The right wing media and blogosphere are furiously promoting a new “study” on voter fraud by Horace Cooper, a black conservative who claims that photo ID laws and other Republican initiatives to combat virtually non-existent voter fraud help protect poor and minority voters.
Though outlets like Fox News are calling it a “study,” it’s nothing of the sort. It’s little more than an op-ed piece that lists allegations of voter fraud, most of which turn out to be pure air when they’re examined. Here’s a great example:
Then there is New Mexico, where the secretary of state recently identified over 64,000 instances – or nearly 10% of those who voted – of voter irregularities sent to the state police for investigation.
This claim demonstrates two things: Cooper’s utter lack of honesty and how the right uses these huge numbers of potential illegal votes as evidence of actual illegal votes. We’ve seen these claims all over the country. When they say “voter irregularities” what they mean is any discrepancy between the state’s Qualified Voter File and any other state database. So they find 64,000 “discrepancies” between those databases and then leap to the conclusion that there may have been 64,000 people voting illegally. OMG! That’s terrible! Yeah, it would be. But it simply isn’t true.
In fact, that same secretary of state that found those “discrepancies” released a report after examining all of them and guess what was found? More than 99.9% of them were simply clerical errors — a missing middle initial in one database compared to another, or a missing apartment number, or a new address that was updated in one database but not the other, and so forth. The end result? A grand total of 19 potential illegal votes — even those have not yet been substantiated. And none of them involved impersonating a voter at the polls, which is the only thing that photo ID laws could possibly prevent (they were all cases of someone illegally registered to vote, so they were on the voter rolls and if they showed their ID, they’d be allowed to vote even under the Republican restrictions).
And this is important: That report came out in November, 2011. Cooper’s report is dated August, 2012. So he’s still claiming 64,000 potential cases of voter fraud in New Mexico 10 months after the same person who made the initial claim of that number found that there were only 19 possible cases of actual voter fraud out of that 64,000. That tells you pretty much all you need to know about Cooper’s rigorous analysis.
Here’s another great example of the dishonesty of this “study”:
Lest we think that this sort of thing only happens on the east coast, we should remember the illegal ballots cast by an estimated 5,000 non-citizens in Colorado’s elections in 2010. Colorado’s Secretary of State reported that a state study found nearly 12,000 people registered to vote in Colorado who were not citizens and were therefore not legally eligible to vote. Of those, the state believes that perhaps as many as 5,000 voted in the 2010 general election.
Almost all of this is false. As Justin Levett points out, what the Colorado study actually showed was that 11,805 people were registered to vote who had not been eligible to vote at the time they got their driver’s license. But all but 11,699 of those people had registered to vote long after they got their driver’s license, often many years later. You don’t have to be a citizen to get a driver’s license, of course, so it’s not evidence of anything that someone who was not a citizen when they got their license would be a citizen, and therefore eligible to vote, when they later register to vote. In fact, during the same time frame that this state study covered, more than 32,000 Colorado residents became American citizens. It would hardly be a surprise if 1/3 of those who became citizens during that time period registered to vote after having earlier received a driver’s license.
The more you examine these claims of voter fraud, the more obvious it becomes that it is virtually non-existent. And the Republicans resort to these kinds of obvious distortions to justify policies that could disenfranchise millions of poor and minority voters. But that’s a feature, not a bug.
Talking Points Memo also points out that Cooper has a serious credibility problem himself. He was one of the staffers convicted of falsifying disclosure reports to cover up illegal gifts from Jack Abramoff, a charge to which he pleaded guilty.