One of the most pernicious tactics employed by Republican political operatives is voter suppression masquerading as protection against “voter fraud.” As proponents of Voter ID are well aware, such fraud as exists almost never happens during the in-person vote process that Voter ID laws target.
Virtually all of the “Voter ID” measures being pushed by Republicans are thinly-veiled efforts to intimidate poor and minority voters, who are more likely to vote Democratic. This year, the suspicions fostered by these ungrounded accusations of voter fraud have been further inflamed by Donald Trump’s insistence that, if he doesn’t win, it will be proof that the election is “rigged.”
Here in central Indiana, the media has been reporting on an investigation that newspaper and broadcast outlets have labeled “voter fraud”–but that should be called “registration fraud.”
Interestingly–at least from the somewhat garbled news reports–they are investigating what appears to be an effort to disenfranchise legitimate voters, rather than provide phony credentials to illegitimate ones. Easily detectable inaccurate information is apparently being coupled with the names of actual voters, who may not check to be sure they are properly registered, and won’t realize they aren’t until they appear at their precinct voting place and are rejected.
Until more details are released, it’s hard to tell precisely what scheme is being alleged. Whatever the actual scam turns out to be, the labeling of any dishonesty focused on the franchise as “vote fraud” simply confirms the public’s belief that there’s justification for Voter ID laws–even though people getting hit by lightning occurs more frequently than in-person vote fraud.
Illegal voting behaviors include such things as double voting (ballot stuffing), where one individual casts more than one ballot in the same election; dead voting, where the name of a deceased person remains on a state’s official list of registered voters and a living person casts a ballot using that name; felon voter fraud, where a convicted felon who is for that reason not eligible to vote does so; vote-buying, where someone pays voters to vote a certain way; and fraud by election officials: where dishonest officials toss out ballots or cast ballots using the names of registered voters who didn’t show up at the polls.
As anyone who has worked at the polls can tell you, the best guarantee against these efforts to “rig” the system is competent management of the state’s voter rolls–purging dead and otherwise ineligible voters, ensuring that poll watchers from both major parties are present and similar safeguards. Vote buying is by far the most difficult to detect, and Voter ID would do nothing to prevent it.
The election fraud we see most frequently, ironically, is voter suppression, defined by Ballotpedia as “A variety of tactics aimed at lowering or suppressing the number of voters who might otherwise vote in a particular election.”
During this election cycle, a new concern has arisen: the possibility that an election dependent upon electronic voting machines might be hacked. As the Brennan Center has noted, however,
There are over 10,000 election jurisdictions in the United States. This means in a federal election, there are essentially more than 10,000 separate elections being run, with different voting machines, ballots, rules, and security measures. One clear benefit of this system is that it is not possible to attack the nation’s voting machines in one location, as might be possible with a statewide voter registration database or campaign email server.
Bottom line: no one is going to “steal” or “rig” this election. If the results are–to coin a word–“deplorable,” American voters will have only ourselves to blame.