Voter Fraud Does Not Exist

Or at least to the extent that it does (which is statistically insignificant) it’s a Republican problem. What the Republicans would have you believe is that every single dead person not expunged from the voting rolls, every single person who neglects to unregister before registering in a new location, and every single non-citizen who registers illegally, get out there each November and vote Democratic (it is of course a great scandal to vote Democratic at all).

Unfortunately for them anecdotally (and that’s all they are, individual stories, documented votes disappear in the rounds) the offenders are overwhelmingly Republican. Take for example Rosa Maria Ortega of Texas, permanent resident of the United States but not a citizen, who voted illegally in 2012 and 2014.

Don’t be deceived by the Hispanic name. How did she vote? Republican (perhaps her 6th grade education explains that).

Or Steve Bannon, formerly of Breitbart now White House chief strategist, registered in both Florida and New York.

Now I happen to think this zeal on the part of Republicans to ‘purify the vote’ is flat out racist while the more charitible will say it’s not Brown People they hate, it’s Democrats. Either way it’s a Jim Crow fabrication of a non-problem.

Why Republicans Can’t Find the Big Voter Fraud Conspiracy
By Lisa Rab, Politico
April 02, 2017

Many Republicans believed the popular vote had been stolen (in 200o) and voter fraud was to blame. They talked of fraudulent absentee ballots and ex-felons voting illegally in Florida. Scott Jennings, who worked with Karl Rove as the White House associate director of political affairs, told investigators from the Office of the Inspector General that “many Republicans believed that fraudulent registration by Democratic Party voters in New Mexico was a widespread problem and that it had cost President Bush the state in the 2000 presidential election.” (Gore won New Mexico by 366 votes.) Later, when Bush ran for reelection in 2004, Rove himself went on Fox News and told Sean Hannity he was concerned about voter fraud in Ohio and other battleground states. “There are multiple registrations on the rolls,” Rove said. “There are felons who are ineligible to vote who are registered on the rolls.”

Democrats, for their part, complained that voter fraud wasn’t the crime that needed investigating. It was voter suppression, like the purge of voter rolls in Florida, that they said had disproportionately targeted African-American voters. But Democrats weren’t in power, so they didn’t get to decide what the Justice Department would spend its time on.

Ashcroft commissioned the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys to make voting fraud a priority of their offices. Over the next four years, those prosecutors launched more than 300 investigations. But in the end, the government had little to show for it. On July 26, 2006, the day before Bush signed a renewal of the Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department released a fact sheet summarizing the Voting Integrity Initiative’s accomplishments. Federal prosecutors had charged 119 people with election crimes and convicted just 86. The worst examples were vote-buying schemes in eastern Kentucky and West Virginia that helped keep local politicians in power. Cases that had fixated GOP officials—like the “major criminal enterprise” in St. Louis—were not substantiated. Instead, most of the cases involved individuals who had cast a single ballot that they shouldn’t have, or hadn’t even voted at all but simply had registered improperly. Some of them went to prison. At least one person was deported. The targets that ended up getting the most attention weren’t the alleged fraudsters but the handful of U.S. attorneys who didn’t push hard enough for prosecutions and were forced to resign.

“It’s remarkable that all of the U.S. attorneys had a mandate and were given adequate resources to raise this to the top of the pile,” says David Becker, who was a trial attorney in the voting section of the Justice Department until 2005 and is now executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research. “They all agree we found a handful of cases … and that was it.”

In late November, Donald Trump tweeted: “I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” In January, he told congressional leaders that 3 million to 5 million people voted illegally and cost him the popular vote. He didn’t stop there. Trump promised to form a commission, headed by Vice President Mike Pence, to investigate. In a March 22 interview with Time magazine, Trump said, “I think I will be proved right” about the 3 million illegal votes. He elaborated: “When I say that, I mean mostly they register wrong, in other words, for the votes, they register incorrectly, and/or illegally. And they then vote. You have tremendous numbers of people. In fact I’m forming a committee on it.”

