally Democratic constituencies.

GOP officials can keep defending a foolish pretense about imaginary fraud, but there’s no reason for anyone else to take it seriously.

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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  • square1 on December 13, 2011 2:17 PM:

    And if the RNLA thinks these 311 cases from the last decade ... justify a national campaign to restrict Americans’ access to their own democracy, they’re wildly misguided.

    Yes, they are "misguided". Glad you cleared that up for us.

  • just bill on December 13, 2011 2:24 PM:

    but, but, but......black panthers.....brown people....acorn.......don't tell me there isn't a voter fraud problem. i read it on the internets.

    aha! catcha: disenfran ehallyo. told ya so!

  • leo from Chicago on December 13, 2011 2:28 PM:

    Love the GOPers' use of language: It's 'Voter Integrity' that they're trying to protect!

  • c u n d gulag on December 13, 2011 2:31 PM:

    Jesus Christ in an old-style voting booth - IT'S A VERITABLE EPIDEMIC!!!

    What they've actually proven is the opposite of voter fraud.
    It's proven how well the prior system worked before they started to "monkey" with it.

    There's a better chance of you finding people killed by lightning wearing a grounded rubber suit inside an ice cave at the North Pole than of people who've committed actual voter fraud.

    Now, onto serious problems - like building a wall at the Canadian border to stop illegal elf immigration!

  • Peter Pitchford on December 13, 2011 2:39 PM:

    I wonder what the most fraudulent votes in any 1 election were. Probably 1.

  • Redshift on December 13, 2011 2:39 PM:

    If you are unfortunate enough to have to deal with a crazy Republican uncle on the holidays who brings up "voter fraud," ask him how it is "conservative" to carry out a massive government enforcement effort inconveniencing millions of law-abiding citizens to deal with a "problem" that, even by the most generous interpretation of the "data," has never involved enough voters to change the outcome of any election.

    Then ask him if it would be "conservative" to do the same to gun owners.

  • Stephen Stralka on December 13, 2011 2:40 PM:

    Usually what they do next is trot out a list of pseudo-experts, like those lists of "scientist" who don't believe in evolution or global warming. A list of experts who believe there's an epidemic of voter fraud would be pretty amusing.

  • walldon on December 13, 2011 2:43 PM:

    OMG, literally hundreds and hundreds of cases!!!!!!!!!!

  • Derek on December 13, 2011 2:44 PM:

    There is one reason we ought to take it seriously and that is that it may actually work (and has, in many cases). This is one of many things that we may easily gawk at, when taken at face value, but unfortunately, it can have a negative affect on voter turnout, and we all know what that leads to.

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on December 13, 2011 2:44 PM:

    Really you people.
    As long as the laws don't affect affluent white people , then they're fair.
    Dontcha know.

  • john sherman on December 13, 2011 2:46 PM:

    The massive voter fraud claim is stupid on its face. Could the RNLA provide the criminal equivalent (and voter fraud is a crime with serious consequences) of a business plan which would guarantee (a)that it would succeed in any state wide election and (b)the offenders wouldn't get caught. Can't be done. Incidentally, did the RNLA count the instance of Anne Coulter voting in the wrong precinct as an example of voter fraud?

  • Peter C on December 13, 2011 2:47 PM:

    Here in Texas, we still must vote on paperless DRE machines, too.

    Back in New Jersey, Essex county is still in violation of the state law requiring a voter-verified paper audit trail. Those machines were purchased despite overwhelming citizen opposition.

    Please understand: the software which runs electronic voting systems is proprietary and may not be reviewed or verified by citizens. Anyone who thinks a computer program does only what you see it doing has never seen an 'easter egg'.

  • kevo on December 13, 2011 2:49 PM:

    We are witnessing Rovean politics on steroids when we witness the Republican war on voting!

    Rove's primary strategy is to accuse his adversaries of what he is indeed doing himself, as a cover to his activities and as a way to attack a strength of an adversary, to produce an uncertainty at least and a negative opinion of the issue or candidate at the worst, with satisfaction if the results fall somewhere inbetween!

    Stand firm in the reality that the Republican party and its elected state policy-makers are engaged in a massive scale defrauding of duly eligible American voters, with the intent of keeping duly eligible voters from the polls in 2012!

