Echoing a right-wing media myth, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump claimed recent court rulings striking down voter restrictions would cause the presidential election to be “rigged” because voter ID laws prevent people committing in-person voter fraud by not allowing them to keep “voting and voting and voting." In reality, in-person voter fraud is extremely rare and voter ID laws disproportionately harm minority voters.
Voter ID Laws Are Being Struck Down Across The Country
Courts Strike Down Voting Restrictions In Five States In Two Weeks. Courts in five different states have struck down voting restrictions, including voter ID laws, between mid-July to and early August, according to NPR. In those rulings, which were in Texas, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Kansas, and North Dakota, “judges consistently highlighted the rarity of voter fraud — particularly through in-person voting.” From the August 2 article:
And the last two weeks, in particular, have been eventful: Five courts in five states ruled against voter ID and proof-of-citizenship laws.
Supporters of voter ID laws have argued they are necessary to prevent voter fraud. But in their responses, judges consistently highlighted the rarity of voter fraud — particularly through in-person voting.
On July 20, a federal appeals court ruled that Texas' voter ID law had a discriminatory impact on voters, and ordered a lower court to come up with a fix before elections in November.
On July 29, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned North Carolina's sweeping voter ID law (which included a host of other voting restrictions, including shortening the early voting period and banning same-day registration).
And — unlike in Texas — the appeals court ruled that North Carolina legislators had actually passed the law with discriminatory intent.
But on Friday, a U.S. district judge struck down several parts of [Wisconsin’s] strict voter ID law — as well as other election laws passed by Republican state lawmakers, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
On Friday, a judge ruled that Kansas citizens must be allowed to vote in state and local elections, even if they didn't show proof of citizenship when they registered.
On Monday, a federal judge blocked a law requiring photo ID to vote in North Dakota, ruling that the law unfairly burdens Native Americans in the state. [NPR, 8/2/16]
Trump: Without Voter ID Laws, “You Can Just Keep Voting And Voting And Voting.” Donald Trump, pointing to “several court cases nationwide in which restrictive laws requiring voters to show identification have been thrown out,” told The Washington Post that “‘The voter ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development.’” Trump worried that “If you don’t have voter ID, you can just keep voting and voting and voting” and “we may have people vote 10 times.” From the August 2 article:
Donald Trump, trailing narrowly in presidential polls, has issued a warning to worried Republican voters: The election will be “rigged” against him — and he could lose as a result.
Trump pointed to several court cases nationwide in which restrictive laws requiring voters to show identification have been thrown out. He said those decisions open the door to fraud in November.
“If the election is rigged, I would not be surprised,” he told The Washington Post in an interview Tuesday afternoon. “The voter ID situation has turned out to be a very unfair development. We may have people vote 10 times.”
In his interview with The Post, Trump offered that his chief concern about fraud was that states without strict identification requirements would see rampant repeat voters. “If you don’t have voter ID, you can just keep voting and voting and voting,” he said. On Fox News, Trump’s only evidence for fraud consisted of “precincts where there were practically nobody voting for the Republican” in the 2012 election. [The Washington Post, 8/2/16]
Trump: Without Voter ID Laws, People “Are Going To Vote 10 Times.” Trump also told Fox host Bill O’Reilly that it’s “scary” for there to be elections without voter ID laws. Trump said, “You don’t have to have voter ID to now go in and vote, and it’s a little bit scary.” Trump added that “people are going to walk in, they are going to vote 10 times maybe.” From the August 2 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:
BILL O'REILLY (HOST): Why would you think that the election would be rigged?
