Voter Fraud Still Fairly Rare

Despite the quadrennial investigations into voter registration fraud which I and others have documented here, one thing that’s important to keep in mind that actual, bona fide voter fraud–where people are either buying votes or showing up to vote under somebody else’s name–is still pretty rare.

But McCain’s voter fraud worries  about Acorn or anyone else  are unsupported by the facts, said experts on election fraud, who recall similar concerns being raised in several previous elections, despite a near-total absence of cases.

“There’s no evidence that any of these invalid registrations lead to any invalid votes,” said David Becker, project director of the “Make Voting Work” initiative for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

Becker should know: he was a lawyer for the Bush administration until 2005, in the Justice Department’s voting rights section, which was part of the administration’s aggressive anti-vote-fraud effort.

“The Justice Department really made prosecution of voter fraud of this sort a big priority in the first half of this decade, and they really didn’t come up with anything,” he said.

“We’re chasing these ghosts of voter fraud, like chickens without a head,” said Lorraine Minnite, a political science professor at Barnard College in New York who has researched voter fraud and fraud claims for most of the past decade. “I think it’s completely overblown, I think it’s meant to be a distraction.”

“This stuff does not threaten the outcome of the election,” said Minnite. “How many illegal ballots have been cast by people who are fraudulently registered to vote? By my count, it’s zero. I just don’t know of any, I’ve been looking for years for this stuff.”

I think that this is important to keep in mind. Frankly, I’m far more worried about mistakes, bugs, and other issues involved in electronic voting than I am about out and out fraud.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Voter Fraud Still Fairly Rare: Despite the quadrennial investigations into voter registration fraud whi.. http://tinyurl.com/64qnus

  2. Bithead says:

    Basic question:

    How much in the way of vote fraud cannot be proven? Do we really know how much vote fraud exists?

  3. Bullshit Alex, but I no longer have any interest in arguing with you about it. You can check previous comments for extensive links of actual vote fraud and people going to jail for it.

    I’m guessing Lorraine Minnite is certain Senator Obama will win because she doesn’t know anyone who will be voting for Senator McCain. Amazing that someone can get a gig as a professional academician and not even be able to use Google.

  4. markm says:

    How much in the way of vote fraud cannot be proven? Do we really know how much vote fraud exists?

    AND, can someone explain to me why a group would go to such extents to get real and fake people registered if the intention was not to cast votes with those registrations????.

  5. G.A.Phillips says:

    Voter Fraud Still Fairly Rare. lol!!!!!!!!!!!!! Now how does this troll thing work again?

  6. Alex Knapp says:

    Charles,

    You can check previous comments for extensive links of actual vote fraud and people going to jail for it.

    Um, yes, I acknowledge that vote fraud happens and that people go to jail for it–those facts are mentioned in the article linked. But it doesn’t happen often which is why I say that voter fraud is “rare” rather than “nonexistent.”

    AND, can someone explain to me why a group would go to such extents to get real and fake people registered if the intention was not to cast votes with those registrations????.

    Many voter registration companies, such as ACORN and YPM, pay volunteers by the hour, and have a quota set for them. This is a simple case of incentives. To my knowledge, most organizations flag faulty registrations when they turn them in, but most states require any completely filled out form to be turned in even if it is obviously fraudulent, so a lot of organizations have their hands tied.

  7. anjin-san says:

    SACRAMENTO — The owner of a firm that the California Republican Party hired to register tens of thousands of voters this year was arrested in Ontario late last night on suspicion of voter registration fraud.

    State and local investigators allege that Mark Jacoby fraudulently registered himself to vote at a childhood California address where he no longer lives so he would appear to meet the legal requirement that signature gatherers be eligible to vote in California.

    Jacoby’s arrest by state investigators and the Ontario Police Department comes after dozens of voters said they were duped into registering as Republicans by his firm, Young Political Majors, or YPM. The voters said YPM tricked them by saying they were signing a petition to toughen penalties against child molesters. The firm was paid $7 to $12 for every Californian it registered as a member of the GOP.

  8. Steve Plunk says:

    Voter fraud may not win elections but it undermines the trust in the system. Without that trust any election result can be deemed invalid. Look at the 2000 election and what damage was done even with a legitimate outcome and no real fraud or malfeasance.

    Like with many things in our society even the appearance of fraud will be as bad as actual fraud.

