Voter-ID Affects Less Than 1% of Fraud

This recent report from the Heritage Foundation compiles a list of 275 instances of voter fraud. Only 6 crimes would have been stopped by Voter-ID.

This report was presented as evidence for the need for Voter-ID laws in an article for the Daily Signal, “Nearly 300 Cases, the Extent of Voter Fraud in America.” When taking a closer look at the actual data contained within this report, its hard not to notice that the evidence does not support Voter-ID laws as a solution.

The Data

While the report did contain a lot of relevant information about these 275 instances of voter fraud, it does a poor job of presenting it in a clear and coherent way for critically thinking about these issues. If we, as a country, are going to have any meaningful conversation about voter fraud and how to actually prevent it, we MUST take a long hard look at the data. It is not enough to just list off instances without analyzing the details. In this way, the Daily Signal’s article failed to offer the kind of depth required for any real conclusions to be made.

The Most Obvious Data-

  • 275 different instances of voter fraud were included
  • 297 different voter fraud related convictions or evidence of voter fraud
    (22 instances included more than one type of conviction)
  • 2 of these instances did not involve a person being charge, but an investigation was completed and a new election was ordered as a result
  • 2 of these instances was purely investigatory and did not involve charges, a recount, or a holding a new election

Less Obvious Data-

  • 573 different individuals were convicted of 609 different voter fraud related charges (many cases involved more than one person)
  • 1 instance involved 37 different individuals
  • 1 instance involved 63 different individuals

Break Down by Type of Voter Fraud Conviction

191 convictions for False Registrations-

False Registration cases involved everything from putting a false address to vote in a specific election, to intentionally registering in more than one state or district, to registering as multiple different people (identity theft). The bulk of these cases involved eligible voters intentionally registering and voting in more than one state or lying about their place of residence to vote in a particular election. Those that involved registering as multiple people also involved the use of absentee ballots.

  • 55 of these convictions were for registering to vote in a district they did not live in.
  • 11 more convictions were registered at the wrong address in order to run for office in a particular district. This included a Mayor in California who was mayor for 50 years before caught.
  • 51 of these convictions were for registering as multiple people (no information provided about the use of absentee ballots or not). However, most were registration drive employees registering people multiple times, deceased individuals, or persons known to be ineligible to vote in order to boost their registration numbers. Employees of these kind of drives often get bonuses for high registration numbers or have quota’s to meet; it is unclear whether they actually intended to cast fraudulent votes during an election.
  • 63 individuals registered and cast absentee ballots for elderly and disabled people.
  • 3 individuals in California convinced more than 100 people to sign a petition “to fight breast cancer” when they were actually changing their registered party affiliation to Republican. While disturbing and illegal, a person’s party affiliation does not affect their ballots in any way.
  • 1 other individual was also convicted for attempting to change party affiliation of 280 voters.
  • 2 individuals were convicted for registering as someone else, but also had fake ID’s to match. In fact, DMV’s facial recognition software was the reason one was caught.
  • 2 falsely registered and did use absentee ballots.
  • 3 individuals were convicted because they changed their address the day they voted in a new district in Ohio. Ohio requires you be a resident for 30 days before voting.
  • 1 individual living and voting under a false identity was caught due to Voter-ID laws.

Voter-ID laws only deter False Registration cases in so far as the individuals registered as someone other than themselves, went in-person to cast the vote, and did not have a fake ID to match. This was only known to be the case in 1 out of 191 convictions for false registration. However, many of these would have been impossible with a single digital record of all registered voters which could identify duplicate registrations, characters from movies, and easily checked against death records.

156 convictions for Buying Votes

Vote buying involves a person paying someone to vote a certain way, but in many of these cases it also involved buying absentee ballots.

Voter-ID laws do not prevent the buying of votes and, ultimately, this is a type of fraud that would be difficult to hinder except through harsh sentencing.

136 convictions for Absentee Ballot Fraud

Absentee Ballot Fraud typically involves forging someone’s absentee ballot. These cases involved forging absentee ballots, stealing them, and registering as someone else (sometimes deceased people). Two of the convictions for Impersonation Fraud at the Polls (listed below) actually involved absentee ballots, so that puts the total for Absentee Ballot related fraud at 138.

Voter-ID laws have zero impact on absentee ballot fraud. Oddly, there have been no suggestions from politicians on how to reduce the instances of fraudulent absentee ballots and most want to expand the use of absentee ballots. Currently, most states use signature verification to check against the signatures on the voters’ registrations, but this is only effective in cases where individuals did not also forge the signature on the registration.

43 convictions for Ineligible Voting

Ineligible Voting involves casting a vote when you are not actually eligible to vote. The bulk of these cases involved disenfranchised felons voting when they were not eligible. Felon voting eligibility differs from state to state and it can get confusing, but to get convicted in this kind of case, evidence must be given that the individual knowingly broke the law. Some of these convictions involved non-citizens voting.

