In today’s USA Today, former DNC interim chair Donna Brazile claims that Republicans are trying to block voters from the polls and reduce the voting rights of ”Democratic-leaning Americans.” She asserts that Republicans are passing state ballot integrity laws — such as voter photo-ID requirements – to limit the participation of minority voters, the young, and the poor (purported Obama voters) heading into the 2012 elections. Brazile asks, ”Do we really want to see Florida’s 2000 election controversy replayed?”
Expect to see lots more of this leading to the presidential election. The 2000 presidential election produced voluminous claims of rampant voter intimidation, suppression, and harassment in Florida. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights investigated these claims over a six-month period immediately after the election. The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department also conducted a separate investigation.
Despite numerous allegations suggesting widespread voter intimidation, suppression, and harassment, the Commission’s investigation produced just two ostensible instances of perceived voter intimidation. Were there voting problems in Florida? Sure, as in every election. But the Justice Department found no credible evidence that Floridians were intentionally denied the right to vote.
In contrast, a subsequent media analysis showed that at least 2000 votes were cast illegally in Florida in the 2000 presidential election. Since the margin of victory in Florida was 537 votes, the fraudulent votes were sufficient to affect the outcome of the election.
That’s not an isolated example. Evidence adduced at various commission hearings suggests numerous instances of actual voter fraud. The cases involve organizations and individuals who register ineligible voters, dead people, and fictional characters. In an infamous Ohio case during the 2004 presidential election campaign, a canvasser paid with crack cocaine registered Dick Tracy, Mary Poppins, and scores of other equally noteworthy characters.
Again, these aren’t isolated cases. A major 2001 voter registration drive in St. Louis’s black community produced 3,800 new voter cards. When some of the names appeared suspicious, elections officials investigated all of the cards and determined that every single one was fraudulent. Dogs, the dead, and people who simply didn’t want to register were among the new registrants.
The problem isn’t only that canvassers are being paid to produce manifestly fraudulent voter registrations; it’s also that voter rolls throughout the country are being padded with hundreds of thousands of false and fraudulent names. For example, testimony by John Sample before the Senate Rules Committee showed that Alaska had 503,000 people on its voter rolls but only 437,000 people of voting age in the entire state. Before the last presidential election, 140,000 Florida voters were registered in multiple jurisdictions.
This isn’t a minor concern. The 1998 Miami mayoral election actually had to be set aside due to rampant absentee-ballot forgeries.
Voter fraud isn’t the imaginary phenomenon some claim it to be. Brazile bemoans the the expense of voter ID requirements ($10 million over four years in Indiana, according to her). Given the closeness of so many recent elections that could’ve been decided by fraudulent ballots, is $10 million per state too much to spend on improving election integrity?
— Peter Kirsanow is a member of the U.S.Commission on Civil Rights.