Pence has yet to launch his version of what Ashcroft attempted in 2002, and the very fact that the inquiry is not being run out of the Justice Department indicates that it might proceed very differently. But it wouldn’t be a waste of time for the former Indiana governor (who himself was accused of voter suppression in October) to spend some time studying what happened the last time a Republican administration went looking for a national web of illegal activity at the ballot box. If anything, the results of Pence’s commission might be even less spectacular than before. Elections experts say that’s because voter rolls are cleaner now than they were then, voting systems have been updated in many jurisdictions and stricter voter ID laws are in force. Yet, despite skepticism from high-ranking Republicans in Congress, some conservatives who were involved in the original investigation and who are pushing hardest for the new inquiry insist that the failure to prove widespread fraud is not evidence it doesn’t exist, only that the pursuit wasn’t aggressive enough. It’s a fixation that makes voting experts shake their heads.

On Pearl Harbor Day 2006, David Iglesias received a text as he was headed home to Albuquerque from the airport in Baltimore. The message said to call the main Justice Department. “We’ve decided to go another way,” Mike Battle, director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, told him when he called. “We would like your resignation.”

Iglesias was stunned. “What’s going on, Mike?” he asked, in the first of many attempts to find out why he was losing his job. “I don’t know,” Battle responded, according to Iglesias’ book. “All I can tell you, David, is that this came from on high.”

That day in Seattle, McKay got a similarly cryptic call from Battle. Iglesias says they never found out why they were fired. It could’ve been their refusal to prosecute weak voter-fraud cases. Iglesias had also been pressured to speed up a corruption case against a local Democratic politician. Both situations angered New Mexico Republicans, who added it to the list of complaints they sent to Washington about him.

“I believe to this day that the governor’s race was the reason I was fired,” McKay said in In Justice. “It was seen as a stolen election by Republican groups in the state and eventually throughout the nation.”

Five other U.S. attorneys received Pearl Harbor Day phone calls. A congressional inquiry and Inspector General report revealed the White House had approved the firings. New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici called Attorney General Alberto Gonzales three times between September 2005 and April 2006 to complain about Iglesias’ handling of voter fraud and public corruption cases. Weh, the GOP chairman from New Mexico, told reporters that he confronted Rove about Iglesias at a White House holiday party in 2006. “Is anything ever going to happen to that guy?” Weh asked.

“He’s gone,” Rove responded.

Over the next year, the unfolding scandal led to the resignation of Gonzales and Rove. A subsequent Inspector General investigation determined the attorney general firings were “fundamentally flawed” and arbitrary. Despite that embarrassing outcome, the drumbeat of Republican calls to combat voter fraud continued in many states.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach made voter fraud a central issue in his 2011 campaign. “Organizations that promote voter fraud have burrowed into every corner of our country,” his website said. “In Kansas, the illegal registration of alien voters has become pervasive.” Once in office, Kobach successfully pushed for a state law that requires voters to show proof of citizenship when they register.

Just four states required voters to show some form of identification at the polls in 2008. After Republicans took control of many state legislatures in 2010, that number more than doubled. Last fall, nine states required ID to vote. “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done,” Mike Turzai, the leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, said before the 2012 election. Romney lost Pennsylvania by more than 309,000 votes.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker defended his state’s voter ID law in a 2014 debate, arguing it would prevent fraudulent votes. “It doesn’t matter if there’s one, 100 or 1,000,” he said. “Amongst us, who would be that one person who would like to have our vote canceled out by a vote that was cast illegally?”

The Republican narrative of massive voter fraud persists despite evidence from the party’s own crackdown—what election law expert Rick Hasen, a University of California-Irvine professor, calls “a whole lot of nothing.” For many conservatives, fears about voting by felons, who they say lean Democratic, and ACORN registration drives have simply been replaced with concerns about undocumented immigrants. (ACORN shut down in 2010 after conservative activist James O’Keefe posed as a pimp and filmed a misleading video of ACORN employees supposedly advising him and a prostitute on how to get a mortgage. O’Keefe later paid a $100,000 settlement to one employee whose name he had smeared.)

