Republican legislatures throughout the country have been pushing for Voter ID laws to stop what is, according to them, an epidemic of voter fraud. Studies conducted on the subject of voter fraud reveal that this, however, is not the case. A new study published by News21 found that voter fraud rarely occurs in the US, with only 10 documented cases of in-person fraud recorded in the US since 2000, which, split between the 146 million registered voters, equates to about one case per 15 million people. Voter fraud occurs more commonly with absentee ballots or voter registration, neither of which would at all be impacted by the enacting of Republican sponsored legislation. The reason in-person voter fraud is so rare is because of the large risk and small reward associated with it. For example, the punishment for fraud in Connecticut for those ineligible, or those voting twice, is one to two years in prison, a 300-500 dollar fine, and disenfranchisement.
In the rare cases that voter fraud is committed, it is often times done on accident. There are many ways in which one might accidently commit fraud, such as by voting in the wrong precinct, or by voting while still on parole. In order to convict someone for this crime, it must be proven that the individual knew that his actions were illegal, and proceeded to vote, despite this knowledge. As a result, 46% of the voter fraud cases whose resolution could be confirmed resulted in acquittal or dropped charges.
The Republican officials pushing for Voter ID laws know how rare in-person voter fraud really is, and are pushing their legislation for a completely different reason: voter suppression. According to a study done by the Brennan Center at NYU School of Law, 11% of US citizens don’t have a government issued ID with a photograph. That equates to as many as 21 million people who are eligible to vote, but will be unable to because of voter ID laws.
The proposed legislation, in addition to ineffectively stopping voter fraud, also disproportionately affects certain groups of Americans. The poor, young, elderly, and minority population in the US are least likely to have valid, government issued photo ID, which would render them unable to vote under the proposed legislation. Three of the four groups also tend to vote Democrat, giving Republicans a political incentive to pass these laws. Should an election go down to the wire as it did in 2000, even a few hundred thousand otherwise eligible voters being unable to vote could swing the election outcome.
Republican legislatures throughout the country have started implementing these Voter ID laws, and some of them have even admitted to enacting them as a way to win elections. Pennsylvanian Republican House Majority Leader Mike Turzai recently said that by enacting Voter ID laws, they would win Pennsylvania for Mitt Romney. In response, ACLU has filed suit against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, alleging that the Voter ID laws deprive citizens of their right to vote. Just before the trial proceedings were to begin, the defendants in the case were forced to acknowledge that they had no evidence of in-person voter fraud, nor did they have any evidence that the frequency of such crimes would increase in the absence of Voter ID laws.
Whether or not the Voter ID laws are found to be in violation of citizen’s rights is still to be determined, but what we do know is that Republican officials throughout the country are clearly moving to further their own political goals. This is something that should be taken into consideration when heading to the voting booth in November.