  9. markm says:

    but most states require any completely filled out form to be turned in even if it is obviously fraudulent, so a lot of organizations have their hands tied.

    It’s an enabling system for potential voter fraud then. Hardly give me the warm fuzzies.

    Who pays ACORN and the like for obtaining voter registrations??

  10. Dave Schuler says:

    AND, can someone explain to me why a group would go to such extents to get real and fake people registered if the intention was not to cast votes with those registrations????.

    Your federal government at work.

    ACORN is subsidized by the federal government. It is paid to get registrations and it pays people to get registrations.

    Alex, how do you know that vote fraud is rare? I think that what you know is that proven cases of vote fraud are rare. Those aren’t the same things.

    I’ve been working as an election judge here in Chicago for nearly 25 years and I can tell you with confidence that vote fraud is actually pretty easy and is probably everywhere. However, what’s easy and worthwhile is wholesale vote fraud rather than the retail kind. For that to work as is being suggested the phony registrations would need to be exploited by polling place workers or boards of elections. That would take a pretty big conspiracy but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.

  11. Eric says:

    How much in the way of vote fraud cannot be proven? Do we really know how much vote fraud exists?

    Oh, I see. The burden is on us to prove there isn’t voter fraud going on. Well, I’ll do that if you first can prove there are no such things as purple elephants.

    Bullshit Alex, but I no longer have any interest in arguing with you about it. You can check previous comments for extensive links of actual vote fraud and people going to jail for it.

    Alex didn’t say voter fraud didn’t happen. The point is simply that voter fraud is statistically insignificant. Even if you can prove, say, 10,000 people voted fraudulently, that’s still, what, .001 percent of the electorate? Just because you think voter fraud is widespread, doesn’t mean it is.

    AND, can someone explain to me why a group would go to such extents to get real and fake people registered if the intention was not to cast votes with those registrations????.

    So, you really believe Mickey Mouse was going to show up at the polls, huh? Or that one dead guy was going to show up too? Voter registration fraud is different from voter fraud. For actual voter fraud, you still have to have someone show up at the poll, show a fake ID, and vote. In order to swing an election, you’d need tens of thousands (maybe more) of conspirators to do this. Do you have any idea how hard that would be to do? Or keep secret?

    Of course, you rightwing nutties prefer your conspiracy theories over the mundane reality, so maybe I’m just wasting my breath here.

    Like with many things in our society even the appearance of fraud will be as bad as actual fraud.

    I agree. Certainly the voter registration system can be reformed, but we should do this well before an election. Perhaps the right’s cries of fraud would be heeded a bit more if they didn’t suspiciously only come right before an election–every election, in fact.

  12. Bithead says:

    And which candidate was is that funded ACORN to th tune of $800,000 dollars?

    Oh, yeah.

  13. Alexander Klingman says:

    Bithead,

    And which political party was it that funded YPM, whose owner was just arrested for fraud?

    Oh, yeah.

  14. Alex Knapp says:

    Dave,

    While it might be plausible to say that widespread vote fraud occurs, that’s not the same as saying it actually happens. As we’ve discussed on OTB radio, committing acts of terrorism would, in fact, be relatively easy. But they are, in fact, relatively rare.

    I agree that the registration process should be reformed, but I think it’s equally important to mention that despite the fact that the Justice Department and other NGOs have been desperately looking for voter fraud, the fact that only handful of cases have been proved is telling.

  15. markm says:

    So, you really believe Mickey Mouse was going to show up at the polls, huh? Or that one dead guy was going to show up too?

    I don’t know…but it seems to me when you have a precinct that has 105% of it population registered that the potential is there for fraud.

  16. tom p says:

    While it might be plausible to say that widespread vote fraud occurs,

    Well put Alex. But as the word “plausible” is often misconstrued I feel the need to point out that Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “plausible” as,
    1 : superficially fair, reasonable, or valuable but often specious

    and specious is defined as:
    2: having deceptive attraction or allure
    3: having a false look of truth or genuineness

    The problem with “voter registration fraud” is not that it leads to actual voter fraud, but that it undermines people’s confidence in the system. Add to that the fact that every 2 years we find ourselves embroiled in yet another “witch hunt”…

  17. Bithead says:

    Oh, I see. The burden is on us to prove there isn’t voter fraud going on.

    If you’re charged with security, don’t you have to prove via documentation that security has been upheld?

    And which political party was it that funded YPM, whose owner was just arrested for fraud?

