How often does it find fraud? For that, we turn to the much-cited 2014 analysis of voter fraud reported by The Post. Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt looked at 14 years of voting and found 31 possible incidents of in-person voter fraud, comprised of approximately 241 fraudulent ballots.
A lot of those incidents were far from proven, mind you. Here's his description of one questionable incident:
Nov. 2012: A vote was apparently cast at the polls in the name of Evan Dixon in the general election in San Diego, CA; there is an Evan Dixon listed as dying 11 years earlier. It is not clear whether the two are the same person, or whether the death reports are accurate, and poll book records do not appear to have been investigated to determine whether the record of voting represented an impersonated signature or a clerical error.
The most significant chunk of those 241 are from 145 ballots that were cast between 2008 and 2011 in Michigan, where names, dates of birth and addresses of people who cast ballots matched those of people who'd died. Again, it's not clear if that's because someone had been signed in incorrectly at the polling place or if there had been some other clerical error. But for Levitt's expansive tally, it counts.
So that's 241 ballots -- out of 1 billion cast. That's what the ticker above is sorting through, 1 billion imaginary ballots, 40 per second. Now the question: How often do you think that it will find a match? That is to say, on average, how long would you need to let the tool above run in order to find one of the 241 fraudulent ballots out of the 1 billion?
The answer is 29 hours.
That's on average, mind you. What it does is it picks 241 random numbers from one to 1 billion and, when it hits that number, tallies a fraudulent ballot. If the random numbers it picks are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ... 241, you'll find all of the fraudulent ballots in 6 seconds. If that happens, you should skip buying Powerball tickets from here on out because you just wasted all of your amazing numeric luck in one shot -- on something thoroughly non-lucrative.
In fact, if you got a hit, we'd love to hear from you. Clearly it will happen, but it's not clear how often people will actually be patient enough to wait for it.
That's the point, of course. In-person voter fraud is so rare that waiting for it to happen will quickly bore you. And if there's one goal we have here at The Washington Post, it is to drive any and all readers to a state of boredom.