The claims of voter fraud throughout America, particularly of voter impersonation fraud, have become increasingly prevalent and widely believed.
This myth is believed by nearly half of American voters, an astonishing number considering the unlikeliness of fraud to actually happen. By repeating a lie over and over, and shouting it louder in the face of any contradictions, this myth is becoming increasingly believed.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll found that 46% of American voters believe that voter fraud happens either ‘somewhat often’ or ‘very often’; this is divided into 20% believing it happens ‘very often’, while 26% said ‘somewhat often’. This astounding number includes two-thirds of people who say they will vote for Donald Trump, and one-quarter of Hilary Clinton supporters. 26% of voters said that fraud ‘rarely’ happens, but the closest answer, which was ‘never’, had only 1% of voters answering.
Numerous studies have shown that there is essentially no voter fraud to be found throughout America. In 2007, a five-year investigation underneath the Bush administration turned up virtually no evidence of any organised effort to sway elections. In fact, one of the most comprehensive investigations into voter fraud to date shows that out of the one billion votes cast in American elections between 2000 and 2014, there were only 31 cases of possible impersonation fraud.
Some of these cases are vague at best, and some are simply unclear, with little investigation into the confusion that occurred. For example, at least two of these included votes being cast in the names of people who had died years before. Yet there is confusion about whether they are the same people, whether the death reports are accurate, and there is no evidence of any investigations. Clearly, voter impersonation fraud is not a prevalent occurrence, but many Americans continue to believe it is.
Some credit to this mass deception is claimed to belong to Republican lawmakers, who for years have pushed the story about voter fraud and therefore the necessity of voter ID laws. This can be put down to an effort to reduce voting numbers among specific groups of Democratic supporters. These are the groups who are less likely to have the correct forms of identification: students, minorities and the poor.
Some Republicans have freely admitted that creating this fear about voter fraud is part of their political strategy. In a recently disclosed email from 2011, conservative leaders wondered what they should do if Justice David Prosser Jr. should be defeated.
Prosser was a reliable opponent of legal challenges to the agenda of Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican. Steve Baas, the senior vice-president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce, questioned whether they needed to ‘start messaging ‘widespread reports of election fraud’ so we are positively set up for the recount regardless of the final number?’. He answered his own idea with ‘I obviously think we should’. Scott Jensen, a Republican political tactician replied with ‘Yes. Anything fishy should be highlighted’ and suggested that stories should reach radio hosts.
This email exchange was followed by an outburst of public rumours of vote-rigging and led to legislators passing a state law requiring Wisconsin voters to display an approved type of photo ID before voting.
In 2012, Jim Greer, a former Republican Party chairman, said in an interview with the Palm Beach Post that voter ID laws and the cutbacks in early voting are done in order to suppress Democratic turnout. He admitted that it was all a marketing ploy. There was never any evidence to show a substantial amount of voter impersonation fraud.
However, such strategies do work. Voter ID laws in Kansas and Tennessee reduced the turnout in the 2012 election by about 2%, roughly 122,000 votes. The turnout fell largely among young voters, African-Americans and newly registered voters. Another study found that voting from eligible minority citizens decreased noticeably in states with voter ID laws.
What is truly worrying is how many of American voters have bought the myth concerning voter impersonation fraud, and how many genuinely believe this is a significant problem. Donald Trump has seized upon this argument to help revive his candidacy, claiming that Democrats are going to exploit weak voter identification laws to win the election through fraudulent voting.
This debate is simply part of the years-long dispute between the Democrats and Republicans regarding the intentions behind the voter identification laws, and has served to emphasise the anger the Democrats feel towards this claim. The truth behind all of this is that those who started and emphasised the rumours and myths regarding voter fraud have no concern regarding the integrity of the American voting system; their efforts in undermining the system and tampering with the rights of legitimate voters simply serve to increase their own votes.