Debunking The Conservative Media's 2014 Voter Fraud Horror Stories

Right-wing media outlets have used misleading voter fraud stories to stoke fears of rampant voter fraud in the months leading up to the 2014 midterm elections. But experts state that voter fraud in the U.S. is virtually non-existent and that voter ID laws would actually disenfranchise voters.

Is voter impersonation a rampant problem?

Are undocumented immigrants voting illegally?

Do we have proof of voter fraud?

Are Democrats registering fraudulent voters?

Is voter fraud becoming more common?

Are voter ID laws really discriminatory?

Do voter ID laws really reduce turnout?

MYTH: Voter Impersonation Fraud Is A Major Problem

Fox Correspondent Eric Shawn Disputes Argument That Voter Impersonation Fraud Is A Problem That “Doesn't Exist.” On the October 29 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, Fox News senior correspondent Eric Shawn responded to a statement from Attorney General Eric Holder condemning “unnecessary restrictions that discourage or discriminate or disenfranchise in the name of a problem that doesn't exist,” by saying: “of course voter fraud exists in the United States,” and that Holder is “not actually factually correct.” But as O'Reilly pointed out, Holder was talking about strict voter ID and voter impersonation, while Shawn nevertheless shifted the conversation to cases of vote buying, which would not be prevented by voter ID laws. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 10/29/14]

FACT: There Is No Evidence Of Massive Voter Impersonation Fraud

Experts Agree That Voter Impersonation is “Virtually Non-Existent.” The New Yorker reported that experts agree that actual incidents of in-person voter fraud -- the type of voter fraud that strict voter ID laws can prevent -- are “virtually non-existent,” and fears of voter fraud have been largely invented as a way to “excite the base.” [The New Yorker, 10/29/12]

Brennan Center For Justice: Allegations Of Widespread Voter Fraud “Simply Do Not Pan Out.” The New York University School of Law's Brennan Center has repeatedly explained that in-person voter fraud is not a justification for strict voter ID laws, because voter impersonation is “more rare than getting struck by lightning,” and allegations of widespread fraud typically “amount to a great deal of smoke without much fire” and “simply do not pan out.” [Brennan Center For Justice, 2007]

Loyola University Professor: Only 31 Out Of 1 Billion Ballots Subject To In-Person Voter Fraud. Loyola University Law School professor Justin Levitt, who investigated “any specific, credible allegation” of voter impersonation fraud, found a total of “about 31 different incidents” since 2000 of in-person voter fraud out of over 1 billion ballots cast. [The Washington Post, Wonkblog, 8/6/14]

MYTH: Study Shows Huge Percentages Of Undocumented Immigrants Illegally Cast Votes

Fox Host Hyped Questionable Study To Stoke Fears That “Illegals Voted Between Two And Six Percent The Last Two Elections.” Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed a recent study found that “illegals voted between two and six percent over the last two elections,” and said it “reveals a significant number of noncitizens casting votes alongside real citizens right here in the United States come election day.” Fox guest Rachel Campos-Duffy of the Libre Initiative, a Koch-funded non-profit that targets Latino voters, speculated that non-citizen voting could have “national implications.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 10/27/14]

FACT: Experts Have Cast Doubt On The Study's Methodology And Conclusion

Experts Raised Doubts About The Study's Methodology And Conclusion. Brown University political scientist Michael Tesler questioned the study's “methodological challenges,” noting the possibility that non-citizens may have misreported their citizenship status. He pointed out that many self-reported non-citizens in 2012 reported being citizens in 2010, indicating a high rate of response error “which raises important doubts about their conclusions” Tesler also noted that a “number of academics and commentators have already expressed skepticism about that paper's assumptions and conclusions” which seem to be “tenuous at best.” [The Washington Post, Monkey Cage, 10/27/14]

The Study's Authors Outlined The Limitations Of Their Findings. In a October 24 blog post in The Washington Post, Jessie Richman and David Earnest, two authors of the study, admitted that their “extrapolation to specific state-level or district-level election outcomes is fraught with substantial uncertainty.” The authors noted that the non-citizen sample they examined was “modest” and relied on self-reporting, which can create errors, and attempts to verify the accuracy of the self-reporting was imperfect and supplemented by estimates. [The Washington Post, Monkey Cage, 10/27/14]

MYTH: Discovery Of Names Of Ineligible Voters On Voter Rolls Is Proof Of Potential Voter Fraud

Laura Ingraham Asks If The Existence Of Immigrants' Names On NC Voter Rolls Reveals “Nefarious Attempts To Fraud The Vote.” After a North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) review found the names of 145 immigrants who received Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status on the state's voter rolls, Fox News and ABC contributor Laura Ingraham claimed the names were proof of “voter manipulation, ballot fraud,” and wondered if they showed “nefarious attempts to fraud the vote.” Ingraham speculated that the “illegal immigrants who are here under DACA,” had been “fast track[ed] ... to voting.” [Courtside Entertainment Group, The Laura Ingraham Show, 10/24/14]

