The Dead Vote
Tuesday, November 6th. Election day. Zombie apocalypse. The dead rise up to vote and eat our election.
Hyperbole? Doomsaying? I think not. Contrary to the opinion of many, voter fraud is more common than we think, and the potential for more exists due to the lack of proper maintenance of registered voter rolls.
This past General Assembly, quite a controversy arose over voter identification legislation. For some, the legislation was a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. There is no or very little voter fraud in Virginia, so why spend the money and inconvenience the voters who have no ID?
Well, we do have voter fraud here in the commonwealth. As staff writer Mark Bowes reported in this paper on April 22, an investigation by the Virginia State Police of 400 voter fraud reports in the 2008 election “resulted in charges against 38 people statewide for voter fraud,” with 26 more cases being investigated at that time.
Voter fraud is not a new problem. In the majority’s opinion for Crawford v. Marion County, the case which established the constitutionality of voter identification laws, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote, “It remains true, however, that flagrant examples of such fraud in other parts of the country have been documented throughout this Nation’s history by respected historians and journalists … that occasional examples have surfaced in recent years, and that Indiana’s own experience with fraudulent voting in the 2003 Democratic primary for East Chicago Mayor—though perpetrated using absentee ballots and not in-person fraud—demonstrate that not only is the risk of voter fraud real but that it could affect the outcome of a close election.”
In Wake County, North Carolina, Sheila Hodges, Kierra Leach, and Brandon McLean admitted to voting twice in the 2008 election. In Tunica County, Mississippi, Lessadolla Sowers was convicted of ten counts of vote fraud in the 2007 Democrat primary. Kevin L. Clancy and Maria Miles of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, pled guilty to election fraud for signing up people multiple times for voter registration. Frank Walton pled guilty to submitting 54 fake voter registrations in Milwaukee. Kendra Lynn Thill was convicted for voter registration fraud in Washington State in 2006. In Florida, Maurice Childress, Kashawn John, Liltovia Rhodes, Carlos Torres, Evangeline Williams, Lilkevia Williams, and Richard Williams all received convictions for “false swearing in an election.”
One reason voter fraud is so widespread is that registered voter lists have not been maintained carefully enough. According to Judicial Watch, an organization that monitors government and fights corruption, “Mississippi, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Florida, Alabama, California, and Colorado” are states in which “publicly available data indicates voter rolls … appear to contain the names of individuals who are ineligible to vote.” Some of these state have “more individuals on voter registration lists… than there are individuals eligible to vote, including individuals who are deceased.”
It has been harder to maintain the integrity of the registered voter lists since the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. This law made it mandatory for states to enable citizens to register to vote at DMVs and social service agencies. Prior to that, citizens had to intentionally go to the city hall or courthouse with some type of identification in order to vote. Now when somebody renews their driver’s license or registers for food stamps (now known as SNAP), he or she has the opportunity to register to vote. While the case for making it more convenient for people to register could be argued (it’s a huge burden to intentionally decide to go to city hall to register to vote? We had to make it easier?), it also made it easier for felons, non-citizens, and people wanting to perpetrate fraud to register.
Some might argue that the documented cases of voter fraud, compared to the millions of votes cast in elections, will not have any meaningful effect on elections. Most of the time, that is correct, but sometimes, it’s not. In 2008, Al Franken beat Norm Coleman by 312 votes for a Minnesota Senate seat. In 2006, Todd Thomson won a seat in the Oklahoma State legislature over Darrel Nemeck by two votes.
However the fraud occurs, we do have a significant voter fraud problem. Denying or ignoring it will not make it go away. In order to maintain the integrity of our elections, we need to combat it. If voter identification eliminates some of, so be it. If the major problem is in the registration process, we need to fix that.