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...

Reader Comments

  • Lex

    Inasmuch as the original Berger/Tillis release implied that the issue was people voting in two different places at least as much as one person impersonating another, critics who say voter ID wouldn’t have prevented the problem didn’t miss the point at all.

    While it is true that voter ID MIGHT prevent voter-impersonation fraud, the fact of the matter in every investigation up to now is that actual voter-impersonation fraud cases are vanishingly rare. That’s why those 765 cases investigated: YOU may have “no idea” whether any of them involve actually voter-impersonation fraud, but those of us who have researched the issue know that the number of identified cases to date is vanishingly small as a proportion of ballots cast. So, to the extent any of them are violations of the law at all rather than paperwork errors and the like, they are much more likely to involve people with two residences voting, rather than voter-impersonation fraud cases.

    (And who is more likely to have two residences? Wealthy people. And how are wealthy people more likely to vote? Republican. Inconvenient for the Locke crew, but logical nonetheless.)

    You write, “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.” Unfortunately for you, you have yet to prove that “this type of activity” — specifically, voter-impersonation fraud — happens at all, let alone often enough to justify voting restrictions of any kind, let alone again the specific restrictions you support. That evidence doesn’t appear in your post, for the simple reason that it doesn’t appear anywhere else, either.

    Well, unfortunately for you, fending off your BS arguments is also the type of activity consistent with the mindset of people who believe that the right to vote is so sacred and valuable as the basis for democracy that we believe that voting should be as readily facilitated as possible and that restrictions on voting should be imposed only in the face of overwhelming evidence that they are necessary. Surely you, as a supporter of our democratic constitutional republic, hold the same position, do you not?

    Me, I’ve already emailed Thom Tillis and Phil Berger and demanded a criminal investigation. If you’re really concerned about voter fraud rather than Democrats voting, you’ll do the same. The fact that you apparently haven’t already and instead are tossing around baseless accusations against unspecified political opponents is … interesting. The fact that you haven’t called for looking into absentee balloting, where the overwhelming majority of actual vote fraud exists and whose users are disproportionately Republican, gives the game away.

    Oh, one other thing: Just because a case is referred to a DA doesn’t mean it’s a documented case of voter fraud, either. Somebody still has to be convicted or plead guilty. You and Berger and Tillis need to stop conflating things if you want grownups to take you seriously.

  • Mitch Kokai

    Hit a little too close to home?

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