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Think Voter Fraud is Rare? Not so Fast!

A letter-writer to the editor of the Spokane Spokesman-Review, yesterday, wrote, "The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law notes that one is more likely to be struck by lightning than to encounter an actual case of voter fraud." And in a July 23, 2015 story in the Winston-Salem Journal, "Lorraine Minnite, a political science professor at Rutgers University, said that voter fraud is rare nationally and in North Carolina."

Finally, the DesMoines Register posted an Associated Press story on August 5, 2015 from Fairfield, Iowa, which noted, "After 2½ years of delays, a prosecutor has dropped an election misconduct charge against an ex-felon accused of illegally voting in the 2012 presidential election." According to the AP:

"The dismissal is another setback for a state effort to criminally punish ineligible voters who participated — or tried to participate — in elections. Under a two-year investigation involving former Secretary of State Matt Schultz and the Division of Criminal Investigation, about two dozen people, including ex-felons and non-U.S. citizens, were charged with registering and/or voting illegally.

"Schultz, a Republican, defended the program as ensuring election integrity. He was a proponent of a plan requiring voters to show identification, which has been blocked by Democrats who say it would disproportionately disenfranchise voters who tend to support them.

"Democrats and civil libertarians, who note in-person voter fraud is extremely rare, called the investigation a waste of money that targeted some who were confused about their voting rights and lacked criminal intent. Five others charged as part of the crackdown are still awaiting trial." (emphasis added)

That said, in a story earlier today at PJ Media, David Steinberg writes, "As a prerequisite to lawsuits, a legal foundation has put all 141 counties on notice that their voter rolls are in violation of federal law, not to mention a national embarrassment" because those 141 counties "have more registered voters than people alive." Steinberg added, "The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF), of which PJ Media’s J. Christian Adams is president, has done admirable work in convincing the country that voter fraud is a widespread problem and an embarrassment to the country. We need clean voter rolls and Voter ID now, and an end to this cavalier attitude towards securing our fundamental right."

Here is a portion of PILF's press release(see PJ Media story for link):

"The Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) has put 141 counties on notice across the United States that they have more registered voters than people alive. PILF has sent 141 statutory notice letters to county election officials in 21 states. The letters are a prerequisite to bringing a lawsuit against those counties under Section 8 of the federal National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

"The letters inform the target counties that it appears they are violating the NVRA because they are not properly maintaining the voter rolls. The NVRA (also known as Motor Voter) requires state and local election officials to properly maintain voter rolls and ensure that only eligible voters are registered to vote. Having more registrants than eligible citizens alive indicates that election officials have failed to properly maintain voter rolls.

"States with counties which received a notice letter are (# of counties): Michigan (24), Kentucky (18), Illinois (17), Indiana (11), Alabama (10), Colorado (10), Texas (9), Nebraska (7), New Mexico (5), South Dakota (5), Kansas (4), Mississippi (4), Louisiana (3), West Virginia (3), Georgia (2), Iowa (2), Montana (2), North Carolina (2), Arizona, Missouri, New York (1 each). Federally produced data show the letter recipients have more registrants than living eligible citizens alive. (A sample letter is can be found here.)

"Lawyers for PILF have previously brought lawsuits against other counties that failed to clean up voter rolls after receiving a notice letter. The notice letters also seek access to public information about voter roll maintenance efforts. The United States Justice Department also can bring lawsuits to fix corrupted voter rolls but has failed to do so during the Obama administration.

“Corrupted voter rolls provide the perfect environment for voter fraud,” said J. Christian Adams, President and General Counsel of PILF. “Close elections tainted by voter fraud turned control of the United States Senate in 2009. Too much is at stake in 2016 to allow that to happen again.”

"The Public Interest Legal Foundation will monitor responses by the 141 counties and remedial clean-up efforts. Federal law requires that a party sending a notice letter wait 90 days before filing a lawsuit.  The entire list of counties who received the notice letter can be found here."

