“Alright, gang, the President has been saying that dead people are voting in our elections. This sounds just like the kind of mystery we need to solve, and fast.”
“Dead voters? Zoinks, Freddy, does that mean we have to deal with gho-gho-ghosts?”
“Rho-Rho-Rhosts!” *Comical running noise*
According to Donald Trump and his cadre of ghouls, goblins, and rubber-suited swamp creatures: voter fraud is rampant in our country. He even recently started a commission to investigate this very phenomena. So we here at The NYRD decided to conduct our own investigation into the matter and examine the case in the dignified and not-at-all-cartoonish manner in which this issue deserves. So, sit back, strap into your big green van, and let’s do it all for the Scooby Snacks.
The Case of the Voting Dead
The charges laid out by the great Orange Julius Caesar touch on two main concerns: non-citizen voting and zombie voting, because the living dead have nothing better to do with their time. Zoinks. These are accusations that Trump floated before last’s November election, most likely as a way to preempt a possible loss. However, as everyone now knows -and if you didn’t we are sorry to be the ones to tell you this- he did in fact win, but still lost the popular vote by almost 3 million. Most candidates would overlook the popular loss in favor of focusing on the fact that they just got elected president, but in the haunted mansion that is Donald Trump’s mind, those 3 million votes continue to hang around, like a disgruntled farmer in a fake ghost costume enacting some convoluted and menacing scheme.
The main piece of evidence presented in favor of voter fraud is a 2014 peer-reviewed paper entitled, Do Non-Citizens Vote? The paper was published by political scientists at Old Dominion University, and its biggest piece of evidence claims that 14% of non-citizens vote in US elections. Trump claims that it was enough of a margin to give Barrack Obama victory in North Carolina in 2008. Unfortunately for Trump, the authors of the paper have come out and publicly disputed his skewed use of their findings. As the 14% statistic is actually the “upper end of the paper’s confidence interval,” meaning it is a generously rounded-up number. The lower estimate puts it at 6.4%. The paper, itself, was also heavily criticized in the academic community due to it use of several fatal data-collecting errors.
The second piece of evidence claimed by Trump is from a 2012 Pew Research Study, which points out the flaws in our inefficient voter rolls. According to the study, “approximately 24 million -one of every eight- voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate.” That includes more than 1.8 million dead people who are still listed as registered voters. What the Pew Report was attempting to point out was the relatively low frequency in which we purge our voter rolls every year. That means that 2.75 million people are actually registered to vote in two different states, including Steve “I would have gotten away with it too” Bannon and members of Trump’s own family. PolitiFact even marked this particular Trump claim as a “Pants on Fire” lie. Now, don’t get us wrong, these facts can be more disturbing than the existential concept of Scrappy Doo, but no where in the study does the Pew Research Center suggest that these dead people are actually voting.
“Wow, Velma, is that all true?”
“Yes, Daphne, in fact according to my calculations and a Pew study conducted in Oregon, state and local taxpayers spend $4.11 per active voter to process registrations and maintain a voter list, while Canada, who uses technology to register people and uses data-matching techniques to reduce duplication, only spends about 35 center per active voter.”
“Row, rat’s ruch rore refficient.”
The Mystery Misery of the Sore Loser
There is a pervasive myth in American politics, that voter fraud is rampant. It is mostly propagated by the right, but there have been alarmists on the left, too. The nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at the NYU School of Law conducted an extensive look into the issue and found voter fraud to be almost non-existent in the United States. The most famous study, conducted between 2000 and 2014 found only 31 credible instances -over 14 years- of impersonation fraud. For the 2016 election, experts only found 4 documented cases of voter fraud. Researchers at Columbia University tracked voter fraud complaints for two years, and found that most registered complaints could be traced back to “false claims by the loser of a close race, mischief and administrative or voter error.” On the whole, most studies tend to agree that voter fraud incident rates are between 0.0003% and 0.0025%.
However, like Scooby’s speech impediment these sorts of accusation never go away. So, if you don’t believe the hundreds of independent studies conducted on the issue, than maybe you can believe the US Government. When the US Fifth Circuit Court struck down Texas’s voter ID laws, they pointed to insufficient evidence, and the fact that there were “only two convictions for in-person voter impersonation fraud out of 20 million votes cast in the decade.” The same thing happened in the Fourth Circuit Court, when they struck down North Carolina’s voter ID laws, noting that the state “failed to identify even a single individual who has ever been charged with committing in-person voter fraud in North Carolina.” The same was also true in Wisconsin, and even the Supreme Court noted in reviewing voter ID laws in Indiana that there was “no evidence of any [in-person voter impersonation] fraud actually occurring in Indiana at any time in its history.”