DONALD TRUMP: Well I'm looking at all of these decisions coming on down from the standpoint of identification voter ID. And I'm saying what do you mean you don't have to have voter ID to now go in and vote? And it's a little bit scary. And I've heard a lot of bad things. I must say four years ago I was hearing a lot of bad things having to do with the [Mitt] Romney campaign where when the vote came out there were some districts who were really shockingly different from what they were anticipated to be. And I've been seeing it and I've been hearing it a lot. But the whole thing with voter ID, identification, I think is really -- I mean people are going to walk in, they're going to vote 10 times maybe. Who knows? They're going to vote 10 times. So I am very concerned and I hope the Republicans are going to be very watchful. But I hope the authorities are going to be very watchful because I want to tell you, I believe it's going to be just like Bernie Sanders, I said it was rigged. Well, it's rigged here too, believe me. So I just hope the Republicans are going to be very watchful. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 8/2/16]
Right-Wing Media Have Repeatedly Pushed In-Person Voter Fraud Myths
Trump Adviser Roger Stone: Trump Should Blame Voter Fraud If He Loses Florida While Leading In The Polls. Trump adviser and author Roger Stone said Trump should say, “‘I am leading in Florida. The polls all show it. If I lose Florida, we will know that there’s voter fraud.’” Added Stone, “If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis.” From an August 2 Politico article:
The notion of a rigged election beset by voter fraud isn’t just a talking point for Trump, but something he genuinely believes. So, too, does his longtime political adviser, Roger Stone, who expanded on the idea in an interview last week, even suggesting that Trump begin speaking in no uncertain terms about the possibility of fraud.
“He needs to say for example, today would be a perfect example: ‘I am leading in Florida. The polls all show it. If I lose Florida, we will know that there’s voter fraud. If there’s voter fraud, this election will be illegitimate, the election of the winner will be illegitimate, we will have a constitutional crisis, widespread civil disobedience, and the government will no longer be the government,’” Stone said in an interview with Breitbart. “I think he’s gotta put them on notice that their inauguration will be a rhetorical [bloodbath], and when I mean civil disobedience, not violence, but it will be a bloodbath. The government will be shut down if they attempt to steal this and swear Hillary in. No, we will not stand for it. We will not stand for it.” [Politico, 8/2/16]
Fox’s Earhardt: Voter ID Law “Prevents Fraud.” Talking to Gov. Scott Walker (WI-R) about Wisconsin’s voter ID law, Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt claimed “it prevents fraud.” From the March 30 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
STEVE DOOCY (CO-HOST): I think what he's talking about, in some states, you've got to present some sort of ID before you can vote. Which is fair because when I go to CVS, I got to get out a driver's license if I'm going to buy Benadryl.
AINSLEY EARHARDT (CO-HOST): Well, it prevents fraud.
DOOCY: What's your reaction?
SCOTT WALKER: Yeah, for us, it is simple. We want to make it easier to vote, but hard to cheat. Our state is -- you look at the facts. Our state has one of the highest voter participation rates in the entire country. It will again on Tuesday, it will again in the fall in the general election. Why? Because we make it easy to vote, but we make it hard to cheat. In our state, you need a driver's license, you can get a state issued ID card for free at our DMV offices. If you're a veteran, you can use your veteran's card. But we make it, so we make it easy to vote. You can vote same day with voter registration. You just gotta have that voter ID along with. But we also make it hard to cheat. And that's the difference. He should look at the facts. [Fox News, Fox and Friends, 3/30/16]
Fox Correspondent Eric Shawn Disputes Argument That Voter Impersonation Fraud Is A Problem That “Doesn't Exist.” Fox senior correspondent Eric Shawn during the October 29, 2014, edition of The O’Reilly Factor disputed a statement from then-attorney general Eric Holder condemning “unnecessary restrictions that discourage or discriminate or disenfranchise in the name of a problem that doesn't exist,” saying, “of course voter fraud exists in the United States.” [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 10/29/14]
National Review’s John Fund: Denying Voter Fraud Exists “Is To Frankly Deny Reality.” National Review columnist John Fund, was asked about claims that voter fraud does not exist during a discussion of Pennsylvania’s voter ID law during the August 12, 2012, edition of Fox News’ America’s News Headquarters. Fund said in response,“To deny voter fraud isn’t going on is to frankly deny reality.” [Fox News, America’s News Headquarters, 8/12/12]
In Reality, In-Person Voter Fraud Is Extremely Rare
Study: Just 31 Cases Of In-Person Voter Fraud Found In More Than 1 Billion Votes. According to a 2014 study conducted by Loyola University law professor Justin Levitt, there were only 31 credible allegations of in-person voter fraud among the more than 1 billion votes cast in “general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014.” According to Levitt, in-person voter fraud is the only type of fraud voter ID laws are “designed to stop.” From a August 7, 2014, Washington Post article:
Election fraud happens. But ID laws are not aimed at the fraud you'll actually hear about. Most current ID laws (Wisconsin is a rare exception) aren't designed to stop fraud with absentee ballots (indeed, laws requiring ID at the polls push more people into the absentee system, where there are plenty of real dangers). Or vote buying. Or coercion. Or fake registration forms. Or voting from the wrong address. Or ballot box stuffing by officials in on the scam. In the 243-page document that Mississippi State Sen. Chris McDaniel filed on Monday with evidence of allegedly illegal votes in the Mississippi Republican primary, there were no allegations of the kind of fraud that ID can stop.