    You’re comparing ants to army tanks.

    I agree that the registration process should be reformed, but I think it’s equally important to mention that despite the fact that the Justice Department and other NGOs have been desperately looking for voter fraud, the fact that only handful of cases have been proved is telling.

    Are these the same folks who for years insisted there was not problem at Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac, that nothing had ever been proved?

  18. Rick Almeida says:

    I’ve been working as an election judge here in Chicago for nearly 25 years and I can tell you with confidence that vote fraud is actually pretty easy and is probably everywhere. However, what’s easy and worthwhile is wholesale vote fraud rather than the retail kind.

    I guess you could tell me with “confidence,” if you like, but I would be much more interested in having you tell me with data.

  19. Eric says:

    And which candidate was is that funded ACORN to th tune of $800,000 dollars?

    Oh, yeah.

    Pointing out who funded ACORN doesn’t prove voter fraud exists. It doesn’t prove purple elephants exist either. Why in principle should that even matter? As Mr. Klingman showed, YPM was funded by righties–does that prove voter fraud exists?

    …but I think it’s equally important to mention that despite the fact that the Justice Department and other NGOs have been desperately looking for voter fraud, the fact that only handful of cases have been proved is telling.

    Indeed. It seems to be wishful thinking on the part of the right for voter fraud to be true for as much as they decry it but for as little as it is demonstrably proven. One might think there’d be more serious political strife if voter fraud were really a problem, for example, like in Zimbabwe, where vote fraud and electioneering are clearly happening.

  20. Dave Schuler says:

    I guess you could tell me with “confidence,” if you like, but I would be much more interested in having you tell me with data.

    You’re missing the point, Rick. Would you be satisfied with the elimination of proven cases of vote fraud if we stopped trying to prove them? I doubt it. All that the data proves is the number of proven cases not the number of cases.

    The issue is confidence in the system and confidence in the system requires securing the method not just eliminating the proven cases.

  21. Rick Almeida says:

    I doubt it. All that the data proves is the number of proven cases not the number of cases.

    Ok, give me evidence there is some reasonable number of cases slipping through the cracks.

    If what you’re telling me is that you can’t prove it exists in numbers enough to matter, but you know it’s there anyway and it’s important, well, that’s a tough sell.

  22. Oh, I see. The burden is on us to prove there isn’t voter fraud going on.

    Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. Like Alex’s charge that Sarah Palin made women pay for their rape kits, though he was willing to keep an open mind if I could disprove it. I only ask that the rules be fair, rather than heads you win tails I lose. To be perfectly fair, Alex eventually noted that it was a bogus charge, though my problem was always less about the charge itself than the abominable tactic Alex was employing to spread the charge where it could be repeated over and over. I’ve seen this kind of crap take on a life of its own to often to ever think a retraction weeks later makes it all ok.

    But back to the topic at hand, Alex quoted an “expert” thusly:

    “I think it’s completely overblown, I think it’s meant to be a distraction.”

    “This stuff does not threaten the outcome of the election,” said Minnite. “How many illegal ballots have been cast by people who are fraudulently registered to vote? By my count, it’s zero. I just don’t know of any, I’ve been looking for years for this stuff.”

    If you are going to say it doesn’t happen in the face of clear and undisputable evidence that it does, well, then, yes, the burden of proof is on you. Not to worry though, I read today that the Obama campaign has assembled the largest legal team ever for election day. Gee, if I’m going to be generous I’d say that it’s almost as though they think there might be some shenanigans on election day. But when I’m feeling less than generous I’d note that said lawyers seem to have a habit of mucking up the works substantially and will do more to poison the well than unmuddy the waters.

    But YMMV.

  23. Alex Knapp says:

    Charles,

    I find it odd that you ignored this part of the article:

    “There’s no evidence that any of these invalid registrations lead to any invalid votes,” said David Becker, project director of the “Make Voting Work” initiative for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

    Becker should know: he was a lawyer for the Bush administration until 2005, in the Justice Department’s voting rights section, which was part of the administration’s aggressive anti-vote-fraud effort.

    “The Justice Department really made prosecution of voter fraud of this sort a big priority in the first half of this decade, and they really didn’t come up with anything,” he said.

    Once again, I’m not saying that voter fraud doesn’t happen. I’m saying that it’s rare. There’s a huge distinction there.

    Please note, too, that voter fraud is an entirely different beast than registration fraud, which I have covered in other posts.

