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Voter ID Is Not About Fraud; It Is About Voter Suppression

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On January 16, Gene Berardelli wrote an article for IVN titled, “Hard evidence supports the need for Voter ID laws.” While this is a common argument among proponents of voter ID, the existence of hard evidence necessitating the need for voter ID is a questionable proposition at best.

In big letters, Mr. Berardelli’s article screams, “Voter Fraud is Real.” Voter fraud is real –– much like getting struck by lightning is, or winning the Powerball Lottery, or getting killed by a falling icicle, or your kid (god forbid) becoming a congressman. Proponents of voter ID know this and willingly admit it.

The article links to a story reported by North Carolina’s Channel 3 News which says that of the 7 million ballots cast in the 2012 elections in the state, there were only 121 (or 0.00174%) alleged cases of voter fraud that were referred to district attorneys. In 2010, 3.8 million ballots were cast and a barely noticeable 28 cases were turned over to district attorneys. These numbers are replicated in every state. 

Still, the widely reported (and reconfirmed) statistical non-existence of voter fraud cases doesn’t stop voter ID law proponents. Ultimately, they never seriously argue that voter fraud is a common practice that is widespread and a threat to country, flag, and mom’s apple pie. It’s cognitive dissonance dressed up as conspiracy theory. 

Proponents abruptly change their argument and claim that the possibility of widespread voter fraud is real. The publicity-stunt muckraker James O’Keefe, mentioned in Berardelli’s article, became infamous for walking in to a Washington, D.C. polling station and posing as Attorney General Eric Holder. He provided Holder’s name and home address and was subsequently offered a ballot to vote. Of course, he did not actually take the ballot and fill it out because – drum roll – it’s illegal and can lead to severe penalties.

Yes, the possibility of voter fraud is real like just about anything else. It’s possible that I could go to a 7-11, stuff a Snickers into my pocket and try to walk out without paying — except I won’t because (besides being immoral), if I’m caught, the penalty for stealing the candy far outweighs whatever gratification it may offer me.

Actual cases of voter fraud are individual, isolated cases usually involving confused voters and election officials. The vast majority of voter fraud cases are a result of human error: accidentally voting twice, filling out a ballot in the wrong precinct, elections officials accidentally allowing a convict to vote, and — the most common — incorrectly filling out an absentee ballot, which voter ID laws would do nothing to prevent.

When voter ID proponents use the term, they try to bring up images of massive conspiracies by partisan voters (i.e. Democrats) to stuff ballot boxes and steal elections. However, evocations of Boss Tweed and the notorious Tammany Hall political machine are laughably irrelevant. The Tammany Hall era was a dark time in American history, which has long since disappeared and has never re-emerged.

Tweed and other urban political bosses were able to do the things they did because America had not yet adopted the secret ballot, standardized government-issued ballots, and voting booths. Voters were provided already-filled ballots by party henchmen. The ballot box was left out in the open so these henchmen could make sure that voters were voting “the right way.”

Obviously, this kind of thing no longer happens, and, fortunately, it would be impossible for it to happen today. Since 2000, there have only been 10 cases of in-person voter fraud.

In short, allegations of widespread voter fraud belong in the same dustbin as teaching creationism in public schools and denial of global warming. Actually, if proponents of voter ID are so concerned about the integrity of our voting system, they would provide a much better service directing their energies to investigating electronic voting machines, which may have already altered at least one election.

So, what is the real reason voter ID laws are desired? It’s not a coincidence that passing Voter ID laws is a major part of the conservative Republican Party platform. Neither is it a coincidence that the citizens who are most likely to not possess a photo ID or proof of citizenship are poor, black, and female urbanites. A full 25 percent of African-Americans do not possess adequate ID, and, contrary to an all too popular belief, it is not for lack of trying. Acquiring an ID requires time and money, precisely the two things poor urban minorities do not have.

So it is utterly unsurprising when, for example, Wisconsin passes a voter ID law and Republican Governor Scott Walker’s administration promptly closes around ten DMVs located near urban centers with large populations of poor minorities. Or, when South Carolina State Representative Alan Clemmons handed out peanuts with notes attached saying, “Stop Obama’s nutty agenda and support voter ID.” Or in 2012, when Pennsylvania’s House Majority Leader said that the state’s passage of its voter ID law will “allow Governor Romney to win the state: done.”

Many proponents of voter ID are not bigots. They honestly believes voter fraud is a serious problem (or that it can be a serious problem). Unfortunately, it seems this belief stems from flimsy talking points which act as propaganda for a much less honorable pursuit.

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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513 comments
Kurt
Kurt

You Lie.

Thomas James
Thomas James

It is not just about ID, it is about closing polling stations, closing days to vote, and aiming these actions at a certain demographic. If a person takes a bus to get their ID, it should be reimbursed, like it or not some people are strapped for every penny of their budget. I would favor it being a misdemeanor if you did not vote. But that is not feasible. It is one of the most sacred rights we have, to restrict it for political gain is close to a sin.

