By STEVEN GREENHUT, Vice President of Journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
June 13, 2012
About Steven Greenhut: Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.
Liberal activists insist that voter fraud is a sham problem drummed up by conservative activists whose real intent—through voter identification bills and other anti-fraud measures—is to suppress voting by poor and minority voters who tend to vote Democratic. Yet their case is built on besides-the-point statistics and a large dose of hysteria.
Are we really supposed to believe that modest efforts to require identification at the polls are the equivalent of segregation-era poll guards designed to scare off minority voters?
The Brennan Center for Justice argued in a 2006 policy paper that voter fraud is “essentially irrational”—few voters are willing to risk large fines to cast an improper vote. The center finds that only an infinitesimal portion of votes cast are fraudulent.
Individuals no doubt rarely cast fraudulent votes. But as someone who grew up in Philadelphia, a city run by a political machine, it’s clear that voter fraud isn’t mainly an issue of individuals casting fraudulent votes but of highly rational political actors using their power to steal elections. Spread out across all elections, it is a small problem, on average—but it is a potentially huge problem in specific locales, where fraudulent vote schemes can swing elections. Voter ID laws are one way to begin battling that problem.