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Is There Voter Fraud in America?

What do the Facts Say?

by Marty Poehler

The New York Times Magazine tells of the Indiana Voter Registration Project, which prior to the 2016 Presidential election in Indiana signed up 45,000 new voters, many of whom were black or brown.

Some over-zealous canvassers put fake names and addresses on voter registration forms. The group’s leaders were dismayed and dismissed these canvassers. But the law said these invalid forms needed to be turned in, so the group’s leaders followed the law. They made it clear to the authorities they weren’t valid and also noted other voter registrations which had mistakes and so were also invalid.

Soon afterwards at the direction of the Indiana Secretary of State – a Republican – the group had their offices raided and computers and records impounded by the police. Mike Pence, former governor of Indiana and the Vice-Presidential running mate at the time of Donald Trump, said about the incident to CNN’s Dana Bash, “Voter fraud, Dana, is real.”

Other incidents of a piece followed in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia. National publicity highlighted these incidents of “voter fraud.” None of these stories held up under examination. The extent of crimes in the Indiana example was that 11 canvassers agreed they had made false statements, and paid fines or were given sentences of community service and probation.

The headlines served a purpose – laying the groundwork for a legal challenge. The Trump campaign had a team of election lawyers standing by to challenge the election’s outcome, on the basis of voter fraud, if Trump had lost.

The President and his team have continued in their pursuit to find voter fraud. They set up a Commission to find it, which was later disbanded by the President. They have repeatedly claimed it exists, though there is no evidence to back this up. The evidence argues that there is almost no voter fraud. For example, in April 2020, a 20-year voter fraud study by MIT found the level of fraud "exceedingly rare" since it occurs only in "0.00006 percent" of instances nationally. In one state, the study found it’s much less likely to find instances of voter fraud than for someone there to be hit by lightning.

Is Postal Voting Fraud a Real Threat?

But is postal voting a great source of election fraud, as some claim? The only real case of postal voting fraud came in 2018.  At that time Republicans in North Carolina requested mail-in ballots, marked them for the Republican candidate, and turned them in. The authorities when they found out about it refused to certify the election, and it had to be run again. President Trump made no mention of this instance of real election fraud in his tweets.

The BBC recently looked at instances in seven states of so-called postal voting fraud cited by President Trump in 2020. In all instances but one, they were shown to simply be mistakes by election officials, who when they saw their mistakes corrected them by getting the right ballots to voters.

Voter Suppression

While there seems to be very little actual voter fraud, on the other hand it seems that voter suppression to keep people from voting, IS real. In 1981 Republican operatives were pressuring people of color at the polls in New Jersey, trying falsely to convince them that they were ineligible to vote. This led to disciplining of the Republican party by the courts from 1982 to 2018, during which time the Republican Party nationwide agreed not to use race in selecting targets for ballot security activities and to refrain from deploying armed poll watchers.

Other recent examples of voter suppression are easy to find. “Between Georgia, Ohio and Texas alone, at least 160,000 people had been wrongfully blocked, scheduled for removal or removed from voter-registration lists in 2018 and 2019. Those marked for ejection were disproportionately Black and Latino.” In addition, “Many states rolled back early voting, which had been vital to successful “Souls to the Polls” efforts by Black churches.”, making voting more difficult and effectively keeping some people from voting. It has disproportionally affected poor people, many of whom are black or brown and who tend to vote for Democrats.

To summarize, there’s no evidence that hard-to-see so-called massive voter fraud exists in America. It seems clear that this claim is meant to convince citizens that their votes don’t matter -- so they won’t vote, “since the election is rigged.” On the other hand, examples abound that are easy for everyone to see of voter suppression to keep people from voting.

With these in mind– even with the roadblocks and difficulties, it behooves us to exercise what is our privilege as citizens in a democratic country – and go vote!

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