Thomas James
Thomas James

Expand voting opportunity for everyone, many thousands have died, been injured, or experienced horrible things fighting for the right to vote. There are no two ways about it, trying to restrict voting is a slap in all of these people's face, and an insult to their bravery.

Rationalize it anyway you want it, you dishonor the people that have defended this country when you deliberately try to restrict voting so you can achieve some political power.

SherryJones
SherryJones

@Thomas James - I don't disagree with you, but at the same time we as citizens should be equally concerned about making sure that ONLY citizens are voting, and that those who do exercise their right to vote are only exercising it once. Voting for citizens should be encouraged and made easier as much as possible. But, whether you choose to believe it or not, the Voter ID laws are primarily about making sure that only U.S. citizens are casting votes in U.S. elections. The only people we're interested in "suppressing" at the polls are non-citizens.

Paul S
Paul S

@SherryJones @Thomas James  

Dear Sherry.    I don't know anyone who knowingly would allow a non-citizen to vote.   Of course I don't know everybody and don't claim to.   I do know people that feel very differently about how we treat those who are in the country without authorization by the government.   

The problem in voting fraud is a seperate issue. one I happen to believe I can prove to be fairly insignificant in comparison to the question of citizenship.  I think you make a mistake making those the same issue.  

It there reason to believe those who lets say are 'pro-immigrant' want American citizens who believe the same thing to vote, yes.   Is there reason to believe that those who are anti-immigrant want American citizens who are believe the same thing, not to vote. yes.

So you certainly have the right to make your won decision, but the question should be, IMO, it is fair to create a barrier to any American Citizens to vote, because you don't like want to like their judgement?

I suppose it depend on if you believe a democracy will make a wise decision or not.   There is certainly reason to think that the popular decision is not always the wise decision.   But is the solution to restrict the vote or to educate the citizen?   

I am committed to the second approach. One significant barrier to education is that many people find their identity in their political party iand and can not emotionally release from the identity enough to consider rational conversation.   Emotion and partisan bias often wins.    Paul

SherryJones
SherryJones

@Paul S @SherryJones@Thomas James 

Paul, the main reason the issue of voter ID began and gained traction was that there were numerous cases of people who were not in the country legally filling out voter registration cards and going to vote. The main stream media may have paid very little attention to it, but that's what was happening and that's what sparked the push for voter ID laws. I do recognize that there are segments of our society who may find it more difficult, for various reasons, to obtain an ID if by some chance they don't already have one. However, I find it hard to believe that there really is a large segment of any given demographic who doesn't already have an ID. You need ID to cash a check, or withdraw money from the bank, or make certain purchases. Given the number of things you already need ID to do, I find it hard to believe that a large number of a given demographic does not already have ID.


But let's say they don't. Ok, I do agree that since it can be very difficult for some people, some mechanism should be put in place to ease that burden. The cost of such a mechanism should be relatively low, because, again, there are probably far fewer people without ID than the anti-voter ID group would lead us to believe. Because you are right, and it isn't fair to create a barrier to any American citizen who wants to vote, but requiring ID is a paper "barrier" that is actually fairly easy to overcome. As strongly as I support voter ID, I have done my part by providing "taxi" service to a member of my community who didn't have transportation to the polling place, and any citizen who really is that concerned about a specific demographic being denied can do their part just as well.


Going back to the very first statement you made, have you ever worked at a polling location during an election? I have, many years ago, and being "hired" to do so was an incredibly simple process. There were no real qualifications needed. Considering the current political climate, and the strong feelings about the whole issue of non-citizen's right now, yes. I can easily imagine someone being hired to work at a polling place who would allow non-citizens to vote, especially if there's an incumbent on the ballot who is strongly pro-amnesty.


I also agree with you about educating the voters. And absolutely, the emotional aspect of identifying too strongly with one party or the other is certainly a barrier to education.  As is propaganda, and the increasingly vicious mud-slinging and attacks which are politics today. I've seen time and time again on threads relating to political articles how impossible it is to have a rational conversation, and it's tragic, actually. Because if people would step away from partisan ship, do a little research, and vote based on track record and actions rather that whether a name has an (R) or a (D) beside it, this country most probably wouldn't be in the mess it's in right now.    Sherry

DougGoodman
DougGoodman

Joshua,

Your link "poor, black, and female urbanites" links to a 2008 report that studied 3 states. Hardly what I would call a substantive report. That said, I do not think the issue is fraud. When I cast my first  vote in 1970, the  voting age was 21 and everyone had to show an ID to vote. The argument has been made that an ID is required for so many things, returning voting to that list should not be difficult. I believe people have to show ID or proof of residency when applying for public assistance. The key to resolving this issue is making obtaining an ID convenient and free. One idea that was proposed by the Nevada Secretary of State last year but not passed by the legislature was to has the DMV photo files downloaded to the voter files. If a voter did not have a photo on file, a poll worker could take a picture of the person at the polls that would be uploaded to the system. Another option would be to put kiosks in grocery stores. Everyone has to buy food. A person would have to show the same proof they showed when registering to vote, proof of residency, or sign the same affidavit that appears on the voter registration form to get the ID free of charge. This is not about voter oppression. It is about emotion standing in the way of reason, preventing a solution being implemented.

