RVA Politics is a blog about politics in the state of Virginia And the capital city of Richmond.

The author is a political scientist. Please don't hold that against him.


No, Virginia, there is no voter fraud

The conservative blog, The Bull Elephant, had a post on Friday written by head of the Virginia Voters’ Alliance (VVA), Reagan George. If you’re not familiar with the VVA, it’s a conspiracy group that promotes the Right’s most outlandish fever dreams about millions of illegal votes.

I feel a compulsion to respond.

I know, I know: someone is wrong on the Internet! But I am just so, so tired of the lies, misinformation, and outright hysteria about voter fraud. (Our current President is not helping.) As I and many others have been saying for years, there is simply no evidence of vote fraud on a widespread scale, particularly the kind of voter impersonation that would be countered by Republicans favorite "remedy," voter ID laws.

And George is SO, so wrong, that his post presents a good window into the pathology of the #AlternativeFacts right-wing right now. So without further ado, below are excerpts from George’s post (in bold) with my responses.

[George:] Voter fraud is a criminal act that at best would be hard to prove; just our guarantee that our votes for a candidate are anonymous only adds to the difficulty. It is not like a murder or robbery where physical evidence, eye witnesses, motives, and video point us to the crime and criminal. Voter fraud is done in private and the perpetrators are highly motivated to avoid detection. Preventing voter fraud while voting is a non-starter and the Left is very aware of this conundrum and exploits it whenever possible.

So this is the ground we’re talking about: voter fraud as invisible crime. If there’s "no physical evidence, eye witnesses, or motives," then you’re absolved of the responsibility to prove that a crime actually happened.

A good analogy would be detecting the meth-amphetamine problem. It is difficult to stop meth since it is sold to individuals usually in a private environment and even if the seller and buyer are caught the overall impact is minimal. To really have an impact on this scourge is to identify and monitor the precursor ingredients that are used to manufacture meth.... The precursors of voter fraud are our election laws, both Federal and state, that setup conditions that fraudsters exploit.

With meth users, we at least have evidence of addiction and its effects on mental and physical health. (Not to mention all the meth labs.) Instead, I have a better analogy: Joe McCarthy's famous -- and mythical -- list of 250 Communists in the State Department, which we all know worked out great. Anything can be a "scourge" if you don’t have to prove it exists.

Below are images of the photo ID card used in Mexico. Mexico has a lot of problems, but open and honest elections are not one of them. Mexico has over 90,000,000 people registered to vote with this type of ID card and their poor, minorities, aged, and students do not have a problem with them at all. They know from experience what meaningless, corrupt, and rigged elections can do to a country.

Actually, Mexico's recent elections have been plagued by concerns about vote buying and ballot stuffing, exactly the kind of actual fraud that voter ID does nothing to prevent. The reason we know this? There is evidence that indicates a problem!

Before trying to make the argument that all of these changes are a solution looking for a problem, since there are no convictions for voter fraud, increase felony penalties for individuals that commit fraudulent acts and significantly increase penalties for individuals that perpetrate and organize voter fraud.

So: increase the penalties for this non-existent crime before arguing that the crime is non-existent. How does this help exactly?

It would also help if Commonwealth Attorneys were required to investigate and bring to trial suspects when voter fraud is alleged. The "no convictions" argument is self-fulfilling when many Democrat Commonwealth Attorneys refuse to prosecute obvious voter fraud.

Where are the Republican Commonwealth Attorneys on this issue? If the issue is so widespread, shouldn't we at least see them prosecuting "obvious voter fraud?" (By the way, it was Democratic Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter who did prosecute a case last year of fraudulent voter registrations in Alexandria.)

Obamacare was engineered from the beginning to be an unconfirmed feed of potential voter registrations with data that was never checked or verified. Where do you think the millions of newly insured each year were repurposed as newly registered voters?

Yes, Obama staked his entire Presidency on healthcare reform to distract Republicans from his real scheme: voter fraud.

Why do you think Moto-Voter, originating in the Clinton Administration, was designed from the beginning to be setup not only in DMV offices nationwide but welfare offices in its many forms?

Why? To lower obstacles to voting for low-income and minority citizens. This was no secret; the law’s architects, Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, wrote a book about it. [Full disclosure: Piven was my dissertation advisor, which is how I first encountered this issue.]

Currently the Virginia database of voters, VERIS, contains over 5 million registered voters…. In VERIS today are around 641,000 active voters who have never voted in any election. I don’t mean voters who recently registered but forgot to vote in the last election. We are talking not voting for 15 – 20 years. There are probably a certain number that are recently registered but why would anyone bother to register and never vote, even if it is their right to do so?

