Voter Fraud, Sasquatch and Lightning Strikes

Voter Fraud is the crime of casting a vote that one isn’t eligible to cast. Department of Justice officials have said that failure to prosecute voter fraud was one of his main reasons for the firings of several US attorneys.

Before you take this explanation at face value, here are a few things you should know about voter fraud.

  1. Voter fraud is extremely rare. As two scholars from the Brennan Center at NYU wrote earlier this year “Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch.”
  1. Since 2002, voter fraud has been a top priority for the Bush Justice Department.  The initiative resulted in only 24 convictions against individual ineligible voters nationwide from 2002 to 2005, out of the hundreds of millions of votes cast during that period.
  1. A voter is more likely to be struck by lightning than cast a fraudulent vote.
  1. Laws that supposedly exist to prevent voter fraud often keep poor, elderly and minority voters away from the polls.  In Missouri, as many as 240,000 eligible voters didn’t have appropriate identification to vote under a proposed Voter ID law.  In Georgia, almost 700,000 voters would have been disenfranchised had a similar law not been struck down.
  1. Crack downs on imaginary voter fraud intimidate and discourage real voters.  Even Assistant Attorney General Wan Kim has said publicly that the presence of prosecutors at polling places has an intimidating effect on voters.

Two former U.S. Attorneys, John McKay of Washington, and David Iglesias of New Mexico, conducted in depth investigations into voter fraud in their respective states.  Neither was able to find a single prosecutable case of fraud.  In Washington, when the Republican Party brought its own suit regarding this election, the judge rejected every claim, stating that he found no evidence of fraud.

New US Attorneys, who will presumably put more focus on prosecuting voter fraud than their predecessors did -- and in the process discourage some voters from going to the polls -- have been installed in 2008 swing states including Washington, New Mexico, Arizona, Arkansas, Michigan, and Nevada.

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