Paul S
Paul S

@DougGoodman  http://www.fairvote.org/reforms/fair-voting-proportional-representation/


Doug, didn't know how else to contact you.  We talked about proportional elections awhile back in reference to supporting third parties.   I just happened to run into this link.    I you want to contact my by facebook, you can just search for Paul Scott in Eugene, Oregon.   I don't know how else to be semi-private and still make a contact.


Paul

DougGoodman
DougGoodman

@Paul S @DougGoodman  Paul,
I don't use FaceBook except for family. I will email Shawn and have him give you my email address so we can communicate offline.

truth2b
truth2b

@wisaflcio perpetrated by the cowardly RWs. can never be part of an honest race.

PeterGelezius
PeterGelezius

Downplaying the incidence of fraud only favors those who encourage it. When some of these folks stay in office for generations ,call me overly suspicious,that can't be on the up and up

PeterGelezius
PeterGelezius

Just the fact that some folks get constantly get reelected no matter what their conduct should give us a hint of the prevalence of fraud. The Daleys in Chicago for example. Or you have to come to the conclusion that the electorate is extremely stupid

Paul S
Paul S

@PeterGelezius  

So which conclusion did you come to?   

Fraud (noun)1.Crime of cheating somebody

                     2. somebody who decieves

                     3. something intended to decieve

At the very best, anybody reading this probably accepts that#2, #3 are foundational principles of modern politics.   Crime is a little harder to find, but we certainly know it happens in both private and political life ( it usually involves money.)

I think many people have begun to recognize the fraud of this type.   We wouldn't have the growth of independents nationwide if they hadn't become dissatisfied with the two major political parties.   Independents as some level have stopped believing the salesmen of politics - they are not to be trusted to tell you the truth.   

So yea Pete, I agree there is plenty for fraud in elections.  There have been millions of people looking for fraud, thousands/millions of cases of fraud exposed at all levels of political life.  *To be fair, this is true of our non-political life as well, we are always under attack from advertising as a consumer of goods.   

I am not concerned with polling place fraud, not worth my time and certainly not worth adding even more cost to elections than we already have.   I've never participated in an election that was I thought was determined by polling place fraud and I've voted for 40+ years.  It is not a significant problem.

Elections are 'rigged' long before the voter ever gets to the poll Peter. We shouldn't be distracted by a smoke bomb while you're getting hit with mortors.   

PeterGelezius
PeterGelezius

I certainly don't have the solution to eliminate all fraud, but I do think that voter ID is a step in the right direction and don't buy this whine about the difficulty of obtaining ID. If people are not interested in getting documentation chances are they are also not interested in the issues that should bring them to the polls

Delma Dickerman
Delma Dickerman

news flash! it's the same thing. Suppression is voter Fraud.

Travis Williams
Travis Williams

It's one of the easiest things in the world to do. If someone doesn't vote for lack of an ID, they don't really want to vote

Will Wright
Will Wright

The law requires citizenship and a heartbeat to vote. Asking someone to verify that they are indeed a citizen by crosschecking a state issued ID could be as quick as swiping your drivers licence through a credit card type reader.

Kent Price
Kent Price

Is the requirement to have a driver's license driver suppression or the requirement to have a passport, travel suppression?

Kathy Dixon
Kathy Dixon

I don't know what the big deal is. If you don't have anything to hide, show your ID. If you don't want to show your ID...DON"T VOTE!!

Bill Morrow
Bill Morrow

voter suppression takes many forms, voter id is not one of them..

Johnnie Simpson
Johnnie Simpson

He knows what it's about.democrats know that voter fraud will end or become much harder with voter ID required.In the last election Obama didn't win a single state that required voter ID.What more proof do you need that he stole his re-election?What more proof do you need that requiring voter ID stops most voter fraud?

Paul S
Paul S

Any state conservative enough to focus on voter I'd is likely republican state. You could just as easily claim that voter suppression worked as republicans wanted, it changed the demographics as they wanted. I actually don't think your claim is correct but I'd accept it if you give a source Johnnie

PeterGelezius
PeterGelezius

If y'all feel that it is not important that a vote is genuine,why vote? Would it be possible to have an honest discussion without this right wing left wing BS ? Casting an improper vote should get mote attention than buying an illegal beer

Shawn Dougherty
Shawn Dougherty

It's one giant joke! Everybody's so worried about Pablo voting and nobody is concerned what real problem is. Citizens United case!

