By M.D. Kittle | Watchdog.org
MADISON, Wis. — The mid-term elections are right around the corner, and that means one thing: It’s voter fraud season.
While many on the left see voter fraud as a fantasy — a delusion by right-wing conspiracy theorists — the fact is, stealing votes is very much alive and well in American democracy, election experts say. And the potential for election theft could play a key role in who controls the reins in American politics.
“I don’t know if we are seeing more (voter fraud) than we have in the past, but I do think there are more folks today that understand the holes in the security of our system and are willing to take advantage of that,” national campaign and election law expert Hans von Spakovsky, told Watchdog.org this week.
And if past is prologue, the balance of power in the U.S. Senate and in statehouses and governor’s mansions nationwide could turn on some very thin lines, ripe for manipulation.
Von Spakovsky, former member of the Federal Election Commission and manager of the Election Law Reform Initiative and senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies , detailed myriad issues jeopardizing election integrity this week in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal headlined, “Here Comes the 2014 Voter Fraud.”
In the piece, von Spakovsky asserts progressives and the U.S. Department of Justice are “doing all they can to stop improvements in election integrity.”
Initiatives to restrict or remove same-day registration in some states, passage of voter identification laws and other checks on voter fraud have been vehemently — and expensively — fought by liberal organizations and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
“These moves to shore up election integrity have been resisted by progressives at every turn, claiming without evidence that such efforts suppress minority turnout,” von Spakovsky wrote. “While the lawsuits have largely failed to overturn the rules, they have succeeded in delaying their implementation and made it costly for states to improve election security.”
Case in point, the election expert said, South Carolina’s voter ID law will be in place in the November election, but it cost the state $3.5 million in 2012 to beat zU.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department in court.
Critics, such as Brendan Nyhan, an assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College, scoff at the notion of voter fraud.
“At this point, though, we can safely classify widespread voter fraud as a misperception — and one that is far more prevalent than the practice itself,” Nyhan wrote in a piece for the New York Times earlier this year.
He draws from the research of Wisconsin U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, a progressive who threw out Wisconsin’s voter ID law before a federal appeals court tore apart Adelman’s ruling and reinstated the law, passed by a Republican-controlled legislature in 2011. The U.S. Supreme Court recently intervened and ruled that voter ID could not be rolled out in Tuesday’s general election.
The district court judge examined Wisconsin’s election data and declared that “virtually no voter impersonation occurs” in the state and that “no evidence suggests that voter-impersonation fraud will become a problem at any time in the foreseeable future.”
Perhaps the Milwaukee-based judge forgot about a special investigation into sweeping allegations of fraud in Wisconsin’s largest city following the 2004 presidential election. A report issued in 2008 found that between 4,600 and 5,300 more votes were counted in Milwaukee “than the number of voters recorded as having cast ballots,” wrote election expert John Fund in a 2010 column for the Wall Street Journal.
Fund and von Spakovsky co-authored the book, “Who’s Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk.”
“Absentee ballots were cast by people living elsewhere; ineligible felons not only voted but worked at the polls; transient college students cast improper votes; and homeless voters possibly voted more than once,” Fund wrote in the Journal piece.
A Washington Post analysis, released last week, estimates that as much as 6.4 percent of non-citizens voted in 2008. The figure was pegged at 2.2 percent in 2010, according to the study, which examined date from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study.
Those numbers were “large enough to plausibly account for Democratic victories in a few close elections,” the study found.
Exhibit A: The extremely narrow victory of U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., in 2008. Franken won his race by a razor-thin 312 votes.
The consequences are all too real, von Spakovsky said, with huge implications on policy.
“That was a crucial race. Why? Because as you know Al Franken was the 60th vote to pass Obamacare,” the former FEC commissioner said. “So there we have fraud that may have affected every single person in the country.”
Listen to the entire interview with Hans von Spakovsky coming up at Watchdog Radio.