Virtually every time I write about voter fraud, I feel compelled to make two over-arching points beyond the specifics of any given case. First, despite the president's baseless claims to the contrary, there is no evidence that large-scale voter fraud is an epidemic in America. The notion that "millions" of illegal votes were cast for Hillary Clinton last fall is preposterous. Trump does himself no favors by wildly exaggerating the impact of a phenomenon that many on the Left insist is a fictional problem. Second, it's not a fictional problem. As we've seen over and over and over and over and over and over again, people do cast fraudulent ballots in American elections. This should be unacceptable, and (overwhelmingly popular) attempts to preserve the integrity of our electoral system should not be demagogued as "voter suppression." Illegal votes should be suppressed through common-sense legal measures that impose minimal hardships and obstacles upon eligible citizens.
One of the arguments that voter fraud apologists offer when they're confronted with hard evidence of a practice they deny exists is that even if there are "isolated incidents" here and there, they still amount to rounding errors that don't impact the outcomes of races. This is a weak argument, especially in light of the fact that the US presidency was decided by a margin of a few hundred Floridians in 2000. Speaking of Florida, go back and read this post about the illegal voters uncovered by a local reporter a few years ago; he used a narrow method, and limited his search to a limited area of the state, yet he tracked down multiple non-citizens who were actively voting in American elections. In a new case out of Florida, one county has just purged 16 ineligible voters from the rolls amid a legal battle over a local election that ended up being determined by a margin of...16 votes:
Putnam County elections officials said Monday they have now purged 16 people from the voter rolls who cast fraudulent ballots in last fall’s election. The news comes as a judge weighs the fate of an election contest lawsuit that challenges the legitimacy of Sheriff Homer “Gator” DeLoach’s election in a race decided by 16 votes. The case went to trial April 12. The lawsuit was filed by Jonathan Kinney, who lost after multiple recounts after unofficial election night returns had him ahead by 18 votes. It says 42 ballots cast by ineligible voters, from non-residents and felons to dead people, undermined the integrity of the election...Carolyn Faunce, chief deputy to Overturf, confirmed that officials have removed six voters, including five felons and a man deemed incompetent by the court system, in addition to the 10 felons previously detailed at trial.
The Florida Times-Union story goes on to note that due to ballot secrecy, it's impossible to know if all, or even most, of the ineligible voters helped tip the race to the winning candidate. But Kinney's attorneys found at least one convicted felon who attested in a deposition that he'd contributed to the dubious victory margin. Sometimes races come down to a fractional handful of votes. How much fraud are "anti-suppression" activists willing to tolerate in the name of preserving voting rights? Don't legitimate voters have the right to not have their ballot canceled out by an illegitimate tally? Meanwhile, out of North Carolina:
An investigation by the N.C. Board of Elections has found that 508 voters who cast ballots last November weren’t eligible to vote – and the vast majority of them were felons serving active sentences. The State Board of Elections released the audit report Friday in response to public records requests and a request from members of Congress. The report says that 441 voters appear to have been serving active felony sentences on Election Day – many of them on probation. Convicted felons can vote in North Carolina only after completing their sentences, including any probation and parole. In addition, the investigation found 41 non-citizens who cast ballots, 24 voters who voted twice and two people who falsely voted using the name of a family member who’d recently died.
Again, this is a minuscule number in the context of the millions of North Carolinians who voted last fall. But that state's gubernatorial race was decided by two-tenths of one percent. Mix in potentially more-widespread instances double voting (a problem we've flagged before, based on North Carolina officials' findings), and things could look dicier. Opponents of voter ID laws, including Politifact writers, are eager to point out that requiring identification would only have potentially prevented a handful of documented cases of 2016 voter fraud in the Tar Heel State -- where a recent ID law has been thrown out by the courts. It's true that photo ID provisions only go so far in blocking or deterring illegal voting. That's why other measures should be seriously considered, including much more efficient systems of purging dead and ineligible voters from the rolls, as well as potential safeguards against people voting in multiple states. President Trump signed an executive order last week to establish a commission charged with exploring some of these issues. If the panel focuses on conjuring up some fig leaf justifications for the president's bogus "millions" assertion, it will be a waste of time and money. For what it's worth, one of the officials tapped to lead the task force says that's not their goal. But if it approaches these questions seriously, and manages to eschew partisan rancor, it could prove to be a worthwhile endeavor.