Patrick N. Smith
Patrick N. Smith

Actually it's not really about either. It does not suppress any votes and it does not prevent fraud. It is extremely low cost 'feel good' legislation. Pass it and move on.

Annmarie McDaniel
Annmarie McDaniel

How do you "accidently" vote twice in the same election? Whether voters show ID or not, corrupt politicians will still be elected into office. We have to refocus on the real problem(s).

Tim Brennan
Tim Brennan

Joseph Marquardt May I just say that finding my reference is not hard if you really want the truth, it was a North Carolina official who has henceforth been asked to resign. There is a difference between documented cases and statistics. If the problem is as large as to disenfranchise voters, and there is no doubt that some eligible voters will be denied their right, there should be proof of a crime, not just unfounded accusations.

Paul S
Paul S

In the face of all evidence, we still have people worried about an incredibly small problem in voter fraud.   I believe these people are sincere in their concern, even if they may be working with very little evidence.

I believe it vitually unanimous that you must be a citizen to vote.   

The unsaid part is that many voters simply don't think the poor are qualified to vote.  Low education, low esteem, bad judgement, lack of social responsibility, etc... are alll heaped on the stereotype of the poor acting irresponsibly.  I can't tell you the number of times I've heard people say, "If they can't get a photo ID then they don't deserve to vote".   It's that conversation that should be talked about, not fraud.  

So try that on writers:  "Do the poor have the qualitifications to make a good choice for representation?"   Or "Do the poor have the right to vote in ways that show their own self interest?"

The sad part is that both Republicans and Democrats seem to assume that the poor will always vote for Democrats.  That says something very bad about the objectives of both Parties, and reeks of the partisan stereotyping that readers on this site should be fighting against.




PeterGelezius
PeterGelezius

To get back on subject,since the basis of this government is the vote,is it reasonable to require a voter to prove his identity?

JenniferCCall
JenniferCCall

@Paul S  Hispanics, the majority of illegals in my state, overwhelmingly vote Democrat, after all they here for the freebies, that's why they came. They get caught voting here,  every election. My state does not even require proof of citizenship to register.

It's ridiculous, all other countries require that you prove who you are.

Scott Worley
Scott Worley

If you go to vote most states issue a voter registration card. In most states that require ID to vote they provide free ID's to folks who can't afford them. The liberals are afraid that their illegals and dead folks won't be able to vote for them.

Karen Taylor
Karen Taylor

Don' t believe everything you read on the internet. Showing IDs to vote catches some of those mistakes along with the deliberate fraud.

Karen Taylor
Karen Taylor

I have worked the polls for years, and people do try to cheat the system. We need ID and poll book checks... To try to keep an honest vote. However, there must be some other major flaw in the system. I can't imagine that many people who just don't "get it". However, I wonder how the people who can't find the right polling place can be informed enough to vote responsibly. Also, I don't understand what is do difficult or objectionable about showing your ID. A lot of those people did it to get alcohol, without objection. Some people don't vote so they don't have to serve on jury duty. Having to serve jury duty is not a nice reward for voting. It would be nice if that was changed.

John Keene
John Keene

Against voter ID = For voter fraud.

Steve Cox
Steve Cox

^ Funny how there's so much partisan bickering on what's supposedly a non-partisan page...

Gary Anders
Gary Anders

Real voter suppression is using the IRS to target and harass and bully opposition political groups...

Kalar Walters
Kalar Walters

Frankly, I'm more concerned with 'automated' voting. Technology is a two-edged sword.

Jimmy Passione
Jimmy Passione

Melouise Richardson.....One roach in the light means 10,000 more you don't see. Wake up sheeple....Voter ID is a good thing and needs passed without further delay .

Larry Shafer
Larry Shafer

When actually investigated (not just alleged) almost ALL cases of alleged fraud have been found to be simple errors. (Example 1,600 alleged fraud examples with only 3 possible instances after investigation). I think the real question is what is the INTENT of these laws?

Elaine Ralph
Elaine Ralph

Read the many studies that examined this. There is no widespread problem like is being screeched by Fox. This is about keeping people from voting because their vote may not support your candidate. Suppression and gerrymandering hurt the democratic process.

Roger Barr
Roger Barr

And all those people from the cemetery just went to the wrong polling station???? Guess Joshua Alvarez is from Colorado or Washington. Because he has got to be smoking da weed!!@

Eric Cousins
Eric Cousins

Doesn't everyone have to "register" to vote? Don't you have a registration card? How do you obtain one without an ID? I really don't see how this is suppression or oppression. Get a grip people.