About those 765 voters: Voter ID would help

Critics of North Carolina’s new voter identification requirement have spent the past couple of days pooh-poohing a report from the N.C. State Board of Elections that showed 765 cases in which people with identical names, birthdates, and the last four digits of a Social Security Number cast ballots in the 2012 election in North Carolina and in one other state.

Reform supporters point to the 765 cases as highly suggestive of voter fraud. Opponents answer, “Well, voter ID wouldn’t do anything to stop double-voting.”

That misses the point. A voter ID requirement would help prevent one type of fraud that’s entirely consistent with the figures cited in the State Board of Elections report.  This is the fraud in which a person knows a voter’s name and address, knows that the voter no longer lives at that address, and casts a ballot in that voter’s name without fear that the voter will show up to create problems.

Imagine this scenario: A young, motivated campaign worker from outside North Carolina spends the 2008 election season working in the critical battleground state of North Carolina (or even the 2010 U.S. Senate race in North Carolina). She registers to vote in this state, whether intending to stay in North Carolina or not after the election. At some point after her campaign work, she moves back to her home state or moves along to some other state (or the District of Columbia if her campaign work has helped her land a federal government job). If she’s not been purged from the North Carolina voter rolls, anyone who knew her name and home address from the 2008 or 2010 campaign would be able to vote in her name in 2012 — knowing that there’s no chance that she’ll be casting a vote herself in North Carolina.

Without a voter ID requirement, it’s unlikely a poll worker would catch the fraud unless the worker somehow knew the campaign worker during her brief stay in the Tar Heel state. With a voter ID requirement, anyone who wanted to commit this type of fraud would have to go out of her way to get forged identification to go along with the transplanted voter’s name and address. The fraud still could take place, but the voter ID would serve as a deterrent.

I have no idea whether this type of fraud applies to any of the 765 cases documented by the State Board of Elections. I would not be surprised. It’s also entirely possible that some of these cases may involve people voting illegally in other states in the name of voters who now live and vote legally here.

This is exactly the type of activity that is consistent with the mind-sets of win-at-all-costs political operatives looking for a cheap, easy way to boost their candidates. Voter ID would raise the cost of engaging in this type of campaign subterfuge.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...

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