Republicans Still Searching for Real Voter Fraud

As we’ve documented many times, the Republican party is constantly claiming that voter fraud is rampant in America. And from time to time, a specific Republican official will come up with a scary sounding number, a list of thousands, or tens of thousands, of names that may have committed voter fraud. And then that number gets cited again and again, as though it represented real voter fraud. AP reports on one such example from Colorado recently:

Last year, [Republican Colorado Secretary or State Scott] Gessler estimated that 11,805 noncitizens were on the rolls.

But the number kept getting smaller.

After his office sent letters to 3,903 registered voters questioning their status, the number of noncitizens now stands at 141, based on checks using a federal immigration database. Of those 141, Gessler said 35 have voted in the past. The 141 are .004 percent of the state’s nearly 3.5 million voters.

Even those numbers could be fewer.

The Denver clerk and recorder’s office, which had records on eight of the 35 voters who cast ballots in the past, did its own verification and found that those eight people appear to be citizens.

This is a repetitious theme. Shortly before the 2004 election, the Wisconsin GOP produced a list of more than 37,000 voter registrations from the city of Milwaukee that they claimed might be fraudulent. That list was produced by checking the voter registration database against other government databases and any discrepancies at all between the two lists got an entry tagged as potentially fraudulent. But the vast, vast majority of those discrepancies turn out to be clerical errors, apartment numbers missing or wrong, or someone’s name having a slight variation in it (missing a “jr” or “sr” or something like that in one of the databases). And in those that aren’t, it still has nothing to do with actual voter fraud. Someone may have moved and their address has been updated in one system but not another, for example, but that doesn’t have anything to do with anyone actually voting twice or voting illegally. When those 37,000 names were checked, only 68 ended up having any actual discrepancies — and that doesn’t mean anyone actually voted illegally.

In Ohio that same year, Republican leaders gave scary speeches about how people were registering to vote with names like Mary Poppins and Dick Tracy — neither of which showed up to vote, of course. But there was a study of the 2002 and 2004 elections in that state that found that out of 9 million votes cast, there were 4 attempts to vote illegally.

It’s the same thing with those lists of dead voters down in Texas recently. Some of them are false positives, people who are very much alive but got flagged because someone with the same or similar name appears on a list of people who have died. Most of the rest of them are people who really are dead, but only died recently and the Qualified Voter File hasn’t been updated yet to remove them. About 7,000 people die every day in this country; it may take a while for all the databases they appear in to be updated. But no one is going to show up to vote as them, for crying out loud, so this has nothing at all to do with voter fraud.

And here’s what happened in Florida:

Florida’s search began after the state’s Division of Elections said that as many as 180,000 registered voters weren’t citizens. Like Colorado and other states, Florida relied on driver’s license data showing that people on the rolls at one point showed proof of non-citizenship, such as a green card.

Florida eventually narrowed its list of suspected noncitizens to 2,600 and found that 207 of them weren’t citizens, based on its use of the federal database called SAVE, or the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements. The system tracks who is a legal resident eligible to receive government benefits.

Of the 2,600 initially marked as possible noncitizens, about 38 percent were unaffiliated voters and 40 percent were Democrats, according to an analysis by The Miami Herald.

The state has more than 11.4 million registered voters, so the 207 amounts to .001 percent of the voter roll.

In North Carolina, the article notes, the state elections board found a total of 12 instances of voting by non-citizens, out of 6.4 million voters. Voter fraud is virtually non-existent, but the Republicans will gladly make it harder, or impossible, for hundreds of thousands of legal voters to vote in order to prevent a handful from voting illegally — because it’s in their best interests to do so.

20 comments on this post.
  1. John Hinkle:

    Instead of changing their platform to woo more voters, republicans would rather disenfranchise voters to win unfairly.

    Cheat to win.

    How immature.

  2. Jasper of Maine (I feel safe and welcome at FTB):

    My question is – how many legitimate voters are we willing to disenfranchise to prevent a single instance of voter fraud?

    Apparently, the Republican answer is something like 50000:1

  3. machintelligence:

    A bit more information from Colorado regarding “dead” voters: Since mail-in ballots are quite popular and are sent out about one month ahead of election day, it is possible to vote and then die prior to the day when the ballots are counted. These are still considered valid votes.

  4. Michael Heath:

    Americans generally do not value the fact our right to vote is considered a fundamental right. We instead take our right to vote for granted, a sort of privilege extended only to us “real Americans”.

    One of my proudest moments as an American was watching Sen. Ted Kennedy haranguing SCOTUS nominee John Roberts regarding voting rights in Mr. Roberts’ confirmation hearing*. Sen. Kennedy wanted Roberts to concede our right to vote was ‘fundamental’, where Roberts demonstrated reluctance in making such a concession. Kennedy eventually got Roberts to concede the SCOTUS had repeatedly noted our right to vote is fundamental and more importantly, Kennedy also got Roberts on the record that he personally agreed our right to vote was fundamental.

    *I’m not sure if it was the hearing confirming Roberts to the court or to be Chief Justice, I think the former.

  5. docsarvis:

    The AP reporter apparently flunked 6th grade math. 207/11.4 million is 0.000018 percent, which is zero percent when reduced to significant digits. The message is the same: voter fraud is not a problem, but the reporter gets an F for the fact error. With calculators built into every computer OS on the planet there is no excuse for this error. I bring this up because the error dilutes the message. The takeaway is that voter fraud constitutes 0.00 percent of votes cast.

