Voter Fraud hoax redux—
They’re at it again, predictably. Some groups and other entities legitimized as ‘conservative’ are cranking up the time-honored tactic of ‘vote fraud.’ This, for anyone not up to speed on the topic, is the false allegation spread by C of C types that individual voters are casting more than one vote in a single race.
Looks as though some of our friends on the right are not entirely confident about the outcome of Midterms 2010.
If they had the complacency that ought theoretically to be generated by some helpful political reporting this election season, they would surely be less frantic to aver that individual voters are going to turn over the election.
Come to think of it, that’s exactly what they fear; the deep structure in these ludicrous allegations is a valid proposition–individual voters can make a difference.
But back to the bogus accusation: Put simply, once again, the charge is that individual voters are voting or will vote in more than one race at the same time. They do not usually put it that simply–for obvious reasons–but that is the basic accusation: individual voters could cast more than one vote. Generally the wild propagandists do not specify how an individual voter might do so, whether by showing up using someone else’s name, or by voting in more than one precinct in the same election. Both of these options are so difficult to implement that the accusation of either is ridiculous.
A couple of facts are in order here:
1) Within the state of Maryland, for example, voting more than once is impossible. A voter registered in Maryland cannot vote in more than one precinct. When we vote, in Maryland, our vote is tabulated in the precinct where we vote. If I were to show up at another polling place attempting to vote, it would be impossible for me to vote via the voting technology in which my vote would already be recorded. Note: It is possible to vote in a new precinct, within Maryland, if you moved without changing your registration–but in those special cases you have to vote by provisional ballot. The provisional ballots are checked and tabulated later, separately from the vote machine totals.
2) Every other state in the union has some similar or parallel safeguards. The best safeguards are still the old-fashioned paper ballots, counted publicly–vote privately, count publicly, as another writer said. But the barriers to voting in more than one race, within the same state, are impossibly high.
3) Theoretically it would be possible to pose as someone else and steal that person’s vote. If you had all the necessary data about someone whose vote you wanted to steal–address, date of birth, etc.–and you were willing to go to that person’s precinct, risking the obvious possibility that someone there would actually know the other person, you might, underscore might, get away with it. Unlikely, but theoretically possible if every conceivable aspect of luck and snakiness went your way. Of course, if the other person–the rightful voter–later showed up trying to vote, you would still be found out. It should also be noted that this kind of snakiness could be attempted by members of any party, or of no party. Attributing it to Democrats, or to any other single group, is propaganda rather than statistics. Historically the genuine and exceptional examples of voter fraud, over the centuries, have occurred within all ranks.
4) That leaves only the theoretical possibility of voting across state lines. Now here I have an anecdote, shared with me by one of my Republican neighbors. According to what she told me, a relative of hers is still registered to vote in Maryland after having moved to another state–where he is now registered to vote. He is (or was until recently) thus registered to vote, as a Republican, in two states. There is not an automated system in either state to erase a registered voter from one voter roll because s/he is registered more recently on another. So the grain of truth, as my candid GOPer points out–her relative, who of course would never do this, could conceivably either fly back to Maryland on election day to vote in his former precinct, having voted at his new home, or could cast an absentee ballot in Maryland while also voting at home.
Once again–and this should be self-evident–if this individual voter took either of these wildly exceptional actions, it would be as a GOP voter. This particular anecdote is about a Republican. Genuine, and highly exceptional, vote fraud occurs across partisan lines.
Let us take it as a given that flying across state lines to cast more than one vote in an election would be, by far, the exception rather than the general rule. Let us further point out the obvious, that doing so would be more feasible for some of the better-paid wingnuts than for most other people. Glenn Beck could do it; I could not.
By the same token, absentee ballots cast by voters living in another state would be limited to the people who could afford to move to another state. If those people registered to vote in their new homes–this being the year of that ‘voter enthusiasm gap’ we hear so much about–and then went to the lengths described here, odds are that they are not among the voters being caged, monitored, intimidated and otherwise targeted by the C of C legions.
N.b.: If any of the propagandists so ardent about ‘vote fraud’ were serious, they would at least check the data. For a broad beginning or thumbnail, one could look in census data for the total number of people, all ages, who moved from one state to another in the U.S. between the last election and this one. Then one could consult the data or do the actuarial work to compute the number, out of those who moved, who are of voting age. Then one could check to see, or could project, how many of those who moved and are 18+ are also registered to vote.
That would be your maximum number of conceivable instances of ‘vote fraud,’ if everything fell right, if all those people either traveled across state lines or voted absentee across state lines.
That would also be the number of people subject to federal prosecution for vote fraud.