Instead, requirements to show ID at the polls are designed for pretty much one thing: people showing up at the polls pretending to be somebody else in order to each cast one incremental fake ballot. This is a slow, clunky way to steal an election. Which is why it rarely happens. [The Washington Post, 8/7/14, via Media Matters]
Academic Studies Have Found Very Little Voter Fraud. The Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham noted “there is overwhelming scholarly and legal consensus that voter fraud is vanishingly rare,” listing multiple examples. From a July 9, 2014 article:
But there is overwhelming scholarly and legal consensus that voter fraud is vanishingly rare, and in fact non-existent at the levels imagined by voter ID proponents.
The Politics of Voter Fraud, by Lorraine Minnite of Columbia University. Minnite concludes that voter fraud is exceedingly rare, and that the few allegations in the record usually turn out to be something other than voter fraud: “a review of news stories over a recent two year period found that reports of voter fraud were most often limited to local races and individual acts and fell into three categories: unsubstantiated or false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error.”
Fraudulent Votes, Voter Identification and the 2012 US General Election, by John Ahlquist and Kenneth R. Mayer of the University of Wisconsin, and Simon Jackman of Stanford. The authors conducted a survey experiment “to measure the prevalence of two speciﬁc types of voter fraud: repeat/fraudulent ballot casting and vote buying.” Their conclusion: “The notion that voter impersonation is a widespread behavior is totally contradicted by these data.”
Voter Identifications Laws, by Minnite again. “In 95 percent of so-called 'cemetery voting' alleged in the 2010 midterm election in South Carolina, human error accounts for nearly all of what the state's highest law enforcement official had informed the U.S. Department of Justice was fraud.”
Caught in the Act: Recent Federal Election Fraud Cases, by Delia Bailey of the Washington University in St. Louis. Bailey unearthed only nine federal election fraud cases occurring between 2000 and 2005.
They Just Do Not Vote Like They Used To: A Methodology to Empirically Assess Election Fraud, by M.V. Hood III of the University of Georgia and William Gillespie of Kennesaw State University. “After examining approximately 2.1 million votes cast during the 2006 general election in Georgia, we find no evidence that election fraud was committed under the auspices of deceased registrants.” [The Washington Post, 7/9/14]
Voter Impersonation Is “More Rare Than Getting Struck By Lightning.” According to 2007 report by the Brennan Center for Justice, instances of the type of voter impersonation that voter ID laws are designed to stop are “more rare than getting struck by lightning.” From the 2007 report:
The most common example of the harm wrought by imprecise and inflated claims of “voter fraud” is the call for in-person photo identification requirements. Such photo ID laws are effective only in preventing individuals from impersonating other voters at the polls -- an occurrence more rare than getting struck by lightning. [Brennan Center For Justice, 2007]
And Voter ID Laws Have Disproportionately Disenfranchised Minorities
Latin Post: Latinos And African-Americans Are Affected By Voting Restrictions “More Than Other Ethnic Groups.” The Latin Post explained why, ahead of the Wisconsin primaries, ethnic minority advocates were worried about the disenfranchising effect the state's voter ID laws could have on local Latinos and African-Americans. The article noted that those groups are affected by voting restrictions “more than other ethnic groups,” often because they lack the resources to access adequate IDs, or lack necessary information on how to acquire them. From an April 5 article:
The biggest problem with Wisconsin's stricter voter law isn't how it disproportionately affected minorities and the impoverished, or how they jump deterrent hoops for rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution. The experience leaves potential voters disenfranchised.