Hans von Spakovsky, now head of the Election Law Reform initiative at the Heritage Foundation, is still a cheerleader for more restrictive voting laws. In February, he published a piece titled “Why Trump’s Probe of Voter Fraud is Long Overdue.” Asked whether he would be involved in the new administration, he said, “I have no idea. Nobody’s called me about it.”

But he has plenty of ideas to offer. “Voter fraud, to be able to detect it, you have to work at it,” he says. He thinks prosecutors should contact the chief voting registrar in their districts and ask for lists of people who are not citizens, or are registered in more than one state. And since voter registration lists are used to create jury pools, they should investigate everyone called for federal jury duty who is excused for being a noncitizen. “That’s just a very basic, easy step,” he says.

Becker disagrees. He points out that people could be lying about their citizenship to get out of jury duty, rather than risking deportation to register and vote. He also questions the reliance on registration lists as evidence of people casting ballots. In 2012, Republican Governor Rick Scott of Florida tried to purge undocumented immigrants from the voter rolls. He started with 180,000 names, but when county election supervisors cross-checked the information, they found the list to be filled with errors. Only 85 people were ultimately removed from the rolls.

“Just because someone can fill out a registration form doesn’t meant they get on a [voter] list, doesn’t mean they cast a ballot, doesn’t meant the ballot is counted,” Becker says. “There’s a variety of checks in place … that would easily prevent widespread fraud.”

Studies conducted by academics and secretaries of state have found noncitizen voting to be extremely rare. There are small-scale examples, such as the Texas city councilwoman who was sentenced to five years in prison for registering noncitizens to vote during a 2006 primary. But Lorraine Minnite, a public policy professor at Rutgers, studied the Justice Department’s voter fraud crackdown during the Bush years and found that only 14 noncitizens were convicted of voting between 2002 and 2005.

That hasn’t stopped Trump from making claims to the contrary. He seems to be relying on suspect sources. Five days after the November election, Gregg Phillips, a former Republican fundraiser from Alabama, made his first appearance in the debate. He tweeted: “We have verified more than three million votes cast by non-citizens.”

Phillips sits on the board of True the Vote and had created an app called VoteStand, which allows users to report suspected fraud. He later said his numbers were based on 189 million voting records. But he and his researchers refuse to release their report until they finish checking the data, which he admits may contain errors.

Trump didn’t wait to see the numbers. He tweeted on November 27 about the “millions of people who voted illegally” and reinforced that message when he spoke to congressional leaders two months later.

The lack of data supporting his claims troubles some conservatives, including one who used to decry illegal voting of a different sort. “There is no evidence whatsoever that 3 million to 5 million illegals voted in this election,” Rove said on Fox News in late January.

Yet Trump continues to stand by such claims. In late January, he tweeted that he was eagerly awaiting the results of Phillips’ analysis. “Look forward to seeing final results of VoteStand.” Trump tweeted. “Gregg Phillips and crew say at least 3,000,000 votes were illegal. We must do better!”

In early February, Trump fanned the flames, telling a group of senators he would’ve won in New Hampshire if “thousands” of voters had not been bused in from Massachusetts. New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu asked the White House to provide evidence to back up this allegation; none has appeared. But that hasn’t stopped Republican governors, including Sununu, from advocating for more restrictive voting laws in their states.

Pence has yet to publicly name anyone who will be on the voter fraud commission he’s supposed to lead. “Staff is continuing to work to put the framework together for this process,” Pence spokesman Marc Lotter told POLITICO on March 15. “We will let you know when we have additional updates on it.”

If Pence seeks assistance from the Justice Department, he’ll be working with an attorney general who has been accused of voter suppression. In 1985, when he was a U.S. attorney in Alabama, Jeff Sessions prosecuted three civil rights activists for voter fraud after they helped scores of black voters fill out absentee ballots. All three activists were acquitted. But there’s a chance Pence will choose to focus on cleaning up the voter rolls, instead of prosecuting voters. In an early February appearance on Fox News, the vice president said Trump is committed to “really looking into the errors and flaws in our voter logs—the possibility of wide-scale voter fraud that’s [taken] place in the country.”