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My Turn: Take closer look at 'voter fraud'

By Blaine Gorney
At the May 21 Rowan County commissioners meeting, two citizens spoke in favor of voter ID cards. I am writing to share facts about the voter ID cards movement and those that deem them a necessity. I am a registered Independent. I remember stories of voting improprieties in Chicago, the sudden appearance of LBJ’s alphabetized ballot box in Texas and Gov. Earl Long’s quip: “When I die, I want to be buried in Louisiana, so I can stay active in politics.”
Several studies were conducted by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. I will attempt to summarize their findings.
“Voter fraud” is fraud by voters.
This fraud occurs when individuals cast ballots knowing that they are ineligible to vote, in an attempt to defraud the election system. There are a number of situations that are considered “voter fraud,” but are not fraud:
1. Some result from technological glitches: for example, voting machines may record inaccurate tallies due to fraud, user error, or technical malfunction. The Pew Study also indicates voters records are flawed.
2. Some result from honest mistakes by election officials or voters.
3. An election official may believe that certain identification documents are required to vote when no such requirement exists.
4. Some irregularities involve fraud or intentional misconduct by actors other than individual voters.
These are all problems but they are not “voter fraud.”
Double voting
There are a handful of known cases that show one individual has actually voted twice. Documentation indicates that there have been errors on matching lists of voters from one place to another.
Dead voters
These allegedly dead voters often turn up perfectly healthy. In other circumstances, the match is accurate but reveals the voter has died, yes, but after casting her ballot.
Fraudulent addresses
There are a few cases of improperly cast votes from illegitimate addresses. Investigation reveals that the flawed addresses turn out to be legitimate. These votes are not fraud since multiple eligible voters live there, whether it’s a college dormitory or nursing home.
Felony convictions
Some individuals think waves of ineligible people with felony convictions have overtaken the voting system. Often individuals who are ineligible because of convictions have reportedly registered or voted without realizing that they were ineligible.
Non-citizens
There have been no documented cases that any individual noncitizens have either intentionally registered to vote or voted while knowing that they were ineligible, because the penalty (criminal prosecution, and deportation) is so severe. These claims are usually attributed to matching lists of voters from one place to another.
Vote-buying
Vote-buying schemes may involve agreements to buy or sell votes for particular candidates or they may simply involve payments for voting in get-out-the-vote efforts targeted at communities. Since the individuals involved are citizens who are eligible to vote, vote buying cannot be addressed by: photo identification.
Fraud by election officials
Election fraud by insiders has been an issue since before senators wore togas. There are still occasional reports of wrongdoing by those who are employed to safeguard the process. Fraud by election officials should be condemned, and documented acts of such fraud should be prosecuted.
Most if not all of voter fraud data was based on studies from the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR), a now-discredited think tank. Reactionaries have used these findings as evidence of pervasive voter fraud. Royal Masset, one of the founders of ACVR, stated in 2007 that requiring photo IDs could cause enough of a dropoff in legitimate Democratic voting to add 3 percent to the Republican vote. Being required to show photo ID in order to vote disenfranchises up to 10 percent of eligible citizens.
Reactionary is simply the correct word to use when referring to extremists in the right wing of the Republican Party. Reactionaries were first called Tories. Today they call themselves the “tea party.” They celebrate selfishness, unbridled greed and a misplaced sense of entitlement. I realize that not all Republicans are reactionaries. The only misconduct that photo ID addresses is the kind of voter fraud that happens as infrequently as death by lightning. History has shown reactionaries to be on the wrong side and will again. These reactionaries seem to want a plutocracy in America.

Blaine Gorney, Ph.D., has been in higher education for 35 years and lived in Salisbury for 30 years.

 “My Turn” columns should be between 500 and 700 words. E-mail submissions are preferred. Send to cverner@salisburypost.com with “My Turn” in the subject line. Include name, address, phone number and a digital photo of yourself if possible.

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