  6. laurentweppe:

    I have a modest proposal:

    Every time the GOP tries to spin some story about voter fraud, I suggest to use “Right-Wing cheaters try to rig elections, Again” as a title: eventually it may sink in the zeitgeist.

  7. Chiroptera:

    docsarvis, #5: I bring this up because the error dilutes the message.

    Only for those who believe in homeopathy.

  8. docsarvis:

    Good one, Chiroptera. Almost made me spit coffee on my keyboard.

  9. Michael Heath:

    Jasper of Maine writes:

    My question is – how many legitimate voters are we willing to disenfranchise to prevent a single instance of voter fraud?

    Apparently, the Republican answer is something like 50000:1

    This raises an important topic; what should the cost be in regards to rules which suppress legitimate’s voters from voting?

    I think one important though not sole premise which should be part of the framework to decide this is the following. How to set voting policy in order to reduce the margin of error so the actual results are representative of the intentions of those who voted. However this premise on its own would be bad policy since it would suppress the ability for some people to vote, so more policy would be needed, which gets into the point Jasper raises.

    Jasper’spoint is somewhat analogous to the fact our current approach to justice acknowledges that some people guilty of crimes will not be convicted, that’s in order to minimize the probability we convict an innocent person.

  10. Michael Heath:

    docsarvis writes:

    The AP reporter apparently flunked 6th grade math. 207/11.4 million is 0.000018 percent, which is zero percent when reduced to significant digits. The message is the same: voter fraud is not a problem, but the reporter gets an F for the fact error. With calculators built into every computer OS on the planet there is no excuse for this error. I bring this up because the error dilutes the message. The takeaway is that voter fraud constitutes 0.00 percent of votes cast.

    This is an archaic argument which died out by the 1990s and was supplanted by metrics which demand a far superior process. Processes are no longer generally judged in terms of their defects as a percentage going out two decimal spots, particularly by process experts, but instead by:
    a) considering the rate of defects per million or in some cases billion, along with
    b) the variation of the margin of error.

    So not only do we expect far less defects, we demand far less variation in predicting and observing results from our process.

  11. Modusoperandi:

    Oh, please! Everybody knows that every vote for the Democrat party is, by definition, fraudulent. That’s just common sense.

  12. joeina2:

    Here’s a question no one seems to be asking the Republicans, why is this very process used in the studies, the pursuit of registry discrepancies, an insufficient method for rooting out fraudulent voters? Find them, prosecute them, and publicize it. Isn’t that why we invest heavily in a retributive justice system?

  13. ema:

    @ John Hinkle

    Not to worry, it looks like the RNC is right on top of wooing voters by submitting potentially fraudulent voter registration forms and tearing up completed voter registration form[s].

  14. Lonely Panda, e.s.l.:

    docsarvis:

    The AP reporter apparently flunked 6th grade math. 207/11.4 million is 0.000018 percent, which is zero percent when reduced to significant digits. The message is the same: voter fraud is not a problem, but the reporter gets an F for the fact error. With calculators built into every computer OS on the planet there is no excuse for this error.

    Um, it looks like you’ll share the F for fact error.

    207/11.4 million is approximately 0.000018, not 0.000018 percent. The 0.000018 is the average voter fraud per person. The average voter fraud out of 100 people (per centum) is 100 times greater: 0.0018 percent. Apparently, the reporter chose to round down rather than up.

    With built-in calculators the excuse is that they only do the arithmetic and do not tell you if you have done the correct calculation.

  15. velociraptor:

    In this is why they are all about making it hard to vote:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPsl_TuFdes

    It’s always cool when they come out and admit this kind of shit.

  16. gshelley:

    In which states does the State ID actually say the person is a non citizen? I don’t see it anywhere on my Michigan ID, so if I was somehow accidentally given a voter slip, showing my ID wouldn’t stop me voting.

  17. Modusoperandi:

    gshelley, it’s not the ID, it’s the name on it. If your name appears on this list you’re a foreigner. And if you’re on this list but not on this one you’re most likely a felon and can’t vote (and even if you’re not you’ve been pre-emptively dropped from the voter rolls because it’s best to be safe).

  18. Rick Pikul:

    @docsarvis:

    Sorry, but you do not count leading zeros when determining sigfigs.

    207/11.4M = 1.82E-5 or 0.00182% (To the correct number of significant figures.)

  19. whheydt:

    I keep thinking that, if challenged to show ID to prove I’m who I say I am for voting, I should show my current US passport…

    Odd datum… On the I-9 form that companies are supposed to file on new hires to show that the new employees is legally allowed to work in the US, it requires two piece of ID. With one exception…a US passport is good enough all by itself and nothing else is needed.

    Now if you think some of that is stringent…when my father died in 1975 (he was a civilian employee of the Navy), my mother had to produce two pieces of documentation to prove they were married. Fortunately, she still had a copy of the announcement from her home town newspaper…from 1942. Unfortunately for my fathers boss (a Navy Lieutenant) who didn’t know my father had ever been in the military at all, it mentioned that he was an Ensign (he was in the US Maritime Service), which caused a framed document to be shown to him naming my father a Lieutenant Commander in 1954. Made for a very embarrassed Lieutenant.

  20. davem:

    Meanwhile, in the UK, we all are required to return forms annually to complete the electoral roll, which is made public. This enables all of us to vote. Even if we’re not citizens – if we live here, we vote here. Seems reasonable to me. No taxation without representation! That last phrase sounds familiar, somehow; isn’t it about time you acted on the 1776 declaration, considering how much fuss you made about it?

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