Minnesota has a voter ID constitutional amendment on November’s ballot so I took it upon myself to research the subject a bit. After wading through page after page of fear mongering sites telling me that Minnesota is #1 (NUMBER ONE!~!~?) in voter fraud, I decided to dig a little deeper.
That’s when I found an interesting piece by Bill Moyers that shed some light on this volatile issue.
A bit of background and disclaimer: I live in a tiny town. As a tiny town member, I’m occasionally asked to do civic volunteer work because… well… there’s nobody else to do it. One of these tasks was that of election judge.
As an official election judge, I had to attend classes, learn how to spot fraud, and be an unbiased facilitator to every voter. We had multiple checks and balances to keep the election clean and usually had representatives from each party (I say “usually” because while the republicans always maintained a presence during “the count,” the democrats generally were a bit sloppy in this regard) present while we counted votes.
Today, election judges don’t count votes because our city has gone digital. Voters fill in a circle, slip it into a scanner, then poof… vote counted. All the ballots are carried to the court house, along with the scanner, and the job’s done.
Registered voters are required to sign a log next to their typed name (computer print out) and new voters are required to bring the appropriate identifiers and fill in a form before they’re issued a ballot. Not once in the history of this small town has anyone gone to vote and found someone had forged their name and voted in their place. Our poll tends to be a neighborhood event, complete with a network of acquaintances that seem to lower the chance of voter “identity theft.”
Sounds straight forward. But it’s evidently not because we’ve got this big voter ID vote coming up.
Then I read Moyer’s piece where he (along with Mother Jones) shares some interesting stats:
Since 2001, nearly 1,000 bills that would tighten voting laws have been introduced in 46 states.
24 voting restrictions have passed in 17 states since 2011. This fall, new laws could affect more than 5 million voters in states representing 179 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
In the past two years, 5 battleground states (Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin) have tightened their voting laws.
As of April, 74 restrictive voting laws were on the table in 24 states.
He’s got a ton of other interesting stats so I’d suggest you head to his site and check it out. I’d hate to re-post his entire entry here. 🙂
However, I found this particularly interesting:
While defending its precedent-setting photo ID law before the Supreme Court, Indiana was unable to cite a single instance of voter impersonation in its entire history.
In support of a voter ID law, Kansas Secretary of State (and the legal brains behind a slew of anti-immigration laws) Kris Kobach cited 221 incidents of voter fraud in the state between 1997 and 2010. Yet those cases produced just 7 convictions — none related to impersonating other voters.
Last December, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus declared that Wisconsin is “absolutely riddled with voter fraud.” In fact, the state’s voter fraud rate in 2004 was 0.0002 percent — just 7 votes.
- Voting while ineligible: 18
- Voting multiple times: 5
- Registration fraud: 3
Better yet? Moyers concludes with a comparison of voter fraud versus UFO sightings and lightning deaths. Here’s how it plays out:
Between 2000 and 2010, there were:
649 million votes cast in general elections
47,000 UFO sightings
441 Americans killed by lightning
13 credible cases of in-person voter impersonation
I like it. Turns out voter fraud just may not be that big a deal. The classes I took, the ongoing training we had to endure, the election observers, the carefully numbered ballots, the identification already required to register to vote, the checks and balances… this all may be working. Made my day.