Filmmaker James O’Keefe has yet again demonstrated just how vulnerable our election system is to fraud.
A Pew Center on the States study in 2012 found that one out of eight voter registrations is inaccurate, out-of-date, or a duplicate. Some 2.8 million people are registered in two or more states, and 1.8 million registered voters are dead.
“Some twenty times, nearly a bus load, we were just a signature or two away from voting. Of course, we never signed anything, but we could have, and if we had, we could have voted and no one would have been the wiser,” is O’Keefe’s depressing conclusion.
Those who deny that voter fraud is a problem usually make two arguments. First, they say that whatever fraud exists is far more likely to occur with mail-in or absentee ballots than with in-person voter impersonation. That is true, which is why it’s regrettable that so few “deniers” are willing to support efforts to clamp down on absentee-ballot fraud. Second, they say that the low number of prosecutions for in-person voter fraud is proof that voter-ID laws designed to prevent it aren’t necessary.
But we don’t judge the extent of a law-enforcement problem in any other area solely by the number of prosecutions. The fact is that efforts like O’Keefe’s show just how hard it is to catch someone.
Nor is he the only one to demonstrate that.
Last December, New York City’s Department of Investigation detailed how its undercover agents claimed at 63 polling places to be individuals who were in fact dead, had moved out of town, or who were in jail. In 61 instances, or 97 percent of the time, they were allowed to vote. (To avoid skewing results, they voted only for nonexistent write-in candidates.) How did the city’s Board of Elections respond? Did it immediately probe and reform their sloppy procedures? Not at all. It instead demanded that the investigators be prosecuted.
The fact is that prosecutions for voter fraud are rare in part because the crime is so hard to catch, the level of proof required is high, the priority in filing such cases is low, and district attorneys are reluctant to pursue cases in which half of the ruling political class will be upset with them for doing so.
Former Democratic senator Chris Dodd once noted as the last bipartisan federal election-reform bill was passed by Congress in 2002 that the goal of our laws should be to “make it easy to vote and hard to cheat.” Indeed, there is no reason why we can’t pursue both goals. Our clearly slipshod voter-registration systems, the millions of inactive or suspect names on our voter rolls, and videos like the one James O’Keefe has made should convince us of the necessity to take action.
— John Fund is national-affairs correspondent for National Review.