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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 05:49 PM ET, 08/08/2012

Let’s play voter fraud whack-a-mole!

Voter fraud whack-a-mole continues. Remember the bottom line here: no one has found convincing evidence of any recent, significant level of voter fraud. The cases that have been alleged often turn out to be phony. And the voter suppression “remedies” Republicans like don’t have anything to do with whatever fraud is generally alleged.

So: the latest conservative talking point is the claim that there were a bunch of felons who voted improperly in Minnesota in 2008 — perhaps enough to have flipped the very close Senate race in that cycle from Democratic Al Franken to Republican Norm Coleman. Conservative columnist Byron York points out correctly that flipping that seat would have been hugely consequential; the Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank, and other legislation might well have failed if Dems had lost just one more Senate seat.

But the accusations are old and long ago debunked. The evidence that York discusses is in a new book by a conservative journalist and a former Bush administration lawyer — charges that were pretty convincingly rebutted when they were made back in 2010. The authors don’t have a great track record on such charges, as voting expert Rick Hasen notes. And a new Steven Rosenfeld article today points out the weaknesses of this latest case; basically what we have is, well, not very much. Some ex-felons voted. A plurality might have voted for Franken. It wouldn’t have yielded Coleman anywhere near enough net votes had they been tossed.

Regardless: suppose, for a minute, that a few hundred felons who were ineligible to vote nevertheless did vote in Minnesota in 2008.

First: clearly, making voters show a photo ID would do nothing whatsoever about preventing more of this. No one was impersonating anyone.

Second: the other main remedy, purging the voter rolls, might or might not catch these (supposed) improper voters, but it would also knock off plenty of eligible voters too — which would be at least as big a problem as allowing the ineligible through. It’s pretty clear that some of the Minnesota voters targeted as “frauds” were perfectly legitimate people whose only crime was sharing a name with an ex-felon — and living in precincts with Democratic majorities.

The overall evidence is pretty clear; there just isn’t a significant vote fraud problem in the United States, and the efforts to supposedly solve this supposed problem are really simply an effort to make it harder or impossible for groups who typically favor Democrats to be able to vote. Universal voter eligibility is a big part of what makes a polity a democracy. Restricting the franchise is, very simply, restricting democracy. You want a democracy? You have to let citizens vote.

By  |  05:49 PM ET, 08/08/2012

 
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