Republicans see dead people.
Well, they see dead people, and possibly zombies, when it comes to the visions of voter fraud that dance in their heads. The GOP likes to conjure up images of the dearly departed to convince the rest of us that untold numbers of live voters are using their identities to illegally cast their ballots and sway elections to the detriment of everyone.
Except the evidence proves that's not what is happening, so I can only conclude that because of their efforts, conservatives must really be afraid of the dead, be they ghosts or zombies. Many people on the political right claim that Americans who aren't eligible to vote are showing up at the polls in increasing numbers to game the electoral system and to exercise a right that doesn't belong to them. Otherwise, the chorus goes, why would anyone object to the innocuous requirement of presenting a valid photo ID when they cast their ballot?
The problem with these GOP efforts to purportedly protect us all from those currently scheming their way into the voter booth is that it's just the political version of Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense -- for almost the whole movie you think Bruce Willis' character is real and he's trying to help out Haley Joel Osment, only to find out at the end that he was a figment of Osment's imagination the whole time. And that's how it is with the continuing Republican rants about how our whole electoral system will fall about if we don't make everyone hand over a photo ID before casting their ballot.
Except that virtually nothing of what they say about zombie voting is true.
The Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law examined allegations of voter fraud in the 2004 Wisconsin election cycle and found that of the close to three million votes counted, only seven potential cases of fraud existed, and those were cast by people with felony convictions. When you do the math, that means statewide the voter fraud rate in Wisconsin that year (if that really constitutes fraud, since those seven cases were discovered) was 2/10,000 of one percent. That's 0.0002 for those of you who prefer decimals. For Reince Priebus, the head of the Republican National Committee, that meant that Wisconsin's' election process was "riddled with fraud."
The good news for the rest of us is that none of votes that had to be tossed out in Wisconsin in that year were due to zombie voters.
In a more comprehensive voter fraud study conducted in 2007, entitled The Truth About Voter Fraud, The Brennan Center found that the chances of someone showing up at the polls and trying to vote while assuming the identity of a dead person are less than the odds of being struck by lightning. Need more recent proof that the undead are more worried about the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer than they are of election commissioners? Earlier this year, even though South Carolina conservatives were shouting about voter fraud and dead people, it turned out that of the 207 votes cast in the 2010 general election that some claimed were fraudulent because the registered voters were dead, 95 percent of them were either alive and voted legally or were alive and didn't vote.
I wonder if the remaining five percent munched on the poll workers brains so they could cast their ballots? Also, there was no word on how the zombies voted.
With repeated examinations and studies proving that the instances of voting by impersonating a dead person is almost non-existent and statistically hasn't altered an election outcome, I can only conclude that the Republicans are just afraid of zombies. Because if a person who was registered to vote died, and came back as part of the zombie apocalypse in time to vote in the 2012 presidential election, I'd say the odds are pretty good that they might not have their ID on them, what with having to be worried about finding brains to munch on, and all.
What Republicans do know that has nothing to do with the dead or the undead is this -- enhanced restrictions on voting that require a photo ID to vote would adversely impact the elderly, college students and many voters of color -- constituencies that historically vote for Democrats over Republicans. It's the suppression of potentially millions of voters they're after, especially ones in critical states like Florida, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and South Carolina who might just decide they like Barack Obama more than Mitt Romney.
If Republicans worried about the election this year, I'd say their time would be better spent on real problems -- like whether Mitt Romney was lying then or he's lying now about when and how he left Bain Capital -- and what kind of person he'd make as a president when he has a well-documented history of bending the facts or massaging the truth so it fits whatever version of Mitt-hood he's selling on any given day.
Oh, and maybe a real plan about the economy would help, too.
If the GOP is really worried about this whole dead people voting thing, maybe a a better plan would be one that includes some wood chippers and chain saws for the zombie apocalypse.
Joanne Bamberger is the author of the Amazon.com bestseller, Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. Joanne, a Washington, D.C.-based writer and political/media analyst, is the founder of the political blog, PunditMom.