  24. Spoker says:

    Nothing is as rare as that which you choose not to look for, and choose not recognize when you do see it.

  25. Grewgills says:

    If you are going to say it doesn’t happen in the face of clear and undisputable evidence that it does, well, then, yes, the burden of proof is on you.

    You keep saying that despite Alex and others clear statements that there is some fraud, but all evidence points to it being quite rare. There has been a concerted effort to find it for years, yet you could link to every proven case over the past decade and still make it through OTB’s spam filter.

    Nothing is as rare as that which you choose not to look for, and choose not recognize when you do see it.

    which ignores the concerted effort to find it

  26. tom p says:

    Nothing is as rare as that which you choose not to look for, and choose not recognize when you do see it.

    And nothing is as common as the phantoms hiding behind every door when you are sure they are there, even tho they disappear before your grasping fingers.

    If the highly politicized Bush DOJ could not come with a single serious case of voter fraud over the past 7 years, maybe it is because there weren’t any? And in light of that record, why would you have any confidence they are doing a better job now? Or were they just complete, total boobs and were suddenly and miraculously transformed into the very essence of competence, now on the very eve of the 2008 elections?

  27. just me says:

    Actually I think the problem with the DOJ investigation was more that they couldn’t find anything prosecutable-in that you could file a charge against somebody, take them to trial and get a conviction with a reasonable doubt burden of proof.

    But in the end, with widespread registration fraud-especially to the point that the election workers give up on sorting through the various registrations for cross checking, you end up with a corrupted system. I don’t think it matters much who wins this next election-both sides will be crying “stolen” to some degree. Those teams of lawyers aren’t there for nothing.

    Many voter registration companies, such as ACORN and YPM, pay volunteers by the hour, and have a quota set for them. This is a simple case of incentives. To my knowledge, most organizations flag faulty registrations when they turn them in, but most states require any completely filled out form to be turned in even if it is obviously fraudulent, so a lot of organizations have their hands tied.

    I really think the lesson learned here is that we need to stop third party registrations. All people who want to vote must register at one of several approved voting registration places-where they must show some ID and proof of residency (here a utility bill counts).

    If these companies that want to get as many people registered as possible want to still meet that goal, then they should focus their time on taking people to the approved places to register. That way they are still doing something, but we don’t end up with 9,000 fraudulent or multiple registrations to shift through three weeks before an election.

    but one thing I am convinced of, is that it is time to end third party registrations.

  28. Bithead says:

    Pointing out who funded ACORN doesn’t prove voter fraud exists.

    Of itself, of course not.
    Then again, reverse the situation, and say Republicans had tossed in that kidn of money and that 4 to 1, the votyers coming in were Republican. Tell us we’d not hear about this, in wall to wall mode from the MSM, huh?

    Once again, I’m not saying that voter fraud doesn’t happen. I’m saying that it’s rare.

    How do you know?

  29. Rick Almeida says:

    How do you know?

    My dear Bithead,

    We know, because one of President Bush’s DOJ voter fraud attorneys SAYS SO IN THE INCLUDED ARTICLE:

    “There’s no evidence that any of these invalid registrations lead to any invalid votes,” said David Becker, project director of the “Make Voting Work” initiative for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

    Becker should know: he was a lawyer for the Bush administration until 2005, in the Justice Department’s voting rights section, which was part of the administration’s aggressive anti-vote-fraud effort.

    “The Justice Department really made prosecution of voter fraud of this sort a big priority in the first half of this decade, and they really didn’t come up with anything,” he said.

    He said so, and he was part of investigating vigorously. That’s how we know.

  30. Floyd says:

    “”Voter Fraud Still Fairly “Rare”””
    “”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    It certainly not “well done”…. send it back!

    If “rare” is the same as half-baked… then I concur!

  31. Wayne says:

    Going 5 miles over the speed limit is against the law. By some posters’ logic there is no proof that anyone speeds five miles over the limit since there is very few court cases of it happening. Anyone that drives even a small amount should know that people do speed and they do it a great deal more often than what ends up in court.

    I agree the amount of voter fraud is speculative. There are too many potential ways for it to occur and very few safeguards and enforcement efforts against it for anyone to say with any reasonable and honest judgment that it doesn’t occur. We can’t honestly say it does happen all that much either. We simply don’t know. Sort of like if you kill and buried someone in the Nevada desert and no one saw you, did it really happen? That is why I would like to see some aggressive efforts and procedures to ensure that voter fraud doesn’t happen.

