Two separate reports on voter fraud suggest Americans are solidly behind a solution to something that is not a problem.
A Washington Post poll found that three-quarters of Americans support requiring voters to show photo identification to vote to prevent fraud at the polls. Thirty-seven states have enacted such laws, which are being challenged in Pennsylvania and Texas among other states for potentially suppressing the right to vote by legitimately registered voters.
Opponents of ID laws say they are motivated by partisan politics, but nearly six out of 10 believe ID proponents are interested in fair elections. Support for the laws crossed party lines. According to the poll, about half said voter fraud was a major problem, although a slim majority said that they have heard not much or nothing about the issue. More Americans were more concerned about fraud by people ineligible to vote or casting multiple ballots than they were about suppressing the vote because registered voters had not obtained the required identification.
Yet a study by News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, discredited allegations of widespread voter fraud. An analysis of 2,068 cases of reported voter fraud revealed 10 cases of in-person voter impersonation since 2000 or about one for every 15 million prospective voters. There were, though, nearly 900 cases of fraud involving absentee ballots and registrations, neither of which would be prevented by requiring voters to have identification when they show up at the polls. Even 900 cases is miniscule compared to the millions of ballots cast in local, state and national elections. Nearly half of the reported fraud cases involved mistakes.
The potential for disenfranchisement is considerably greater. Even Pennsylvania officials admit that more than 750,000 people do not have the necessary identification to vote. They have also admitted in the legal proceedings that they will not provide any evidence that in person voter fraud has occurred in the state.
The study undercuts advocates arguments that voter ID laws are needed to protect the integrity of the system.