    Talk about working the refs and having no sincere regard for the rules of the game; the Republicans seem to be second to none! -Kevo

  • Ed Drone on December 13, 2011 2:50 PM:

    One Republican got a black eye fighting for a voter's honor -- she wanted to keep it.

    The jokes just write themselves.


  • Peter C on December 13, 2011 2:54 PM:

    Did one of the 311 cases involve Mitt Romney maintaining that his primary residence was his son's basement in Massachusetts instead the sprawling estate in California where he spent most of his time (when not campaigning)?

  • Col Bat Guano on December 13, 2011 3:12 PM:

    Even a cursory glance at their list of 311 violations sinks their case even further. There are a significant number of voter registration fraud charges which in no way affected any election. Toss in the absentee ballot fraud and vote buying charges, neither of which are addressed by any of their ideas to "protect" voting and I'd bet there are less than 100 total cases in the last 13 years.

  • Peter on December 13, 2011 3:15 PM:

    When you look at the claims on the website, most of them are not amenable to being "solved" by the "solution" of choice -- voter ID. Absentee ballot fraud, vote buying, registration fraud, illegally opening a ballot box. And the claims of voter impersonation in Pennsylvania appear to be outright lies -- it's apparently impersonation at registration and not impersonation at a polling place! The claim of voter impersonation in Oregon doesn't mention that Oregon has no in-person voting. All in all, a remarkably shoddy production.

    But, then, how much of a surprise is that?

  • DAY on December 13, 2011 3:42 PM:

    What about the other voter fraud- Diebold?

  • Daniel Kim on December 13, 2011 3:56 PM:

    Hmmm . . . the announcement has a certain familiar ring to it:

    "...I have here in my hand a list of 205--a list of names that were known to the Secretary of State as being members of the Communist Party, and who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy in the State Department."

  • snoey on December 13, 2011 4:01 PM:

    They list things like the clowns who set up a fake Tea Party in Michigan - electoral fraud, but not voting fraud.

  • PhillyCooke on December 13, 2011 4:11 PM:

    Assume they're correct. That's less than 30 instances per year, or being even more generous and assuming elections every other year, that's 60 per election cycle. For the entire nation, that's slightly more than 1 vote per state per election cycle. Not even Al Franken-Norm Coleman was THAT close.
    So, even at the most implausibly generous interpretation of their results, there's not even voter fraud to have influenced any election--except this one. http://www.ksdk.com/news/article/290368/28/City-council-election-decided-by-coin-toss

  • G.Kerby on December 13, 2011 4:13 PM:

    @Daniel Kim: Raymond Shaw is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life ...

  • schtick on December 13, 2011 5:00 PM:

    And if they researched and posted welfare fraud, medicaid fraud, SSI fraud, and medicare fraud, everyone would see it isn't the people that should be receiving it that perpetuates the fraud, it's the doctors, lawyers and healthcare centers that do.

  • zandru on December 13, 2011 5:13 PM:

    You're Missing the Story

    This comprehensive REPUBLICAN study is of greater value to voting rights supporters than it is to Republican voting rights restricters.

    That means - we can quote their study to show that the "problem" they're so afraid of is basically non-existant.

    Throw in the fact that, of anywhere from 5% to 20% of various groups (young adults, The Greatest Generation®, handicapped ex-servicemen, etc.) don't have the credentials to be permitted to vote under GOP rules, and ... it's an instant winner!

    Republican Lawyers, we owe it all to you.

  • MGLoraine on December 13, 2011 5:45 PM:

    "GOP officials can keep defending a foolish pretense about imaginary fraud, but there’s no reason for anyone else to take it seriously."

    Well, we don't have to believe their lies, but we have to make a serious effort to prevent them from implementing real-world policy based on their lies. There were no WMDs in Iraq, but they used that lie to start an actual war with major consequences. There are no significant instances of voter fraud, but they have already enacted genuine binding legislation based upon that lie, once again with major real-world consequences (i.e., the disenfranchisement of millions of voters).

    So when the Republicans come up with another stupid lie, we have to beat it into the dust, because they always have plans for the next scam up their sleeves.

  • beejeez on December 13, 2011 9:59 PM:

    The only voter fraud is Republican officials convincing voters they give a damn about voting fraud.

  • hemipristis on January 18, 2012 3:44 AM:

    Wow, you use a link to the always reliably-objective, above-the-fray NYT as your evidence that voter fraud is imaginary? Really?