by Jeremy Leaming
All too often proponents of ridiculously rigid voter ID laws cite voter fraud as justification. It is, those supporters argue, the integrity of the nation’s elections that need to be protected. But the argument is not only tired, it’s wobbly. It also masks the pernicious impact these laws have on low-income voters, minority voters, and the elderly.
As noted in this post last week, Viviette Applewhite, a 93-year-old Philadelphian is fighting back against Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law. Represented by the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the Advancement Project, the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and the D.C. law firm Arnold & Porter LLP Applewhite is challenging the law as a violation of the Pennsylvania Constitution. The lawsuit argues the voter ID act subverts the state’s constitution “by depriving citizens of their most fundamental constitutional right – the right to vote.”
Reporting for TPM, Ryan J. Reilly notes that as the lawsuit proceeds to trial, state officials have “formally acknowledged that there’s been no reported in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania.”
The state officials, Reilly continues, “signed a stipulation agreement with lawyers for the plaintiffs which acknowledges that there ‘have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.” Moreover, Reilly notes that the state acknowledges in the stipulation agreement that it “will not offer any evidence in this action that in-person voter fraud has in fact occurred in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.”
For proponents of the harsh voter ID laws, the state's stipulation is likely disappointing. It should not be surprising, however, to anyone paying attention to the machinations behind the creation of the onerous laws.
In a recent ACS Issue Brief, Loyola Law School Profess Justin Levitt examines the new restrictions on civic participation, highlighting the numerous studies and examinations that undermine claims of voter fraud.
“There have been credible allegations of impersonation at the polls,” Levitt says. “But they are notable for their rarity. In the most prominent forum to date for collecting such allegations [a 2008 case before the Supreme Court], proponents of these rules cited nine votes since 2000 that were caused by fraud that in-person identification rules could possibly stop … or by mistake. During that same period, 400 million votes were cast, in general elections alone. Even assuming that each of the nine voters were fraudulent, that amounts to a relevant fraud rate of 0.000002 percent.”