Weekend Reader Guest Bonus: The Myth of Voter Fraud

A recent post from the lively political blog Maryland Scramble is a good followup to our Sept. 7 account of the struggle gainst voter suppression around the country.

This recent post on “voter fraud” from Jon Shurberg’s lively political blog Maryland Scramble is a timely update on our recent blog post on voter suppression in Maryland and elsewhere.



The Myth Of Voter Fraud

Jonathan Shurberg   September 20, 2016  


As we head down the home stretch of an election that is increasingly worrisome for anyone who believes in a sane and rational world, those of us who deal in election law realize that the GOP success at creating a solution for a non-existent problem may well come into play in key swing states in November. Despite big losses for draconian voter ID laws in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Texas, the fight isn’t over. In some states, local GOP elections officials continue to attempt to apply voter ID restrictions and resist federal court orders.

Texas is violating a court order intended to prevent it from suppressing the vote, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In July, a federal appeals court held that Texas’ voter ID law, a common method of voter suppression, violates the Voting Rights Act. In response, Texas agreed to be bound by a court order during the upcoming election that offers a workaround for voters who “cannot reasonably obtain” ID.

The court order provides that registered voters who “present a valid voter registration certificate, a certified birth certificate, a current utility bill, a bank statement, a government check, a paycheck, or any other government document that displays the voter’s name and address” may cast a regular ballot so long as they “sign a reasonable impediment declaration” — a document stating that the voter was not reasonably able to obtain the forms of ID mandated by the illegal Texas law.

Additionally, the court order provides that the state must “educate voters in subsequent elections concerning . . . the opportunity for voters who do not possess SB 14 ID and cannot reasonably obtain it to cast a regular ballot.”

Yet, according to a Justice Department motion filed on Tuesday, Texas is not complying with this order. Texas’ press releases, voter education materials, and poll worker training manuals claim that the right to vote extends only to voters who comply with the illegal law — those who “have not obtained” and “cannot obtain” ID.

As DOJ notes, this “cannot obtain” standard appears to forbid voters impacted by the voter suppression law from voting unless it is literally impossible for them to obtain an ID. But that’s not what the court order said, and it is a distinction that could potentially disenfranchise many voters.

One way or another, states like Texas are going to disenfranchise as many voters as they can for as long as they can. And as has been established time and again, the proffered basis for these laws – in-person voter fraud – simply doesn’t exist. Period. Loch Ness monster sightings are more frequent than in-person voter fraud. So it’s nice to see the New York Times take a vacation from Clinton Derangement Syndrome and fire off this blistering reminder that Republicans pushing voter ID are quite simply liars and always have been.

How does a lie come to be widely taken as the truth?

The answer is disturbingly simple: Repeat it over and over again. When faced with facts that contradict the lie, repeat it louder.
This, in a nutshell, is the story of claims of voting fraud in America — and particularly of voter impersonation fraud, the only kind that voter ID laws can possibly prevent.
Last week, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found that nearly half of registered American voters believe that voter fraud occurs “somewhat” or “very” often. That astonishing number includes two-thirds of people who say they’re voting for Donald Trump and a little more than one-quarter of Hillary Clinton supporters. Another 26 percent of American voters said that fraud “rarely” occurs, but even that characterization is off the mark. Just 1 percent of respondents gave the answer that comes closest to reflecting reality: “Never.”
As study after study has shown, there is virtually no voter fraud anywhere in the country. The most comprehensive investigation to date found that out of one billion votes cast in all American elections between 2000 and 2014, there were 31 possible cases of impersonation fraud. Other violations — like absentee ballot fraud, multiple voting and registration fraud — are also exceedingly rare. So why do so many people continue to believe this falsehood?
Credit for this mass deception goes to Republican lawmakers, who have for years pushed a fake story about voter fraud, and thus the necessity of voter ID laws, in an effort to reduce voting among specific groups of Democratic-leaning voters. Those groups — mainly minorities, the poor and students — are less likely to have the required forms of identification.

I know we’re not supposed to compare anyone or anything to Nazism anymore, but this quote from Joseph Goebbels does come rather quickly to mind in this context and so many others where Republicans ignore fundamental facts of reality to suit their political whims.

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

More and more, it becomes clear to me that as bad as the Citizens United decision was, the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County decision is the one that is shaping up to be one of the most colossally bad, poorly reasoned and nakedly partisan decisions in the Court’s history. If it comes down to a close election in November and voter ID laws come into play in key states, the Supreme Court may find itself held accountable for an almost unimaginably terrible electoral outcome. I’m still confident that it won’t come down to niceties such as this, but it’s definitely become much more worrisome recently.