10/08/2012 01:02 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Is Identity Currently Checked in U.S. Elections to Prevent Fraud?

This question originally appeared on Quora.
By Mark Rogowsky, Internet Entrepreneur, @maxrogo

Identity is largely unverified beyond requesting your name and address because voter fraud largely does not exist in the United States.

Because this issue has become buried in politics, the reality of the situation has gotten very lost. But here are the facts (taken from the Brennan Center of Justice report at the NYU Law School):

  • There is no documented wave or trend of individuals voting multiple times, voting as someone else, or voting despite knowing that they are ineligible.
  • Two recent elections that were under a microscope had their voter fraud rates analyzed. (1) The 2004 gubernatorial election in Washington State had a fraud rate of 0.0009% of the time. (2) The 2004 election in Ohio had a voter fraud rate of 0.00004%. As many Americans are killed by lightning as commit voter fraud.
  • Most heavily reported anecdotes of voter fraud are proved to be fiction. The Missouri Secretary of State, for example, claimed seventy nine voters with vacant lots as addresses voted in 2000. Upon investigation, the lots proved to contain residences where the people lived -- they were hardly vacant. In 1995, an investigation in votes by "dead" people and disqualified "felons" in Baltimore found the voters in question both alive and without any disqualifying convictions.

ID requirements prevent none of the "voter fraud" that is the resulting of people trying to direct would-be voters away from the correct polling places or threatening people outside of them. No reforms to combat "voter fraud" can prevent poll workers from making errors about who is and is not eligible. No reforms to require an ID on the spot will affect people who vote by mail.

Voter ID laws are designed to disenfranchise minority voters and seniors -- the groups most likely to be without an ID.[2] For example, in Wisconsin, 80 percent of whites were found to have drivers licenses in 2005, versus only about half of Latinos and African-Americans[1]. Among younger people, the differences are even more astounding: In 18-24, nearly 70 percent of whites have licenses vs. 28 percent about blacks and 40 percent among Hispanics.

The reason why this kind of nonsense plays politically is that educated people, especially those with money and/or an education, find it hard to believe that millions of Americans walk around regularly without a picture ID. But they do. And even with this, virtually no one -- regardless of race -- is committing voter fraud, which carries a $10,000 possible fine for each offense and has nearly no chance of deciding any election.

There are real issues facing this country, some of which even include problems around illegal immigration. But make no mistake, these laws are not about catching illegal aliens for deportation or making elections fairer. They are about trying to suppress votes of certain groups that some people would rather not see vote as often. Regardless of your political persuasion, you should not be fooled by the seeming rationality of this requirement. It's got only one purpose and furthering democracy is not it.

People continue to study voter fraud even though all the data shows how much of a waste of time it is. Anyone harboring the fantasy that voter fraud represents a real problem in a country that has real problems needs to start here:

"...analysis of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000 shows that while fraud has occurred, the rate is infinitesimal."



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