FACT: The Discovery Of Potentially Ineligible Voters Is Proof That The Voter Verification System Works

North Carolina Investigated Citizenship Of Flagged Voters And Is Implementing Formal “Challenge Process” To Prevent Ineligible Voters From Casting Ballots. The North Carolina Board of Elections conducted an investigation to verify the eligibility of 10,000 registered voters who had been flagged as having “questionable citizenship status” using Department of Homeland Security and N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles data. The investigation identified 109 DACA recipients who were “on the voter rolls, but have not voted in any prior election,” and is implementing a formal challenge process that will allow election officials to insure illegal voting doesn't occur. [North Carolina State Board of Elections, 10/24/14]

DHS: DACA Does Not Grant Citizenship, A Requirement For Voting. Undocumented immigrants who received DACA status were not granted citizenship nor any right to vote. As the Department of Homeland Security states:

An individual who has received deferred action is authorized by DHS to be present in the United States, and is therefore considered by DHS to be lawfully present during the period deferred action is in effect. However, deferred action does not confer lawful status upon an individual, nor does it excuse any previous or subsequent periods of unlawful presence. [DHS, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 10/23/14]

MYTH: GA Democrats Committed Voter Registration Fraud

Fox Segment Hypes “Allegations Of Voter Fraud” Caused By Georgia Democrats. On Fox News' America's Newsroom, a segment on the “allegations of voter registration fraud by Georgia Democrats linked to Senate candidate Michelle Nunn” highlighted Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's investigation into allegations that 25 voter registration applications and three canvassing sheets turned in by the nonpartisan New Georgia Project contained some type of inaccurate information, while another 26 were flagged as “suspicious.” [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 9/19/14]

FACT: Questionable Voter Registration Forms Were Submitted As Required By Georgia Law

New Georgia Project Turned In Forms Because They “Don't Get To Decide If Something Is Good Or Bad.” The Fox News segment did not mention that Georgia law requires all applications -- even those the New Georgia Project thought were incomplete or inaccurate -- to be turned in to state officials. As Stacey Abrams, head of the New Georgia Project, told The Washington Post, her organization flagged the forms before submitting them to the secretary of state because “we don't get to decide if something is good or bad.” The secretary of state's office also suspected that only 51 out of 85,000 submitted applications, or 0.06 percent, had problems. [Media Matters, 9/19/14]

MYTH: 17 Possible Cases Of Double Voting May Mark Beginning Of Fraud Trend

National Review Online Warns 17 Potential Instances Of Duplicate Voting “May Be” Just The “Tip Of The Iceberg.” In an August 28 post, the National Review Online's Hans von Spakovsky claimed that at least 17 instances of “double voting” (where voters with matching information cast ballots in multiple states) had occurred in Maryland and Virginia. Spakovsky warned that there could be thousands more cases to come and that double voting could sway elections:

[T]he current [Virginia electoral] board has discovered 17 individuals who voted in both Fairfax County and Montgomery County, Maryland, in the 2012 election and “in some instances, on multiple occasions going back for a considerable period of time,” according to letters the board sent to the Justice Department, [Fairfax County Prosecutor Raymond] Morrogh, and Virginia attorney general Mark Herring on Aug. 22.

This is not a case of voters with the same name being mistakenly confused as the same individual. All 17 voters were identified by their full name, date of birth, and Social Security number, according to the Virginia Voters Alliance (VVA), a citizens' organization that turned these names over to the electoral board.

It was the VVA -- along with another citizens' group dedicated to election integrity, Election Integrity Maryland (EIM) -- that did the research on the voter files in Virginia and Maryland to find these illegal voters. And this may be only the tip of the iceberg: VVA and EIM turned the names of 43,893 individuals who appear to be registered in both states over to the State Boards of Elections in Virginia and Maryland. Fairfax County alone has more than 10,000 such duplicate registrations. These 17 voters are only a subset of at least 164 voters their research showed voted in both states in the 2012 election. [National Review Online, 8/28/14]

FACT: Allegations Of Double Voting Rarely, If Ever, Turn Out To Be Fraud, And Voter ID Doesn't Stop Double Voting

Election Expert: In The Past, Most Double Voting Matches “Did Not In Fact Represent Fraud.” Doug Chapin, the director of the Program for Excellence in Election Administration, noted that while it is important to investigate potential instances of double voting, “in the past ... most if not all of the matches did not in fact represent fraud.” He also explained that voter ID laws “wouldn't have prevented this.” Because the risk of double voting compared to the risk of voter disenfranchisement is so disproportionate, the editorial board of the Baltimore Sun characterized efforts to prevent that sort of fraud through strict voter ID “the equivalent of using a sledgehammer on a fly.” [Media Matters, 9/3/14]

