Column: Underestimating our voter fraud vulnerability

Voter fraud is so rare that “you’re more likely to get hit by lightning than find a case of prosecutorial voter fraud,” asserts the liberal Advancement Project. An August study by News 21, a group of journalism students, claimed that to find only 10 prosecutions of in-person voter impersonation nationwide since the year 2000.

If state legislators worried about voter fraud are just imagining the problem, then it’s that much easier to block laws requiring voters to use photo ID to prove they are eligible voters. But that’s not quite the whole story. Evidence used to dismiss the problem turns out to be thin.

A large number of the nation’s 3,031 counties never provided data, and the News21 researchers report that they sent out only 2,000 queries. Nor did the study mention the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding voter ID laws, which found an “extreme difficulty of apprehending a voter impersonator” if ID isn’t required. While voter impersonation is hard to detect, it is easy to commit. Earlier this year, James O’Keefe released a video of a 22-year-old undercover reporter who obtained Attorney General Eric Holder’s ballot in Washington, D.C., And could easily have voted if he had chosen to.

Easy to commit fraud.

Chaotic voter registration rolls make it too easy to commit voter fraud. A February study by the non-partisan Pew Center on the States found one in eight voter registrations were inaccurate, out-of-date or duplicates. Nearly 2.8 million people were registered in two or more states, and perhaps 1.8 million registered voters are dead.

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Critics of voter ID laws also fail to note they are designed not just to stop voter impersonation but also multiple voting, non-citizen voting, people voting in the wrong precinct, out-of-state voting and voting in the names of fictitious people.

Examples of fraud are plentiful. Three non-citizens were arrested in Iowa last month for voting illegally in the 2010 general election and 2011 city election. A Democratic nominee for Congress resigned in Maryland last month after allegations that she had voted in two states at the same time. A 2004 New York Daily News study found that 46,000 people were registered to vote in both New York City and Florida, and that 400 to 1,000 had voted in both states in the same election. Florida decided the 2000 presidential election by 537 votes.

African-American support.

Former congressman Artur Davis says he stopped opposing photo ID laws because of too many instances of voter fraud in his Alabama district, some of which have been prosecuted. “The most aggressive voter suppression in the African-American community … Is the wholesale manufacture of ballots,” he says.

A 2012 Rasmussen poll found that 64% of Americans think voter fraud is “very” or “somewhat” serious. Blacks (64%) and those earning under $20,000 a year (71%) agreed.

The Supreme Court has backed that concern. In 2008, it found states have the right to pass photo ID laws; the majority included liberal Justice John Paul Stevens. In a unanimous 2006 decision reinstating Arizona’s voter ID law, the court stated: “Voter fraud drives honest citizens out of the democratic process. … Voters who fear their legitimate votes will be outweighed by fraudulent ones will feel disenfranchised.”.

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We can make it easy to vote and hard to cheat. We should keep trying.

John Fundand Hans von Spakovskyare co-authors of Who’s Counting: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote At Risk.

In addition to its own editorials, USA TODAY publishes diverse opinions from outside writers, including ourBoard of Contributors.

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