O'Keefe Video Doesn't Show “Dead People Vote In NH”

James O'Keefe

James O'Keefe, a discredited liar with a history of releasing deceptively edited videos that ultimately fail to back up his claims, has released his latest video. This one purports to demonstrate how “Dead People Vote” in New Hampshire, but instead largely shows the logical incoherence of the right wing's voter fraud paranoia.

For years, conservatives have fearmongered about the perils of voter fraud; nearly every election brings with it new claims from the right that Democrats and their ACORN allies are on the verge of stealing elections. While actual examples of such fraud are extremely rare, conservatives have used this hysteria to push through laws in several states requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls in order to vote. Such laws have not yet spread to New Hampshire, where Gov. John Lynch vetoed a voter ID bill last year.

With his last set of videos largely seen as meaningless and pathetic, his fundraising in shambles, and his allies leaving him in disgust, O'Keefe clearly hopes to press this non-issue to revive his standing in the conservative movement. As always, the Daily Caller is happy to help out, already trumpeting the “bombshell video” that they received “exclusively” from O'Keefe.

In the service of this aim, O'Keefe and associate Spencer Meads visited a number of polling locations during the January 10 New Hampshire primaries armed with hidden cameras. At each polling location, the videographer in question would approach a poll worker who was checking in voters and ask the poll worker if a recently deceased voter's name is on the rolls. When the poll worker, assuming that the right-wing operative is presenting themselves as that person, attempts to give them a ballot, the videographer says that they don't have their ID and leaves. O'Keefe provided the Daily Caller the following explanation for the purpose of the video:

In an interview with TheDC on Wednesday, O'Keefe said the exposé shows how voter fraud can be easier to perpetrate when identification isn't required.

“There is fraud going on and our goal is to visualize it for people,” he said.

But O'Keefe's claim aside, there is simply no evidence that such fraud occurs more often then, say, community organizations are asked to help set up child sex rings. In a 2007 report, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that there are a “handful” of cases when votes have actually cast in the names of the deceased, compared to thousands of such allegations that ultimately proved fruitless:

Allegations of “dead voters” are also popular, not least for the entertaining pop culture references to be found in the headlines: “Among Voters in New Jersey, G.O.P. Sees Dead People,” for example, or “Dead Man Voting.” After further investigation, however, these allegedly dead voters often turn up perfectly healthy.

There are a handful of known cases in which documentation shows that votes have been cast in the names of voters who have died before the vote was submitted.

It is far more common, however, to see unfounded allegations of epidemic voting from beyond the grave, with a chuckle and a reference to Gov. Earl Long's quip (“When I die -- if I die -- I want to be buried in Louisiana, so I can stay active in politics.”) or Rep. Charlie Rangel's update (same idea, but takes place in Chicago). [Footnotes excised]

Indeed, as John Samples of Cato told TPM, “The big question for policy always was what was the extent of it, and this doesn't solve that question.”

While there is no evidence that O'Keefe-style schemes have actually been in use, there is significant evidence that voter ID laws have prevented eligible voters from casting ballots.