The Washington Free Beacon today also carried news about the 141 counties with "more voters than people," including:

"Data provided by the group also shows that some counties have voter registration rates that exceed 150 percent.

"Franklin County, located in Illinois, contains the highest voter registration rate of any county on the list at 190 percent. Franklin is followed by Pulaski County, also located in Illinois. Pulaski boasts a 176 percent voter registration rate, according to the group.

"Adams said former Attorney General Eric Holder and current AG Loretta Lynch refused to enforce the law because they don’t have a problem with corrupted voter rolls.

“Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch have deliberately refused to enforce this law because they have no problem with corrupted voter rolls,” Christian Adams told the Washington Free Beacon in an email statement. “They don’t like the law, so they don’t enforce it. It’s a pattern that has come to characterize this Justice Department.”

Consequently, a story today from the Center for Public Integrity is not surprising. According to Public Integrity, "old equipment and partisan battles threaten election integrity, in Ohio and nationwide." As a result, they write, "Fourteen months prior to presidential contest, key questions remain: who will be able to vote, and will their votes be counted accurately?" It's surprising, therefore, that there is so much blow-back about voter ID laws.

The good news, obviously, is that Virginia has no counties where there are "more registrants than living eligible citizens alive." That should not, however, keep local and state voter registration offices from reviewing, and re-reviewing, voting procedures.

UPDATE (8/29/15): Carl Bialik, who blogs for the Wall Street Journal at The Numbers, which "examines the way numbers are used, and abused." He devoted his September 1, 2012 column to "counting voter fraud." Here's a portion of his column:

"Backers of voter-ID laws say the extent of fraud is beside the point. “We don’t pass laws against fraud to stop election results from changing,” said J. Christian Adams, an election lawyer in Alexandria, Va., and advocate for voter-ID laws who blogs about election law. “We pass laws against voter fraud because the system must be free from corruption.” He rejected the notion that corrupt election officials wouldn’t enforce the laws. “You don’t facilitate criminal activity in any other area of life by saying officials won’t enforce laws against fraud, murder, theft,” Adams added.

"Efforts to measure the extent of voter fraud by compiling criminal cases have indicated that the problem isn’t particularly widespread. One study last month, conducted by a group of journalism students through a project called News21, found 2,068 cases of alleged voter fraud in the U.S. since 2000, including 10 cases of voter impersonation.

"Groups that back voter-ID laws, many of which are conservative, dismissed the report as the work of a project funded by left-wing foundations. “This was done in a professional, objective manner” without influence from funders, responded Stephen K. Doig, a professor of journalism at Arizona State University, who oversaw the News21 reporters. “We went as far as we possibly could, putting in an incredible amount of effort.”

"This included adding about 100 cases found from news-archive searches, as well as 268 cases in which law-enforcement agencies didn’t disclose the name of the accused person. “To avoid being accused of lowballing the number, we put in everything we found,” Doig said. “We scoured the earth to try to find actual cases of people doing this.”

"However, no study can include all cases of voter fraud because not all are caught.”I don’t see a good way to add that in,” Doig said of cases that go undetected. “That’s outside of any scientific method I can think of.”

UPDATE (8/29/15): In this article in the June 13, 2012 issue of US News & World Report, Hans Von Spakovsky begins his "voter fraud is a proven election manipulation tactic" column by saying:

"The Supreme Court answered this question in 2008 when it upheld Indiana's voter ID law. "Flagrant examples of such fraud … have been documented throughout this Nation's history by respected historians and journalists," the court said, "[and] not only is the risk of voter fraud real but that it could affect the outcome of a close election." But ask voters in Troy, N.Y., Lincoln County, W.Va., and Florida whether voter fraud is a real problem.

"Four local officials and party activists were convicted in 2011 of voter fraud in Troy for forging enough absentee ballots to "likely have tipped the city council and county elections" in 2009. Two veteran Democratic political operatives said voter fraud is an accepted way of winning elections. One of them who pled guilty, Anthony DeFiglio, told police that such fraud was a "normal political tactic."

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