I have spent way too much time in my career writing about voter fraud, or rather its absence. Let me offer a few thoughts here about voter fraud and vote rigging. Here are links to a two of my articles, one in a Harvard publication, the other in Mitchell Hamline Law Review. I have read just about every credible (and non-credible) study there is on voter fraud and they largely disprove the theory of widespread in-person voter fraud. Here are a few paragraphs from what I have written.
What evidence does exist documenting voter fraud? Nationally, the three most persistent claims of voter fraud come from the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund, a report from the Senate Republican Policy Committee in Congress, and the Carter-Baker Report. None of these studies have documented provable and significant voter fraud. The Carter-Baker report asserts that: “[W]hile election fraud is difficult to measure, it occurs.” Proof of this assertion is citation to 180 Department of Justice investigations resulting in convictions of 52 individuals from October 2002 until the release of the report in 2005. Yet while the Carter-Baker Commission called for photo IDs, it also noted that: “[T]here is no evidence of extensive fraud in U.S. elections” As with other studies, absentee voting is singled out as the place where fraud is most likely to occur.
As the Brennan Center stated in its analysis and response to the Carter-Baker call for a voter photo ID: “None of the Report’s cited examples of fraud stand up under closer scrutiny.” Even if all of the documented accounts of fraud were true, the Brennan Center points out that in the state of Washington, for example, six cases of double voting and 19 instances of individuals voting in the name of the dead yielded 25 fraudulent votes out of 2,812,675 cast—a 0.0009 percent rate of fraud. Also, assume the 52 convictions by the Department of Justice are accurate instances of fraud. This means that 52 out of 196,139,871 ballots cast in federal elections, or 0.00003 percent of the votes, were fraudulent. The chance of being struck by lightning is 0.0003 percent.
Similarly, Minnesota is devoid of significant in-person voter fraud. The state has witnessed two close elections and recounts in 2008 with the senate contest between Al Franken and Norm Coleman and then in 2010 with Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer. In both cases the recounts failed to show any real in-person voter fraud or impersonation at the polls. Even in its oral arguments before the Minnesota Supreme Court in Coleman v Franken, Coleman’s attorney Joseph Friedberg, when asked by a Justice whether widespread voter fraud existed, conceded that it had not.
The Minnesota Majority has alleged many instances of voter fraud over the years. Mike Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, has investigated many of them in his jurisdiction. He found none involving in-person voter fraud. Yes, 40 ineligible felons voted, but voter ID would not prevent that because drivers’ licenses do not indicate criminal records. In 2008 seven voter-impersonation charges were investigated by Minnesota county attorneys; there were no convictions.
The Costs of Voter ID
What are the costs associated with adopting the amendment? Minnesota will spend millions of dollars issuing identifications for those who currently lack them. The Secretary of State has estimated that 215,000 Minnesota adults lack a state-issued ID. Minnesota and local governments will spend millions of dollars to implement the new ID requirements. Additionally, individuals will bear costs to secure these IDs. In Weinschenk v. State19 the Missouri Supreme Court noted that approximately 3 percent to 4 percent of the state population lacked an appropriate identification to vote under its voter ID law. It found that for many the costs of getting the ID were significant, even if the state issued it for free. Many individuals lacked state birth certificates, or were born out of state, or naturalized, and they lacked the required documents to secure the state ID. Many of these documents cost money, in addition to the time and ability to navigate the bureaucracy to obtain them. For these reasons, the Missouri Supreme Court invalidated its voter ID law under its state equal protection and right to vote clauses.
Many of the individuals who lack valid IDs are the elderly in nursing homes, recent immigrants to the state, students away at school, and those who have recently moved into a new home or apartment. Imagine trying to get your elderly mom or grandmother out of a nursing home and into a state driver’s license office to get new photo identification. The costs to these individuals may be enough to disenfranchise or discourage them from voting.
Election Official Manipulation
If elections can be rigged, either party can do it. The secretary of state (or commonwealth) is the chief election officer in each state and they would have the ability to manipulate the election system to the benefit of their favored candidate. Of the 50 states, 27 are Republican. Among the 11 swing states that are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Ohio, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, only four, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin, are controlled by Democrats. Republicans control nearly two-thirds of the secretaries of state in the critical swing states and presumably would not have an incentive to rig the election in favor of Clinton.