“Our community doesn't have the information. There hasn't been a lot of information provided on how easy this is,” said Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota. “A lot of people don't know where to go.”
Some aren't aware that they already had an acceptable ID, others give up on the process altogether.
Up to 300,000 Wisconsin voters did not possess a valid ID for the 2012 presidential election, according to a study executed by University of Georgia professor M.V. Hood III. A second report found the number closer to 350,000 residents. Nearly one-third of voters live in Milwaukee County, which houses about 113,000 Latinos, or 39.5 percent of the state's Hispanic population.
Latinos are the fastest-growing voter base in the country, yet voting restrictions appear to affect them and African-Americans more than other ethnic groups. [Latin Post, 4/5/16]
ACLU: Minorities Are “Statistically Less Likely To Possess An Accepted Photo ID.” A 2012 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report by statisticians from the research firm Latino Decisions found that voters in Milwaukee County, WI, “are statistically less likely to possess an accepted photo ID,” with African-Americans “182 percent less likely” and Hispanics “206 percent less likely” to have ID than white voters. From the study:
As compared to eligible White voters, African American and Latino eligible voters in Milwaukee County are statistically less likely to possess an accepted photo ID.
Eligible African American voters are 182 percent less likely to possess an accepted photo ID, than are whites. Eligible Latino voters are 206 percent less likely to possess an accepted photo ID, than are whites.
Eligible Latino voters are statistically more likely to lack any documentary proof of citizenship, as compared to whites, and therefore less likely to have the necessary underlying documents to obtain an original Wisconsin DMV product.
As compared to eligible white voters, eligible African American and Latino voters are statistically less likely to both lack an accepted photo ID, and also lack the necessary underlying documents to obtain an original Wisconsin DMV product, creating a double burden for Blacks and Latinos.
Overall 2.4 percent of eligible white voters lack an accepted photo ID, and also lack the required underlying documents to obtain an original Wisconsin DMV product. In comparison, 4.5 percent of eligible Black voters lack an accepted ID and lack the ability to obtain one, and 5.9 percent of eligible Latino voters lack an accepted ID and lack the ability to obtain one. [American Civil Liberties Union, 4/23/12]
Advancement Project's Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez: Alabama Voter ID Laws “Overwhelmingly” Affected African-Americans. While appearing as a guest on the October 4 edition of MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry, the Advancement Project's voter protection program director, Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, explained how voter ID laws in Alabama affected access to the polls for African Americans. From the October 4 edition of MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry:
DORIAN WARREN (GUEST HOST): Here on MPH as part of our reporting on the electorate's right to be heard and represented, we make it a point to track concerns about voter suppression, which is why this week we turn our attention to Alabama, where voting just became that much harder in 28 counties. This week the Alabama state legislature had to figure out how to slash its budget ahead of next fiscal year. The solution -- fewer parks, five state parks would be closed, fewer National Guard armories, and 31 fewer offices that provide driver's licenses. Now, this might sound like a simple, local inconvenience, but the decision could actually result in voter disenfranchisement for many members of the community. Because of a 2011 state bill that made driver's licenses or special photo IDs a requirement for voting, the office closures make the path to the ballot box that much harder for the quarter million registered Alabama voters who don't have the required IDs. And minority communities could be hit the hardest. Of the 10 counties with the highest percentages of non-white registered voters, eight will see their driver's license offices closed. In fact, all counties where black citizens comprise 75 percent of registered voters will no longer have a driver's license office.
Joining me from Washington, D.C., is the Advancement Project's director of the voter protection programs Katherine Culliton-González. Katherine, what are the possible courses of action for Alabama citizens whose votes might be hampered by this decision?
