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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Surprise! Election fraud is virtually nonexistent

Telegraph Editorial

For the past two years, we’ve spoken out repeatedly against GOP-driven efforts to enact a voter ID law on the state’s electorate.

We argued such a law would impose obstacles on voters who don’t have a photo identification card, particularly the elderly, poor and disabled. And we argued evidence of voter-
impersonation fraud was so scant in this state – or anywhere else, for that matter – that such a law wasn’t necessary. ...

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For the past two years, we’ve spoken out repeatedly against GOP-driven efforts to enact a voter ID law on the state’s electorate.

We argued such a law would impose obstacles on voters who don’t have a photo identification card, particularly the elderly, poor and disabled. And we argued evidence of voter-
impersonation fraud was so scant in this state – or anywhere else, for that matter – that such a law wasn’t necessary.

Well, we lost that fight this year when the overwhelmingly Republican Legislature – driven as much by politics, we suspect, as a genuine interest in voting purity – succeeded in overriding Gov. John Lynch’s veto.

But our long-held contention that voter ID laws are a solution in search of a problem was validated this week when an exhaustive nationwide examination of more than 2,000 fraud cases dating back to 2000 concluded that voter-impersonation fraud is virtually “non-existent.”

Specifically, an examination of this newly created database found only 10 cases of voter impersonation. Based on the 146 million registered voters in the nation during this time, that translates to one case for every 15 million voters.

The database and ensuing analysis is part of an investigative reporting project funded by the
Carnegie-Knight Institute called News21, in which reporters submitted thousands of requests for public records to election officials in all 50 states.

They sought every documented case of election fraud, including “registration fraud, absentee ballot fraud, vote buying, false election counts, campaign fraud, casting an ineligible vote, voting twice, voter impersonation fraud and intimidation.”

Of those types, voter-impersonation fraud – the paranoia shared by many of New Hampshire’s Republican lawmakers – was among the most rare, according to the analysis, accounting for one in every 207 cases of fraud.

One of those 10 cases, interestingly enough, took place in Londonderry. In 2004, 17-year-old Mark Lacasse was accused of using his father’s name to vote for President George W. Bush in the Republican primary. After Lacasse completed community service, the case was dismissed.

Other findings:

n Among the 2,068 cases of election-related fraud, absentee ballots (491) and voter registration (400) together accounted for nearly half – instances where showing a photo ID at the polls would have done nothing to prevent them.

n Of those cases where a resolution was identified, nearly half ended up in acquittals, dropped charges or no formal charges at all.

n And a sizable number of cases were the result of voters or election officials making innocent mistakes, i.e., voting in the wrong precinct, clerical errors, etc.

Still, 37 states either approved or considered stricter voter laws in the past two years. In all, Republican-controlled legislatures considered 62 voter-ID bills.

Coincidence? We think not. Neither is the fact that the News21 analysis found more than half of those bills were sponsored by “members or conference attendees” of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative organization that drafts model legislation for its members.

At a time when our nation is at the crossroads – economically, socially, politically – shouldn’t we do everything possible to encourage Americans to vote, rather than erect artificial barriers that may prevent even one person from doing so?