The Real Fraud Behind Photo ID

February 13, 2012

Photo ID supporters routinely cry “fraud” as the reason for supporting new restrictions on access to the ballot. But the real fraud is in the repeated use of inaccurate, or just plain manufactured, claims about voter fraud that just aren’t happening. The reality? Voter fraud is as likely to happen as getting struck by lightning. But if you listen to photo ID supporters, you’d think every rain drop represents a stolen vote.

Take last week’s quiet unearthing of fraud in South Carolina, where ID supporters cited evidence that hundreds of dead voters had voted in the state’s elections as a critical argument for passing a photo ID law in 2011. The South Carolina Election Commission announced it had painstakingly reviewed a quarter of the supposed “dead voters.” Sure enough, they found fraud — just not the type you’d expect. The commission discovered there is in fact no evidence that any fraudulent votes were cast. Yet, sadly, these nonexistent dead voters were Exhibit A used to dupe voters into passing a law that risks disenfranchising eligible voters.

Then there’s James O’Keefe, a vocal photo ID supporter, who has been in the news twice recently for “uncovering” fraud in New Hampshire and Minnesota. O’Keefe released video footage of New Hampshire polling locations during the Republican primary, purporting to show him and others posing as deceased voters and receiving ballots. The problem for O’Keefe is that his video itself might be evidence of fraud: committed by O’Keefe and his cronies. In fact, the New Hampshire State Attorney General’s Office has launched an investigation into O’Keefe’s conduct for a handful of possible criminal violations, including voter impersonation fraud.

The investigation hasn’t deterred him — he resurfaced again in Minnesota last week. The day before the Minnesota Republican caucus, O’Keefe registered several fake individuals to vote in order to receive absentee ballots. His video was leaked to drum up outrage about possible voter fraud. But there’s simply no evidence that — before O’Keefe rolled into town, anyway — Minnesota has any voter fraud problem whatsoever.

What do Minnesota and New Hampshire have in common? Unsurprisingly, there are photo ID bills before both states’ legislatures in 2012. Activists like O’Keefe will point to these videos as proof that our election systems lack integrity. But folks should flat-out refuse to take marching orders on election “integrity” from a gentleman who clearly doesn’t have much.

Voters in those states should refuse to be taken in by these fraudulent claims of voter fraud. There were no dead voters in South Carolina, and there aren’t in Minnesota or New Hampshire either. Instead, there’s just O’Keefe and others like him — who will do anything it takes to provide “proof” that photo ID laws are necessary. There’s zero percent truth to any of these highly-publicized claims. But they unfortunately can lead to passage of laws requiring a photo ID that 11 percent of eligible American voters do not have.

When you scratch beneath the surface, you see that O’Keefe and others who make a living crying “fraud!” resort to manufacturing evidence of voter fraud that doesn’t otherwise exist — and potentially commit fraud in the process. If those who support photo ID are willing to commit fraud in the name of preventing it, maybe it’s time to stop taking these claims at face value. Like fool's gold, the claims of widespread voter fraud are fast, cheap, and shiny — and collapse under close inspection.