KATHERINE CULLITON-GONZÁLEZ: I would say the most important course of action is to continue to protest because this is something that is not going to be able to be changed one voter at a time. The state has clearly made a policy trying to disenfranchise certain blocks of voters. Over 500,000 people don't have the type of voter ID that Alabama is asking for. The majority are overwhelmingly African-American, and this latest move is only going to make it harder for African-Americans to vote. We need to make sure to continue to protest and tell the state to stop disenfranchising voters of color, as well as anyone else who doesn't have the ID. [MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry, 10/4/15]
Wash. Post: “Turnout Dropped At Least 1.9 Percentage Points In Kansas And 2.2 Percentage Points In Tennessee Thanks To” Voter ID Laws. The Washington Post reported that a Government Accountability Office report looked at the potential effect of voter ID laws on turnout and found that turnout decreased in Kansas and Tennessee “thanks to the laws.” Furthermore, the decrease was worse among people of color, young voters, and newly registered voters. From an October 9, 2014, article:
In response to a request from a group of Democratic senators, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office analyzed the effect of voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee on 2012 turnout. Their findings? Turnout dropped at least 1.9 percentage points in Kansas and 2.2 percentage points in Tennessee thanks to the laws. By our calculations, that's 122,000 fewer votes.
The 200-plus-page report looks at several issues related to laws aimed at tightening rules around voting. The GAO compiled detailed data on various demographic groups in states that changed their laws, reviewed past studies on the effects of new laws on turnout, and attempted to gather data on instances of voter fraud, the rationale usually provided for changing voting rules. Democrats counter that the laws are thinly veiled efforts to reduce the number of their supporters that vote, by adding additional obstacles to black and young voters.
The GAO report suggests that, intentional or not, that's what happened in Kansas and Tennessee.
According to data from the states ... turnout dropped 5.5 percentage points overall in Kansas and 4.5 percent in Tennessee. With registered voter pools of about 1.77 million and 4 million, respectively, that means that 34,000 Kansans and 88,000 Tennesseans likely would have voted if the new laws weren't in place.
The effects of the change weren't evenly distributed.
Young people, black people, and newly registered voters were the groups that were more likely to see bigger drops in turnout. [The Washington Post, 10/9/14]
CityLab: New Study Finds Voter ID Laws Exacerbate Gap Between White Voter Turnout And Minority Voter Turnout. CityLab reported on a University of California, San Diego study that found that “no other demographic has as much difficulty as black and brown voters under [voter ID] laws.” From a February 5 article:
[A] trio of political scientists at the University of California San Diego say they're getting closer to the truth about the impact of voter ID laws: “For Latinos, Blacks, and multi-racial Americans there are strong signs that strict photo identification laws decrease turnout.”
This was a key finding in a new working paper from UCSD researchers Zoltan Hajnal, Nazita Lajevardi, and Lindsay Nielson, who compared voter turnout rates between states with voter ID laws and those without. According to their analysis, no other demographic has as much difficulty as black and brown voters under these laws. “The results are clear,” the researchers state plainly in the paper.
Their study shows how wide the racial gaps are in voter turnout between states with and without voter ID requirements. Looking at general election outcomes from 2008 to 2012, the researchers found that Latino turnout was 10.3 points lower in states where photo ID is necessary to vote than for Latinos in states where it is not. For primary elections, they found that states with strict photo voter ID laws depressed Latino turnout by 6.3 points compared to Latinos in non-voter ID states, and depressed African-American turnout by 1.6 points.
When looking at the voter turnout rates between whites and non-whites under voter ID laws, the guidelines continued to have a dampening effect. White voters already generally cast ballots at higher rates than Latino and black voters in most states, but that imbalance is intensified by voter ID requirements. In states where ID is not needed to vote, the gap between white and Latino turnout rates is just 5.3 percent in general elections. But that number jumps to 11.9 percent in states that do require ID. There's a 4.8 percent gap between black and white turnout in non-voter ID states compared with a 8.5 percent gap between black and white voters in voter ID states. [CityLab, 2/5/16]