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The Real Fraud Behind Photo ID

Like fool’s gold, the claims of widespread voter fraud are fast, cheap, and shiny — and collapse under close inspection.

  • Lee Rowland
February 14, 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.