Despite requests, the Election Assistance Commission is refusing to release a report written months ago that reportedly pokes holes in the widespread myth that voter fraud is rampant in America. EAC Chairman Paul S. DeGregorio Thursday denied a request by People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) to make the taxpayer-funded findings available to the public in time for the November elections, now less than three weeks away. PFAWF President Ralph G. Neas said the information should be released immediately and questions whether the report is being suppressed for political reasons.
The existence of the report was revealed days ago by USA Today, which reported that instances in which non-eligible persons attempt to pass themselves off as voters and somehow cast fraudulent votes are exceedingly rare. PFAWF’s sister advocacy organization, People For the American Way, has launched a petition drive asking the commissioners to release the report, since it will refute rampant allegations of voter fraud which have led to restrictive voting requirements.
“As we approach the elections, the last thing election officials need is to labor under the false impression that ineligible people are trying to pass themselves off as qualified voters at the polls. They should be focusing on ways to keep the path to the ballot box clear for as many eligible voters as possible, instead of looking for nonexistent fraud that will slow down the process and possibly even discourage eligible voters,” said PFAW President Ralph G. Neas. “We need to raise confidence in our elections process, not allow harmful myths to stand – especially when the government has findings available to refute them.”
Neas sent a letter on behalf of PFAW Foundation to the EAC earlier this week asking that the report be made available to the public, but on Thursday the EAC denied the request. The report was written by by Tova Wang, an elections scholar at the Century Foundation think tank, and Job Serebrov, an Arkansas attorney, and has been in the hands of the EAC commissioners for more than four months.
Neas said the report has critical implications for election legislation around the country. During the past few years, a number of states have passed legislation to combat supposed “voter fraud” through overly restrictive identification requirements and other impediments to the ballot box. According to USA Today, the report found such voter fraud to be exceedingly rare.
“We have plenty of problems to deal with. We’ve all seen long lines, unreliable voting equipment, purges that wrongly remove eligible voters from the roll. It turns out the problem is not that bad people are trying to vote, but that too many qualified voters are discouraged from voting. This report apparently confirms what common sense has told us for years – we need to make it easier for eligible voters to cast a vote that counts, not harder,’ said Neas. “Instead of fighting nonexistent fraud, these restrictive new laws will discourage voters – people like senior citizens, students and disabled voters who may not have drivers’ licenses or other forms of ID required by these new laws. That’s just wrong, and is clearly not supported by the evidence.”
Neas said the new laws are often politically motivated. The misleadingly-named right-wing group the American Center for Voting Rights has supported extremely restrictive laws by pointing to supposed voting fraud.
“Any law that disadvantages certain groups of voters – like senior citizens and students – should be suspect. If the voters are disadvantaged, which political parties and candidates stand to gain? The same question should be asked about the reason the release of this report has been delayed. Is there a political motivation?” he asked. “Has this study been buried because anti-voter activists like the American Center for Voting Rights find its conclusions inconvenient? That’s unacceptable. The Commissioners of the EAC have had this report for months, even as they have testified before Congress on critical legislation that could have been informed by the report’s findings. It’s unconscionable.”
Laws passed in several states this year raise barriers to the ballot box that would prevent poor, elderly, and minority voters from casting a ballot. PFAW’s sister organization, People For the American Way Foundation, has challenged laws in Ohio, Missouri, and Arizona; in all three, the laws were either struck down or stayed until after the November election. Yet restrictions still in effect in a number of states could harm voters. One such provision, stringent ID requirement, has been likened to a modern day poll tax.
Said Neas, “All American citizens have a vested interest in having fair and open elections. This report contains valuable information that can help us do that. The EAC should release the report immediately, no matter what the political implications may be and hold public hearings to discuss the findings.”
PFAW’s petition can be found at www.ReleaseTheReport.com .