Searching for voter fraud is like hunting for Bigfoot
Imagine we come home from a weekend in the mountains and find our fence broken down, bird feeders wrecked, and vegetable garden raided. We see bear tracks and raccoon tracks everywhere and claw marks on trees and door frames. We call Animal Control agents to come and look around, talk amongst themselves, and conclude it must be Bigfoot. They use their time and resources to set out Bigfoot lures and Bigfoot traps. They warn us to be on the lookout for Bigfoot, because “many people” have told them they’ve seen one around. If this happened, we would insist that those agents be replaced with others who deal in evidence and reality, not myths.
Too many of our New Hampshire state legislators are those agents when it comes to promoting election integrity bills. The tracks of Russian interference are all over our electoral process; voting machines are not required to conform to federal standards; gerrymandering is an affront to true representation; and corporate campaign contributions, including “dark money” opaque to public oversight, threaten to put the oligarchs in charge of government.
But what is advancing through our legislature? Almost nothing that seeks to address those problems. One bill recommended by committee would prevent foreign nationals from contributing to campaigns. This at least is a real problem, but given how adept the oligarchs have become at money laundering through nonprofits and international business dealings, it’s not clear how effective this will be on its own. And that’s it.
What has advanced through committee? “Voter fraud” bills. Voter fraud is our Bigfoot. A few influential people, for their own reasons, promote the myth that busloads of partisans are voting illegally and floods of “Deep State” operatives are helping. There is no actual evidence of voter fraud, but SB3 and HB1264 would use valuable resources to set traps for fraud monsters. This isn’t just a waste of time and money; it could deny perfectly eligible voters their rights by requiring piles of documentation of residency not everyone has access to or need for. The most basic test for a new law or policy is the “What Good Does it Do?” test. So far, the state legislature has managed about a D-minus.
Instead of wasting valuable resources, our legislators could check out the federal Fair Elections Act for ideas. It would designate elections and their infrastructure as critical infrastructure; require paper ballots marked (or verifiable) by the voter; and encourage security audits and the adoption of basic cybersecurity standards. It would also impose costs on those who seek to threaten the integrity of US elections.
If our leaders insist on dealing in mythical threats instead of real ones, it is our duty and privilege to replace them with people who will do their job.