Hans A. von Spakovsky
Heritage Foundation 
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Should we be concerned over voter fraud in the upcoming election? If history is any guide, then the emphatic answer is “yes!” There are numerous cases, just in the last decade or so, in which elections were stolen and races were decided by a handful of votes.
An investigation of 5,000 fraudulent absentee ballots in Miami in 1997 resulted in the election results being overturned. In addition to votes by fictitious individuals and persons using false addresses (persons who didn’t actually live in Miami), votes were also bought. And vote buying is a federal crime that the Department of Justice has prosecuted repeatedly.
In 2003, the Indiana Supreme Court threw out the results of a mayoral election because of absentee ballot fraud. The results of a state senate race in Tennessee in 2005 decided by only 13 votes were declared invalid because of votes by felons, the dead, people who didn’t live in the district, and individuals whose registered addresses were vacant lots. The photographs of those vacant lots, taken by an investigator, starkly illustrate the kind of voter fraud that unfortunately still goes on in our elections.
Today, there are investigations in more than a dozen states over tens of thousands of fraudulent voter registration forms submitted by ACORN. How many of those fraudulent registrations have not been caught by election officials? How many will result in fraudulent votes? If we have a very close election, fraudulent votes may well end up deciding the results, damaging our democracy and our confidence in our election process.
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Hans A. von Spakovsky is a visiting legal scholar at the Heritage Foundation. His Special Report on “Democracy in Danger: Case Studies of Election Fraud,” is available at www.heritage.org.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Voter Discrimination is the Real Fraud
Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP Washington Bureau
According to those chanting the disturbing chorus of “voter fraud,” elections are being influenced and sometimes determined by people ineligible to cast a ballot impersonating eligible voters.
To be sure, the NAACP sees disenfranchising, disturbing instances of “voter fraud” every election cycle. However, the “fraud” we witness is different. We know of deceptive practices, misinformation and lies that are used to keep registered, legitimate voters away from the polls. Sadly, we also still find ourselves fighting attempts by unscrupulous election officials to disenfranchise the people in communities we represent.
It is our experience that “voter impersonation” is actually quite rare. Nationwide, between 2002 and 2006, when a crackdown on voter fraud was one of the U.S. Justice Department’s top priorities, more than 400 million votes were cast, but an average of only 30 federal cases per year were prosecuted.
Regardless of the questionable prevalence of this type of voter fraud, several states have passed discriminatory photo ID laws. Sadly, rather than addressing real voter fraud, the true effect of these laws is to disenfranchise the estimated 20 million Americans who have not purchased IDs. Disproportionately these people are minorities, elderly and low-income Americans.
Yet, malicious voter fraud continues. In Virginia, registered voters received robotic calls stating that they could vote by telephone by pressing a number for the candidate of their choice. The call ended by stating that they had now voted and didn’t need to go to the polls.
In 2006 in Orange County, Calif., 14,000 Latino voters got letters in Spanish saying it was a crime for immigrants to vote in a federal election. It didn’t say that immigrants who are citizens have the right to vote.
The NAACP has also seen a dramatic increase in erroneous purging of voting rolls, as well as eligible voters mistakenly not added. These are voters believing or having been told that they have done everything correctly, only to be turned away from the voting booth on Election Day.
We know from Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 that erroneous purging of the rolls, underestimating the number of needed functioning voting machines and ballots, the inadequate number and under-trained poll workers, intimidation of voters and the misuse of photo ID requirements, especially in neighborhoods with heavy concentrations of racial and ethnic minorities, along with blocked access to polling sites and intentional deception and voter intimidation, lead to disenfranchisement of eligible voters. These problems are more than just “voter fraud.” These problems are a national travesty.