To rationalize the “war on voting,” Republican policymakers point to the scourge of voter fraud. The problem, of course, is that the allegations of fraud are largely imaginary, and GOP officials are really just looking for excuses to block traditionally-Democratic constituencies from voting.
But wait, Republicans say, occasionally there really is fraud. In fact, the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) released a report last week to document all the cases of voter fraud that have been prosecuted over the last decade.
And what did the group turn up? A grand total of 311 cases. Given the larger national context — over 131 million Americans voted in 2008, for example — that’s an infinitesimally small number.
But as Julia Krieger explained, that’s really just the start of the problems with the RNLA’s findings.
What’s more, the RNLA is dishonestly representing their data when they describe it as “in the past decade”: A quick gander at the website’s evidence shows citations going as far back as 1997. Although they claim to have evidence of 46 states with voter fraud prosecutions in the last decade, their website only lists 44 states. For two of those 44, there are only examples from the 1990s up to 2000, bringing the state count down to 42. To be clear, that’s eight states where they identified no instances of voter fraud in the last decade.
Further, the RNLA brags: “The RNLA webpage presents evidence that there were at least seventeen cases involving prosecutions for non-citizen voting in 2005 just in one state: Florida.” However, according to the Department of Justice, at least four of the seventeen cases they list were dismissed.
Remember, we’re talking about a Republican group taking its best shot at this. RNLA officials could take their to do as much comprehensive research as they wanted, they could define their terms to their liking; they could massage the results to match their pre-determined conclusion; and they still couldn’t make much of a case.
And if the RNLA thinks these 311 cases from the last decade — some of which weren’t from the last decade, some of which were cases that got thrown out of court, some of which may have very well have been innocent mistakes — justify a national campaign to restrict Americans’ access to their own democracy, they’re wildly misguided.
Republicans support all kinds of new voting restrictions — voter-ID laws, severe limits on voter-registration drives, closing early-voting windows, strict new limits on absentee ballots — because they find it easier to rig voter eligibility than to win elections fair and square. It’s why all of these restrictions affect traditionally Democratic constituencies.
GOP officials can keep defending a foolish pretense about imaginary fraud, but there’s no reason for anyone else to take it seriously.