  • 26 of these were felons in states where they were not eligible to vote.
  • 6 were non-citizens who voted: 1 was the youngest delegate at the 2000 Republican National Convention, 1 voted before gaining citizenship (was caught after gaining citizenship), and 1 used an absentee ballot.
  • 2 were non-citizens living under false identities and presumably had false ID’s to match.
  • 1 was a city election official convicted for “fraudulent receipt of ballot” and misconduct.
  • 1 was convicted for interfering another voter while he/she was voting.
  • 1 was a mother who convinced one of her sons to vote for another incarcerate son. she was also convicted of Impersonation at the Polls.
  • 8 cases did not provide any details other than their convictions.

Voter-ID laws would not affect the cases involving felons voting when ineligible because they were registered to vote. It also would not have

36 convictions of Ballot Petition Fraud

Ballot Petition Fraud involved forging signatures on petitions when trying to get initiatives on a ballot. It is illegal, but these initiatives would still have to pass the voters to become law.

Voter-ID laws do not stop people from forging signatures in order to get initiatives onto the ballot.

30 convictions for Duplicate Voting

  • 7 of these made use of absentee ballots to cast multiple votes.
  • 5 voted both in-person and with absentee ballots.
  • 2 were convicted of duplicate voting in elections in which they were candidates.
  • 4 voted in more than one state, but no details were given as to whether this was in-person or absentee. They were all registered to vote in both locations though.
  • 4 others registered and voted in more than one state in-person.
  • 2 registered and voted in more than one county.
  • 4 tried to cast 2 votes in-person in a single election including a homeless man who registered and voted under the same alias 2x.
  • Only 2 of these convictions was for voting under someone else’s identity and no details were provided as to whether this was done in-person or via absentee ballots.

Voter -ID laws do not affect the majority of these cases. All except 2 individuals in these cases voted under their own identity. Those 2 cases did not provide information about whether absentee ballots were used or not.

7 convictions for Impersonation Fraud at the Polls

In-person impersonation fraud is the only type of voter fraud which the Voter-ID laws are capable of affecting. It involves an individual actually going to a polling station and voting under someone else’s identity.

  • 5 of these convictions actually involved someone going to the polls in-person and one of those cases turned himself in, claiming he only did it to prove a point.
  • 2 other convictions were both elderly widows who cast their deceased spouse’s absentee ballots.

Only 5 of these crimes would have been stopped by Voter-ID laws.

Misc. Voter Fraud

There were 10 other convictions in this report that covered a variety of crimes. Unfortunately, the majority were committed by election officials and poll workers.

  • 2 convictions election officials convicted of Neglect/Misconduct (2 different cases)
  • 2 convictions for Altering the Vote Count by election officials (2 different cases)
  • 2 convictions of Unauthorized Access, neither a poll worker or election official. 1 of these individuals was originally charged with Buying Votes, but he plead down.
  • 1 convicted for Voter Intimidation, also not a poll worker or election official.
  • 1 conviction for Attempting to Influence the Vote by a Republican campaign manager.
  • 1 conviction for Bribery by a County Judge.
  • 1 conviction of a poll worker casting Fraudulent Ballots.

Voter-ID laws would not have affected any of these cases. Seven of these cases involved people who have power and authority in the election process.

Editorial Conclusion

The sheer number (609) of voter fraud related crimes is a bit disheartening and it is important to have meaningful discussions about how to deter these kinds of crimes from happening. It is also important to take into consideration the millions upon millions of votes cast during this time frame. While voter fraud is real, the fact is that it is relatively uncommon. In addition, all of these crimes were caught (except 1) because of the security measures that were already in place before Voter-ID laws became a thing. To a certain extent, this should offer some peace of mind.

After reviewing all 275 instances of voter fraud within this report. Only 6 of these crimes would have been prevented under Voter-ID laws. That represents less than 1% of these crimes, but these same laws disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters. At the same time 138 convictions were related to Absentee Ballots, or 23%, and no politicians have put forth any legislation to address it. The largest crime represented in this report was False Registration comprising 31% of the convictions, but this is another area which is difficult to legislate away without disenfranchising law-abiding voters, but he development of electronic voter registration rolls would help. I am not suggesting that we should ignore voter fraud and hope that it goes away, but I am suggesting that we approach it in a rational way. Blindly supporting legislation which disenfranchises thousands (if not hundreds of thousands) of elderly, poor, and young voters and does almost nothing to deter actual voter fraud is not a rational approach.

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Erin Georgen

I am a graphic designer, small business owner, writer, artist, and parent... among a million other things. Finding ways to be more involved in things that are important to me is something I strive for, both personally and professionally. This is why I became involved with The preventing voter fraud and improving voter access are both extremely important issues that effect all Americans. Even if you chose not to participate in the election process, you are still depending on a fair and balanced process to be accessible for the more civic minded within your community.