The Republican National Lawyers Association bashed a series of investigative reporting articles showing that voter fraud abuses are “infinitesimal.”
The research, compiled by the investigative reporting project News21, suggests that voter fraud is less of a problem than disenfranchising laws requiring voters to present photo identification.
The group of journalists found just 2,068 cases of voter fraud across all 50 states since the year 2000, not all of which resulted in convictions, said Leonard Downie, former editor of The Washington Post and professor at the Arizona State University’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, in a press conference Tuesday.
“Out of these more than 2,000 cases, there were only 10 cases of voter impersonation … which is, of course, the only kind of voter fraud that would be prevented by voter ID requirements,” said Downie, who helped direct the research.
David Norcross, chairman of the Republican National Lawyers Association, criticized the results of the study in a recent press release. The organization listed several problems with the study, including a slanted and narrow definition of voter fraud as simply “voter impersonation.”
“News21’s articles are biased and error-ridden,” said Norcross. “They analyzed data they admit was incomplete in a results-driven manner borrowed from radical liberal activists who have a record of distorting statistics.”
Downie disagrees, citing voter and election worker mistakes as a larger problem than voter fraud.
“Voting registration in the United States is a mess,” Downie said. “Again, because of our federal system, there’s no federal registration for voters as there is in many other countries.”
The photo identification controversy stems from a movement among legislators, mostly conservative, to pass 62 voting bills in 37 states from 2011-2012.
Secretaries of state — the primary election officials in the majority of states — failed to maintain their non-partisanship and have played a role in the passing of such bills said Joseph Henke, an Arizona State University Graduate and News21 fellow in yesterday’s press conference.
“They know, or should know, the elections in their state better than anyone,” said Henke. “But quite a few of them are falling in line with their party, whether it be the Democratic Party or the Republican Party.”
Of the 36 secretaries of state who oversee elections in their states, about two thirds are republican, Henke added.
But Norcross identifies ignorance of Democratic support for photo identification laws as one of the study’s flaws, citing “heavily Democratic” Rhode Island’s passage of voter ID laws and the Carter-Baker report, led by former Democratic President Jimmy Carter, which sided in favor of voter ID laws. The press release also references a Washington Post poll which shows nearly 75 per cent of Americans in favor of the photo identification laws.
Downie dismissed the poll, saying that voters don’t understand the impact of those laws, which includes the possible disenfranchisement of out-of-state college students, minorities and the elderly. Downie also said that millions of felons will face a lengthy process before they can regain the right to vote if these laws stand.
Potential voter fraud and the intimidation of voters started a movement to increase the number of poll-watchers from both parties present on election night. Poll-watchers observe voters, election workers and other poll-watchers, objecting to actions they deem suspicious.
Downie believes the controversy surrounding voter fraud in the 2012 election will heighten tension at the polls, possibly even to the point of physical confrontation.
“This could be quite a scruffy election night depending on how people behave,” he said.