It is also worth mentioning that the Trump commission on this issue, is not unique. Yet, anytime in recent US history when voter commissions have gone looking for voter fraud they have come back nearly empty handed. A special Justice Department task force examining both the 2002 and 2004 elections only proved that 0.00000013% of ballots were fraudulent. An investigation in Colorado of a 100 reported voter fraud cases, yielded only 1 conviction. An investigation in Maine found that there was little or no evidence of voter fraud in the state’s history. And, lastly, Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State who is now in charge of the Trump’s Voter Fraud Commission, lobbied for and was granted special prosecutorial powers in Kansas to investigate -what he alleged- were 100 instances of voter fraud, but only 4 ended up being true. And after reviewing 84 million votes cast in 22 states Kobach testified that only 14 instances of voter fraud were found, which is 0.00000017%.
“Like, wow, Scoob. That’s not a very high number at all. I mean imagine if it were, like, a sandwich. If it only had .0003% of mustard on it, than it would, like, have no mustard at all. And 0.00000017% isn’t even a single seed from a tomato.”
“Reah, Ri’m rungry.”
The Vexing Vortex of Voter Suppression
It’s unfortunate, but politicians crying,”fraud” is nothing new. Both Republicans and Democrats do it as a way to gain an advantage in elections. However, it doesn’t become truly dangerous until people start using the hysteria to suppress Americans’ right to vote, kind of like how a disgruntled groundskeeper dresses like a ghost clown to suppress children’s rights to play in an abandon carnival. Many states have tried passing voter ID laws, under the guise of voter fraud -as we mentioned a few above- but anti-voting fraud laws have a few major flaws. Like a bad monster mask, they look fine so long as you don’t inspect them too close.
To try and “combat” voter fraud, some states have instituted voter-ID requirements, shortened early voting, and eliminated same-day registration. However, these types of moves often end up doing more harm than good, especially considering the very visible lack of any evidence of widespread voter fraud. Voter restrictions tend to disenfranchise poor and young voters, the ones who cannot afford to purchase state ID cards, or take time off of work to vote on Tuesdays during regular business hours or register in advance to vote. These are the people who need early voting or an easy registration process in order to keep their job and participate in democracy, as is their right as citizens.
It is also unfortunate to say, but implementation of voter laws do tend to favor Republican candidates, and do affect minority citizens disproportionately. A recent study from researchers at the University of California San Diego found “that strict photo identification laws have a deferentially negative impact on the turnout of Hispanics, Blacks, and mixed-race Americans in primaries and general elections.” According to their study, enforced ID laws, in general elections, nearly double the turnout gap between whites and Latinos, and almost doubled the white-black turnout gap in primary elections. Now, we are not claiming that these laws are meant to be inherently racist, but the data does show that it is a byproduct of them, and that in states where voter ID laws are enacted the influence of Republicans and conservatives grow stronger after each election cycle. Maybe that is why these laws are almost exclusively enacted by Republican-controlled legislatures.
“I don’t know, gang. All of this is starting to sound a little fishy to me. I think it’s time we set a trap for the monster. What do you think Velma?”
“Well, Freddy, I think we need to conduct more studies on the impact of Voter ID Laws. In theory they could be beneficial, but currently all they do is affect voter turnout. Regardless, we need more information because we do not have enough historical data to make concrete arguments for or against their use.”
“Robody rew roting raws rould re ro romplicated.”
The Case of the Strange Straw Man
Back in February, Stephen Miller, Donald Trump’s crypt keeper, made a series of confusing claims that thousands of people were being bused into New Hampshire during the election to vote fraudulently against Trump and former Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte. But there is a problem with his logic. Trump lost the state by 2,700 votes -a very narrow margin- but Ayotte lost her seat by only 1,000 votes. Clinton, meanwhile, got 6,000 less votes in the state than Democratic senate candidate, Maggie Hassan. It is also worth mentioning that New Hampsire -in the same election- elected a Republican Governor, Chris Sununu. So, Miller’s claim is essentially that Democrats were bused in from Massachusetts, but they all didn’t vote the same way, and were told to only vote for the president and the senator, but not for the governor?
This confusing mess of half-truths and outrage is nothing new in our political theater. In the end the indignation and the alarmism is really only a mask, meant to hide something else. For Trump it is a salve to the wound he was dealt by losing the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. For other Republicans it is a convenient way to enact voter laws that help keep them in power. Unfortunately, the facts of the case are not on their side. Widespread voter fraud is just not happening in the United States, and pretending that it does happen only serves to undermine our election process and restrict the rights of actual voters. Trump’s new commission on voter fraud is just another attempt at political scare tactics, and an unfortunate waste of tax dollars.
“We did it gang. We caught the ghost that has been voting illegally in our elections. Now its time to see who is behind this mask.”
“Jinkies, gang. There was never any voter fraud at all. It’s just old man Trump trying to scare away voters.”
“No. Fake News. I didn’t do anything, but if I did I would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn’t for you meddling kids, and your stupid loser dog. Sad.”
“Zoinks, Scoob, it looks like we’ve wrapped up another case. Now, I VOTE that we go and get some lunch.”
“Ri ron’t ruppress rat ridea, Raggy. Hehehehe”