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Voter Fraud: Real or Imagined?

Challenges to Voter ID laws Raise Questions about Voter Suppression

Claims of voter fraud by state attorney generals are on the rise. On August 1, 2012 the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged Pennsylvania's new voter ID legislation alleging that "large numbers of registered voters in Pennsylvania will not have their votes counted on Nov. 6, 2012 because they will be unable to present an acceptable photo ID" and that the new photo ID law "will lead to elections that are no longer free and equal."

At the moment, the U.S. Justice Department is looking into the law, but Pennsylvania doesn't go through pre-clearance under the Voting Right Act like Texas and South Carolina are going through, two states where voter ID laws are being challenged.

The voter fraud issue in recent times goes back to 2008 when the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the threat posed by voter fraud and ruled that Indiana's photo ID requirement was a legitimate, non-discriminatory means of protecting the integrity of elections. The Supreme Court upheld Indiana's law despite no concrete evidence of fraud in Indiana's elections.

In South Carolina, the state claims that dead voters have been casting ballots in past elections and a voter ID law is necessary to prevent fraud.  Last year, South Carolina passed a voter ID law to require all voters to present a certain form of photo identification or be turned away from the polls. The Justice Department blocked that law a year ago for violating the Voting Rights Act’s prohibition on election laws that discriminate against minorities. An examination of the voting rolls by the State Election Commission appears to have turned up no evidence of fraud.  

In Texas, evidence of voter fraud abounds. In recent years, the Attorney General’s office has secured more than 50 voter fraud convictions. Those include a woman who voted in place of her dead mother, a political operative who cast ballots for two people, and a city councilmember who registered foreign nationals to vote in an election decided by 19 votes. Voter fraud is hard to detect, so the AG alleges cases like these are just the tip of the iceberg.

In 2011, Texas enacted a photo-identification requirement modeled after Indiana's. The Department of Justice rejected the Texas voter ID law on March 12, 2012, preventing it from taking effect.

A spokesman for the Texas Attorney General’s office claims that three-quarters of the cases involved election code violations classified as "illegal voting" – which includes acts such as voting more than once, impersonating a voter or voting despite ineligibility -- and "method of returning marked ballot," often meaning the defendant was accused of having someone else’s ballot.

In April 2012, Florida election officials were denied help by the federal government to confirm citizenship status (and voter fraud) for an estimated 180,000 illegal immigrants already registered to vote in Florida. The explanation seems to be that Florida’s Motor Voter Act of 1993 (which most states have in some form) prohibited even asking immigration status when an individual filled out their voter registration form while failing to require proof of citizenship.

Investigators are now looking into possible vote fraud in Hialeah, Fla., where at least 31 absentee ballots were collected by a suspected ballot broker in two separate instances in July 2012. Miami-Dade detectives questioned a Hialeah woman named Daisy Cabrera, who was found in possession of at least a dozen absentee ballots belonging to other voters. Some voters have told El Nuevo Herald that Cabrera filled out ballots for them in local elections - and offered to help the voter move up a public housing waiting list.

In the most bizarre case, in eastern Kentucky a major cocaine and marijuana dealer admitted to buying votes to steal elections. Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, described a stunning vote-buying scheme that includes "very extensive, organized criminal activity, involving hundreds of thousands of dollars, and in many cases that involves drug money." Prosecutors say more than $400,000, part of it drug proceeds, was pooled by Democratic and Republican politicians over several elections, and spent to buy the votes of more than 8,000 voters, usually at $50 apiece.

There are reported cases of voter fraud but they appear to be isolated incidents. Still, if we can’t trust our election process 100% then how can we claim to be “The Shining City upon a Hill?” We are supposed to set an example for the rest of the world. We monitor elections in other countries to prevent election fraud. Our country cannot afford to have its election process tainted even by questionable allegations.

Voter fraud should become a major election issue because it goes to the very core of who we are as a people. Election fraud begets other kinds of fraud including kickbacks to government officials, financial fraud, credit card fraud, and so on. As a nation we need to “wake up and smell the coffee.” We have become a nation that places greed above all else; we’ve lost our moral compass. The sooner we admit to the problem, the sooner we can begin to heal the cancer that grows within us.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on August 8, 2012