Weird Internet Ideas: Better debunkings on the myth of in person voting fraud

In the previous posts, I concentrated on the Heritage Foundation ‘database’ because it makes sense to see first if even the biased/partisan case holds water. The answer is that it doesn’t. In-person voting fraud is a not a major issue – for example, the Heritage Foundation data has a grand total of SIX entries listed as impersonation. Given the database was intended to bolster the case for strict voter ID requirements, that is extraordinary. Voter ID laws are like dropping a huge metallic object from orbit to crack a nut – and not an intractable nut like a Brazil, more like a pinenut.

The so-called voter suppression tactics are essentially fraudulent. The term is used because of an appearance that this is a case of over-zealousness on a topic on which state governments have a legitimate interest. Looking at the disparity between the damage done to the electoral process compared with the scale of the problem supposedly addressed shows that this is beyond over-zealousness.

Consider this story:

40 thousand+ applications seized because of 10 applications with errors (and hence deemed potentially fraudulent registrations). Armed police used to raid an office – primarily it seems to disrupt their work.

Here is an alternate view

This report calls for a narrow definition of voter fraud:

“Voter fraud” is fraud by voters.
More precisely, “voter fraud” occurs when individuals cast ballots despite knowing that they are ineligible to vote, in an attempt to defraud the election system.
This sounds straightforward. And yet, voter fraud is often conflated, intentionally or unintentionally, with other forms of election misconduct or irregularities.
That makes sense, but unfortunately trying to control language when one side has a vested interest not to and mass-media plays along, is a Sisyphean task. I’ve gone the other direction – if fraud is defined widely (as Republicans prefer) then apply a wide definition because a wide definition encompasses the bigger attempt to rig the electoral process against democracy.
It is classic misdirection – look over here at this thing, so people don’t notice this other thing going on under their noses. And it is effective. Consider the comments on this blog that sent me off to better inform myself about voter fraud. We had claims from a regular contributor about graveyards full of voters. Meanwhile in reality:
Death records.
Voting from the grave offers salacious headlines, and investigators often attempt to match death records to voter rolls in an attempt to produce purported evidence of fraud. Yet in addition to the problems with inaccurate matching identified above, a simple match of death records to voter rolls may conceal citizens who voted before dying, in quite ordinary fashion. In Maryland in 1995, for example, an exhaustive investigation revealed that of 89 alleged deceased voters, none were actually dead at the time the ballot was cast. The federal agent in charge of the investigation said that the nearest they came was when they “found one person who had voted then died a week after the election.”
Similarly, in New Hampshire, postcards were sent to the addresses of citizens who voted in the 2004 general election; one card was returned as undeliverable because the voter died after Election Day, but before the postcard arrived at her home.
Even in ideal circumstances, matching identities from one set of records with another is prone to error. I’ve worked with data involving relatively small numbers of people, with individual IDs, that should correspond as key fields that still has inconsistencies.

10 responses to “Weird Internet Ideas: Better debunkings on the myth of in person voting fraud”

      • Rolling Stone has also done some good reporting on the systematic and one-sided efforts to stop certain constituencies from voting in a disturbingly large number of states. It’s really fundamentaly anti-democratic (like undercutting quality public education) and reveals their fear that they can’t actually win on a straight-up, honest vote. And I agree with Greg about the potential for malfeasance with hacking or tampering with voting machines (Diebold etc). There was a film called “Hacking Democracy” awhile back, if I recall correctly.


        • I hadn’t read that prior but it does demonstrate how cynically-inept these claims and the actions that follow them are. Two people in different states with the same name and birth date? That is weak evidence of them being the same person – particularly for some ethnic groups were given-names and family-names might be less varied (e.g. ethnically Chinese surnames )


      • The secret no-fly lists with babies’ names on them also do not inspire confidence in the list-keepers.


      • There was a report about the disenfranchisements for alleged voting fraud on German TV and one of the examples given was singer Willie Nelson who was informed that he had already voted in another state – as a woman.

        Now Willie Nelson has gorgeous braids for an older man, but braids don’t make him a woman.


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