DC at Night

DC at Night

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Voter Fraud: How Much Is There?

With all the clamor around the country for voter IDs, you might think that voting fraud is a huge problem. But you would be wrong. Since 2000, when 146 million were registered to vote, a nonpartisan News21 investigation has found only 10 cases of in-person voter fraud, the only kind of act that an ID would prevent, in all 50 states. That works out to be about one case for every 15 million voters.

Overall, the probe uncovered 2,068 reported voter fraud cases since 2000, almost all of them the result of unintentional voter mistakes or election worker error.

The findings of the News21 study were unveiled at a special New America Foundation program entitled How Much Voter Fraud Is There: A State-by-State Analysis Reveals the Answer - Almost None.

The series of articles and videos detailing months of reporting were produced by 24 college journalists under the direction of professional media advisers as part of the offerings at the Cronkite School of Journalism. Len Downey, former editor of The Washington Post, oversaw the project and introduced the findings.

"Voter registration is a mess. It's state by state and county by county," Downey said. "It's shocking that since the 2000 Bush/Gore election so little has changed. The system is riddled with complexity and ambiguity There is hypocrisy on all different (political) sides."

"Mostly we found mistakes by voters or election workers. Mistakes account for more than fraud," he added.

Critics of the push for tougher voter registration rules claim that it is an orchestrated effort by Republicans to make it more difficult for several groups - minorities, the poor, the elderly, and the young, all of whom often favor Democratic candidates at the polls - to vote. Supporters counter that since IDs are required for many other activities, they should be part of the voting procedure. There are currently 62 photo ID laws and bills in 37 states.

Joe Heinke was one of two young reporters involved in the project who appeared with Downey to discuss the group's work. Heinke's reporting focused on the role state secretaries of state, who are in charge of statewide voting, are playing in the controversy. "They're not being as quiet as we have seen them before. Pretty much, they're falling in line with their party views," Heinke said.

"This could be quite a scruffy election night depending on how people behave," Downey said. "We will continue to follow this through the election and the fallout because we think it is so important"

Tales, Tidbits, and Tips
The other young journalist attending the New America program was Maryann Battle, whose specialty was the controversial issue of allowing felons to vote.  Battle said there are 5.85 million convicted felons in America, most of whom are prohibited from casting ballots. There is no national policy on what constitutes a felony, or on which felons, if any, can vote. "There is a difference state by state and the spectrum is pretty wide," Battle said. "These people want to have a say in their community and they are told they can't."  Supporters of allowing freed felons who have repaid their debt to society to vote, contend that not allowing them to be involved in that process:
  • creates a negative effect on recidivism 
  • minimizes the position of the ex-felon in his or her community
  • and does not only effect the individual, but also reduces the political impact of communities where large groups of former felons live.
To read Battle's interesting findings, click here.

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