Over at Slate, Christopher Beam throws cold water on the rampant fear that widespread voter fraud is threatening the purity of our elections:
Perhaps the strongest evidence against claims of widespread voter fraud is that it would make no sense. Imagine what you'd have to do to perpetrate such a scheme. You'd first have to recruit a large number of voters willing to cooperate, each of whom would risk five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Then you'd have to get them all registered, which would require fake IDs and mailing address. (The mailing address would have to be real so they could receive their registration cards.) That names and addresses would then get checked against a central state database. If the database fails to find a match, the voter's registration gets flagged for a follow-up check of their Social Security Number or driver's license number. Then on Election Day, they'd have to show their fake ID again and lie to a poll worker's face. At each point--registration, the database check, voting--they'd run the risk of getting caught. And the more people involved in the scheme, the more likely someone slips up. All it would take is one unlucky person for the whole plan to unravel.
Well said. The fact of the matter is, there are many more seamless and simple ways to steal an election. These conspiracy-mad voter fraud trolls are drank-sipping on the same looney brew as the "9/11 Truthers" and should be treated the exact same way.
"And for what? The prospect of winning a few extra votes for a candidate you support simply isn't worth the risk of jail time," says Beam. And really: have you seen the people who are running for office? I find the idea that any human would go to jail to facilitate their electoral hopes to be insanely presumptuous, even insulting.
And as the New York Times reports today, there have been very few federal prosecutions of voter fraud in recent years:
A report by the public-integrity section of the Justice Department found that from October 2002 to September 2005, the department charged 95 people with "election fraud"; 55 were convicted.
Among those, fewer than 20 people were convicted of casting fraudulent ballots, and only 5 were convicted of registration fraud. Most of the rest were charged with other voting violations, including a scheme meant to help Republicans by blocking the phone lines used by two voting groups that were arranging rides to get voters to the polls.
Why would anyone commit voter fraud? [Slate]