MYTH: Voter ID Laws Aren't Racially Discriminatory

Rush Limbaugh: The Idea That Voter ID “Will Prevent Minorities From Voting” Is “Absurd.” On the October 22 edition of his radio show, Rush Limbaugh claimed that President Obama's recent comments encouraging voting among those who are not affected by strict voter ID laws undercut accusations that these laws are discriminatory. He claimed that the reasoning of those who say voter ID “will prevent minorities from voting” is “absurd,” and that the “real reason” Democrats object to these laws “is so they can cheat.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Rush Limbaugh Show, 10/22/14]

WSJ's Jason Riley: Obama Administration's Statements Against Voter ID Laws Are “Overt Racial Appeals To Get Out The Base.” In a segment on the October 20 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Bret Baier, Wall Street Journal opinion editor Jason Riley said that “the voter ID stuff [the Obama administration is] talking about constantly, as if there's some sort of Republican conspiracy out there to deny blacks the franchise” is “just not true.” He argued that the administration's opposition to voter ID laws is really “overt racial appeals to get out the base.” [Fox News, Special Report with Bret Baier, 10/20/14]

FACT: Experts And Supreme Court Justices Agree Voter ID Laws Have Discriminatory Effects

Brennan Center's Andrew Cohen: “Mountains Of Evidence” Led To Federal Court Ruling That Texas Voter ID Law Was Discriminatory. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Brennan Center for Justice fellow Andrew Cohen noted that federal courts have twice found Texas' voter ID law to be racially discriminatory, both in intent and effect. Although the Supreme Court allowed the law to be implemented for the midterm elections, there are “mountains of evidence on what the law's discriminatory impact would be on minority communities,” Cohen said. He argued that the law is “one of the most discriminatory voting laws in modern history,” and “runs afoul of constitutional norms and reasonable standards of justice,” and pointed to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissenting argument that “there was ample proof the Texas law discriminates, and no proof that it doesn't.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/22/14]

MYTH: Voter ID Laws Have No Effect On Minority Voter Turnout

WSJ's Paul Gigot: Voter ID Laws Have Had “Zero Effect On Turnout.” Appearing on NBC's Meet the Press on April 13, Wall Street Journal editorial page editor Paul Gigot claimed voter ID laws have had “zero effect” on minority turnout because “African-American turnout was so much greater in 2012” than it had been previously. [NBC, Meet The Press, 4/13/14]

FACT: GAO Report Found Decreased Turnout Among People Of Color Was Attributable To Voter ID Laws

Wash. Post: “Turnout Dropped At Least 1.9 Percentage Points In Kansas And 2.2 Percentage Points In Tennessee Thanks To” Voter ID Laws. As The Washington Post blog The Fix reported, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the potential effect of voter ID laws found that “Turnout dropped at least 1.9 percentage points in Kansas and 2.2 percentage points in Tennessee thanks to the laws,” and that “Young people, black people, and newly registered voters were the groups that were more likely to see bigger drops in turnout.” [The Washington Post, The Fix, 10/9/14]

Brennan Center's Sundeep Iyer: Those Who Argue That Voter ID Laws Don't Impact Turnout Need “A Simple Statistics Lesson.” As former Brennan Center for Justice quantitative analyst Sundeep Iyer explained, any claim that voter ID laws don't affect minority turnout ignores “Statistics 101”:

Any good student of Statistics 101 will tell you that correlation does not imply causation. Apparently, many voter ID supporters never got the memo.


Bad statistical practices -- like old habits -- die hard. Supporters of voter ID requirements are at it again, this time misinterpreting a new set of election results in Georgia. In response to E.J. Dionne's Washington Post column on vote suppression efforts across the United States, Georgia's Secretary of State wrote to the Post's editors about how an increase in black turnout between 2006 and 2010 showed that voter ID laws do not suppress turnout. Hans von Spakovsky repeated the assertion on NPR and in USA Today, and Ohio House Speaker William Batchto the Post's editors about how an increase in black turnout between 2006 and 2010 showed that voter ID laws do not suppress turnout. Hans von Spakovsky repeated the assertion on NPR and in USA Today, and Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder picked up the same message in defending Ohio's proposed voter ID requirement. Citing the Georgia statistics in a see-this-couldn't-be-that-bad sort of way has become a central talking point among proponents of voter ID laws.

Once again, these proponents have mistaken simple correlation for causation. You don't need to be a statistician to know that without controlling for other factors that might influence turnout, the assertion that Georgia's voter ID requirement didn't depress turnout is meaningless -- at best unscientific, at worst just plain wrong. [Brennan Center For Justice, 7/6/11]