  32. tom p says:

    I really think the lesson learned here is that we need to stop third party registrations. All people who want to vote must register at one of several approved voting registration places-where they must show some ID and proof of residency (here a utility bill counts).

    Just me: I agree with you that this particular system is problematic, but I have to point out a utility bill would leave out several demographics, ie: the homeless, children living with their parents, people who have bad credit and have their utility bills in other peoples names, etc.

    One could argue that the above people should not vote, but the Constitution says they have the Right to any way:

    The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not
    be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
    — Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (1870)

    The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not
    be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
    — Nineteenth Amendment (1920)

    The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any
    primary or other election . . . shall not be denied or abridged . . . by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
    — Twenty-fourth Amendment (1964)

    The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of age.
    — Twenty-sixth Amendment (1971)

    It is a cunundrum not so easily resolved. It can be done, all it takes is money.

  33. I know nothing about Mr. Becker, but I do know an appeal to authority logic error when I see one. The fact that he was employed by the Bush administration until 2005 means absolutely nothing vis-a-vis the reliability of his assertions or that this somehow gives them the George Bush/Republican seal of approval so all you wing-nuts need to shut the f*&^ up.

    This all strikes me as another “nothing to see here, move along” moment, brought to you by the experts of the United States Government, soon to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democratic National Committee.

  34. Alex Knapp says:

    Charles,

    Please, by all means, provide evidence that demonstrates that voter fraud isn’t rare. Otherwise, I’ll go with Mr. Becker, who was a U.S. Attorney in charge of going after voter fraud.

  35. Bithead says:

    He said so, and he was part of investigating vigorously. That’s how we know.

    Right. And so, we’re supposed to take this guy’s word, after listening to the left complaining for the last eight years about the Bush DOJ utter lack of creds?

    Ok, give me evidence there is some reasonable number of cases slipping through the cracks.

    Here’s one.
    And another…
    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=15082

    There’s more, of course, but I’m in something of a hurry at the moment.

  36. Alex, I don’t think I can provide any evidence that you would find acceptable, but I will note that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. It is astounding to me that you can acknowledge immense, systematic fraud with voter registration across the country and simultaneously claim that there is little to no actual voter fraud. Why would voter registration fraud keep happening election after election unless there was some point to it? Growing up in Chicago and living in St. Louis make your supposition, from my perspective, utterly absurd.

    But again, YMMV.

  37. G.A.Phillips says:

    Please note, too, that voter fraud is an entirely different beast than registration fraud, which I have covered in other posts.

    Watch as I put the hankie into this hand…………..

    So then what do you think about argument of the Issues fraud?
    Is it rare? well done? overdone? always done?

  38. Bithead says:

    which ignores the concerted effort to find it

    Not really.
    It actually just places it in the same bucket as OJ’s search accross every golf course in the country for his wife’s REAL killers.

  39. Alexander Klingman says:

    Bithead,

    So your contention is that the Republican party doesn’t care about finding voter fraud? Good on you. I never thought I’d see you criticize the GOP…

  40. Bithead says:

    My dear Bithead,

    We know, because one of President Bush’s DOJ voter fraud attorneys SAYS SO IN THE INCLUDED ARTICLE

    and

    So your contention is that the Republican party doesn’t care about finding voter fraud?

    You mean THIS DOJ?

    The kicker: The DOJ attorney on the case, former Ted Kennedy-affiliated lawyer James Walsh, is as contributor to the Obama campaign, as is his boss, former ACLU attorney Mark Kappelhoff.

    In all, DOJ lawyers and staff in the metro area have donated at least $150,000 to Obama.
    No wonder they seem more interested in prosecuting those who warn against vote fraud than enforcing vote-fraud laws.

    That DOJ?

  41. Grewgills says:

    Bit,
    Thanks for clarifying that. I hadn’t realized that it was the Democrats that had politicized the DOJ for the past 8 years. Mukasey is obviously in the tank for Obama just like Gonzo and Ashcroft before him.

  42. Bithead says:

    Mukasey is obviously in the tank for Obama just like Gonzo and Ashcroft before him.

    So, you really think that the various governmental departments and their career staffers, actualy reflect the attitudes and operative opinions of the termporarily in charge types? You mean to say that the staffers may or may not have political motivations of their own has gotten by you?