Why? Because our current electoral system makes it difficult to vote. Unlike many other Western democracies with much higher turnout rates, we have weekday voting, advance registration, optional voting, onerous restrictions for absentee/early voting, and state and local (and sometimes partisan) control of distribution of polling resources. It's actually no surprise that many potential voters, particular poor and minority citizens, have trouble getting to the polls. This is why some people argue that we should make it EASIER, not harder, to vote.

Another example is Section 8 of the NVRA that requires that our SBE/ELECT maintain proper voting lists. Virginia has participated in the Interstate Cross Check program for years.... It is notable that most participants in this program have Republican Governors as sponsors, where Democrat Governors refuse to participate. Virginia's Governor just ignores the results.

That’s because, as a Rolling Stone report noted, these kinds of cross-checking databases produce plenty of false hits. The worry is that Republicans will use them to selectively target ethnic-sounding names (minorities tend to vote Democrat) and purge them from the rolls. (This is no fever dream of the Left, by the way, as it has happened in the past.)

In conclusion, making or defending arguments of voter fraud especially when the left tricks one into numbers is not an easy argument.

So the use of evidence is “tricking one into numbers.” .... Nothing to add here.

If it was easy to prove and convict the Left would not be out recruiting people to do it. Their promise to the potential fraudster is it is easy to do, no one checks; if you are caught, it is hard to prove and convict; and if need be, the Left they will provide legal counsel free of charge. It is all upside and no downside for the fraudulent voter. We must be smarter than them and attack the precursors of voter fraud. That is the only way to trust our elections again.

We don’t have any evidence, so we have to identify shadowy conspiracies from "The Left" in order to make it harder to vote. The only upside/downside here is the “Upside Down” where, apparently, George resides.

One night several years ago I received a phone call from a citizen in Santa Fe, New Mexico where his administrative assistant, a green card holder, told him that she was proud to have voted in the 2012 Presidential Election. She was encouraged to register to vote in a shopping mall by several members of the League of Women Voters, telling her that having a green card allowed her to vote in America. When she appeared at the polling place to vote she used her green card as her ID with no problem. Her employer was even more shocked when she informed him that most of her acquaintances in her apartment project were either green card holders or illegals and most of them had voted also.

Here's your smoking gun, people: a friend of a friend of a friend said it totally happens! (President Trump apparently used a similar, and equally bullshit, anecdote about German golfer to justify his claims about voter fraud.) Look, I'm not calling George a liar; I’m sure he got this phone call. I just know that random phone calls from New Mexico shouldn't justify wholesale changes in electoral policy. This is why George's claims about evidence are so problematic: if you abandon standards of evidence, then bullshit anecdotes like this one above become your evidence. And that's no way to run an electoral system.

THIS JUST IN: I have it from a reliable source that the California Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State have instructed the Information Technology department in the state’s DMV department to immediately remove the "AB60" code from all records of non-citizens that have received a California Driver’s License. This would make proving that these people are non-citizens and have voted difficult if not impossible. Why would they do this if only 10 non-citizens voted in this election?

I’m not able to confirm this story, which is currently circulating through right-wing networks online. But even if it IS true, there is another, obvious, explanation. Perhaps they are worried that the current Administration might use the information for mass deportation? In this political climate (and following last week's Executive Order), does anyone really find it so strange that a Democratic governor would want to make it harder to easily identify undocumented workers, for reasons which (agree with them or not) have absolutely nothing to do with voting?


George is not completely off his rocker: like many people who examine our voting system, he finds a lot that could be improved. For example, he rightly asks why inactive voters haven't been removed from the VERIS system; and he fairly raises the question of "vote harvesting," where partisan organizers might take advantage of the elderly at assisted living facilities by directing their vote. But these reasonable questions are lost in his miasma of hysterical claims about illegal voting and widespread fraud.

There are some real solutions to our electoral system's problems. Why don't we provide the full resources required for state and local election officials? Why don't we have more fair rules about how to distribute voting resources, so that local partisan officials can’t influence vote wait times and ballot availability? Why can't we modernize our registration system?

In part, because people like George confuse the issue with their fear-mongering and hysteria. They have created a bunch of Republican voters who, dammit, just KNOW IN THEIR HEARTS that voter fraud is everywhere!, despite all evidence to the contrary. They undermine faith in our democracy. Maybe they can't be stopped just by confronting them with reality, but we have to start somewhere. I'm starting there.

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