The Common Good

Myths We Live By? Voter Fraud & Jim Crow Dead And Gone

Source: Patheos
Date: October 11, 2013

A friend asked me the following questions based on my blog post with Tom Krattenmaker on the recent change to the Voting Rights Act:

“Should unqualified individuals be allowed to vote? How do you propose to address voter fraud in a way that is more extremely simple and fair as providing qualifying identification?”

In response, we first need to ask if voter fraud is really such a big issue requiring enormous legislation, or if it is greatly exaggerated. Here’s what New York University’s Brennan Center (at the School of Law) claims concerning voter fraud:

• Fraud by individual voters is both irrational and extremely rare.
• Many vivid anecdotes of purported voter fraud have been proven false or do not demonstrate fraud.
• Voter fraud is often conflated with other forms of election misconduct.
• Raising the unsubstantiated specter of mass voter fraud suits a particular policy agenda.
• Claims of voter fraud should be carefully tested before they become the basis for action.

Here is the link to the full report.

In addition to looking to the Brennan Center, I decided to ask Lisa Sharon Harper, who serves as Director of Mobilizing for Sojourners. Here are her responses:

Voter fraud as a phenomenon that needs massive legislation to stop is a myth. Check out the link for The Brennan Center’s report. It is a very reliable source.

Voter ID: When voters register to vote, they have to show acceptable federal ID. To demand that they also purchase or pay the expense to obtain state-issued ID to vote at the polls places an undue burden on poor people, the sick and the elderly, who may not have the financial means or the transportation to drive to the site where the ID is obtained. They also may not have the financial means to pay for the additional photo identification card. In this way, the outcome of Voter ID laws is like that of the Poll Taxes that were required for minorities to pay during the era of Jim Crow segregation. It requires an extra fee to vote and that places an undue burden on less resourced people.

One of the tactics of people who are trying to limit the ability of particular communities to vote is to narrow the “qualifications” of those who can vote. For example, in some states, one cannot vote if you have a felony record. Seems reasonable. Right? Well, that’s not the way it used to be. Here’s a report on felony disenfranchisement laws by The Sentencing Project.