While reporting on voter ID laws, The Washington Post correctly noted that they mostly affect minorities, senior citizens, and low-income voters, but the paper also gave a platform to the conservative myth that these laws prevent voter ID fraud, without noting there is virtually no factual evidence to support claims of widespread in-person voter impersonation.
Wash. Post Quotes Conservatives Saying Voter ID Laws Meant To Prevent Voter Fraud
Wash. Post: Officials Say Voter ID Laws Are “Needed To Combat Voter Fraud.” The Washington Post’s Sari Horwitz profiled several Texas residents attempting to register to vote under the state’s voter ID laws, and relied on conservatives who say the laws are “needed to combat voter fraud” to explain the rationale behind them. Horwitz failed to note the lack of evidence supporting the claims. From the May 23 Washington Post article:
In November, 17 states will have voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election. Eleven of those states will require their residents to show a photo ID. They include swing states such as Wisconsin and states with large African American and Latino populations, such as North Carolina and Texas. On Tuesday, the entire 15-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans is to begin hearing a case regarding the legality of the Texas law, considered to be the most stringent in the country.
Supporters say that everyone should easily be able to get a photo ID and that the requirement is needed to combat voter fraud.
Soon after Obama’s election, a surge of Republican-led state legislatures passed laws requiring photo IDs.
“Voters who have to show ID constantly in their everyday lives certainly don’t see ID as a problem,” said Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative at the conservative Heritage Foundation. “It is a common-sense, basic requirement needed to ensure election integrity, which is an essential part of free and fair elections.”
Opponents say that the laws were designed to target people more likely to vote Democratic.
Last week, during the federal trial on Wisconsin’s voter-ID law, a former Republican staffer testified that GOP senators were “giddy” about the idea that the state’s 2011 voter-ID law might keep Democrats, particularly minorities in Milwaukee, from voting and help them win at the polls. “They were politically frothing at the mouth,” said the aide, Todd Allbaugh. [The Washington Post, 5/23/16]
In Actuality, In-Person Voter Fraud Is Almost Nonexistent
Loyola University Professor: Only 31 Out Of Over 1 Billion Ballots Subject To In-Person Voter Fraud. Loyola University Law School professor Justin Levitt, who investigated “any specific, credible allegation” of in-person voter impersonation fraud, found a total of “about 31 different incidents” since 2000 out of over 1 billion ballots cast. From an August 6, 2014, piece Levitt wrote for The Washington Post’s Wonkblog:
This sort of misdirection is pretty common, actually. 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, Wonkblog, 8/6/14]
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”:
Mainstream election experts say that Spakovsky has had an improbably large impact. Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine, and the author of a recent book, “The Voting Wars,” says, “Before 2000, there were some rumblings about Democratic voter fraud, but it really wasn’t part of the main discourse. But thanks to von Spakovsky and the flame-fanning of a few others, the myth that Democratic voter fraud is common, and that it helps Democrats win elections, has become part of the Republican orthodoxy.” In December, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, wrote, “Election fraud is a real and persistent threat to our electoral system.” He accused Democrats of “standing up for potential fraud—presumably because ending it would disenfranchise at least two of its core constituencies: the deceased and double-voters.” Hasen believes that Democrats, for their part, have made exaggerated claims about the number of voters who may be disenfranchised by Republican election-security measures. But he regards the conservative alarmists as more successful. “Their job is really done,” Hasen says. “It’s common now to assert that there is a need for voter I.D.s, even without any evidence.”
The vast majority of the lawmakers who have pushed for voter I.D.s have been Republicans. As Bill Clinton has put it, “This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate”—when many young and minority voters stayed home—“than the 2008 electorate.” Clinton said that the “effort to limit the franchise” was the most determined “since we got rid of the poll tax and all the other Jim Crow burdens on voting.”
Republicans who support tighter voter security say that they are not seeking political advantage. But last summer Pennsylvania’s Republican House Leader, Mike Turzai, was caught on tape boasting to colleagues that the state’s new I.D. law was “going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” Earlier this month, a state judge suspended the controversial law’s implementation until after the 2012 election; a federal court has done the same with South Carolina’s new I.D. law.
Hasen, who calls von Spakovsky a leading member of “the Fraudulent Fraud Squad,” told me that he respects many other conservative advocates in his area of expertise, but dismisses scholars who allege widespread voter-impersonation fraud. “I see them as foot soldiers in the Republican army,” he says. “It’s just a way to excite the base. They are hucksters. They’re providing fake scholarly support. They’re not playing fairly with the facts. And I think they know it.” [The New Yorker, 10/29/12]
The Newest Voter ID Laws Are Also The Strictest
NY Times: “The Texas ID Law Is One of the Strictest … In The Country.” The New York Times’ Erik Eckholm noted that Texas’ voter ID law is one of the country’s strictest and that a federal appeals panel called it a “breach” of the Voting Rights Act. From an August 5, 2015, New York Times article:
A federal appeals panel ruled Wednesday that a strict voter identification law in Texas discriminated against blacks and Hispanics and violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — a decision that election experts called an important step toward defining the reach of the landmark law.
The Texas ID law is one of the strictest of its kind in the country. It requires voters to bring a government-issued photo ID to the polls. Accepted forms of identification include a driver’s license, a United States passport, a concealed-handgun license and an election identification certificate issued by the State Department of Public Safety. [The New York Times, 8/5/15]
CBS: “Thousands Faced Being Turned Away From The Polls” In North Carolina. CBS’ Mark Strassmann reported in April that North Carolina was one of seven states to enact stricter voter ID laws after “record black voter turnout in 2008.” With these new laws, Strassmann noted, at least 225,000 voters may not have the correct form of ID:
In North Carolina, thousands faced being turned away from the polls if they didn't have enough identification to meet the state's strict voter ID law.
The law was passed even though voter fraud is almost unknown there. Opponents say the law is meant to silence minority voters.
North Carolina estimates 225,000 of its voters may not have a valid driver's license. Of the eleven states with record black voter turnout in 2008, seven have enacted stricter voter ID laws, including North Carolina.
“These laws are a backlash against increasing participation by new voters in the political process,” said Wendy Weiser, who studies elections at NYU's law school. [CBSnews.com, 4/15/16]
MSNBC: Over 300,000 People May Be Disenfranchised By Wisconsin Voter ID Law. MSNBC’s Meredith Clark noted that hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin voters may be affected by the state’s voter ID law, which requires copies of valid state photo IDs. Clark reported that in the 2014 elections, at least 200 ballots were returned and risked being “invalidated”:
More than 300,000 people could be affected by the ID law, which Republican Governor Scott Walker signed in 2011. Walker is currently tied in the polls with Democrat Mary Burke, although he has a slight lead among likely voters.
Voters who plan to vote using absentee ballots must now include copies of a valid photo ID. Approximately 200 ballots have already been returned and are at risk of being invalidated if the voters don’t take that extra step.
With a little more than a month until the election, voters without acceptable identification — a group that includes veterans and students who have just gone to college, minority voters, and seniors — must find time to visit one of the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices to obtain IDs. Of 92 DMV offices, 31 are open during regular business hours and only 3 are open on weekends, so availability is limited. Some are open only a few times a month. As of now, there are no plans to extend hours at any locations. [MSNBC.com, 9/23/14]