Guest Blogged by Tova Andrea Wang, a Democracy Fellow at The Century Foundation.
ED NOTE: Ms. Wang was chosen by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) to provide research and analysis for a report on "voter fraud." That report --- about which an early "status report" version [PDF] leaked out after the EAC, apparently unhappy with the findings, failed to release it publicly --- showed little or no actual evidence of "voter fraud" in America. The EAC finally released their "final version" of the report [PDF] on December 7th, retitled with a freshly coined phrase: "Election Crimes."
Over the past month, the silence has been deafening.
For the past few years, many on the Right have been vociferously propagating the myth that voter fraud at the polling place is a rampant problem of crisis proportions. But we haven’t heard from them lately. In fact, as far as my research can discover (Nexis and Google news searches of multiple relevant terms), there has not been one confirmed report of any of these types of incidents in the 2006 election. Not one. Even the Republican National Committee’s vote fraud watch operation in their list of complaints from the 2006 election could not come up with one such case.
If you’ve been listening to the likes of John Fund, Thor Hearne, Ken Mehlman, and John Lott, you would think non-citizens are lining up to vote at the polls, mischievous partisans are voting multiple times by impersonating other voters, and dead people are voting in polling places across the country. In order to justify their argument that we need all voters to present government issued photo identification at the polls, they claim that this type of fraud is the biggest problem our electoral system confronts. They have been building and building this argument, hammering and hammering away at it to the point that it has now become the prevailing belief of the American public.
I won’t go into the recitation of all of the previous research that has been done on what a nonexistent problem polling place fraud is and the fraudulent disenfranchisement narrow voter identification requirements cause among perfectly eligible voters—disproportionately minorities, the poor, the elderly, and voters with disabilities (who by the way, according to conventional wisdom, are also all disproportionately Democratic voters). However, confronted with this continuously growing mountain of evidence undermining their case, it has been interesting to observe the evolution of the Right’s spinning of this issue of late.
In recent months, even before this election, slowly recognizing the remarkable weakness of their substantive argument, conservatives’ new tack has been to say that even if its true that there is not much polling place fraud, the simple fact that the American people believe it is occurring is a problem itself in that it is causing them to lose confidence in the election system. Well, no wonder they have the misguided belief that this is a problem—that’s the message the Right has been hammering away at them over the last few years. In any case, the argument goes that we need identification requirements not because they will in actuality do anything to enhance the integrity of the voting process, but because we need to reassure people who have the perception the process is corrupt.
Let me provide just a few examples of this...