The New Wave of Election Regulation: Burden without Benefit

Author(s): 
Justin Levitt
Publication Date: 
June 6, 2012

ACS is pleased to distribute “The New Wave of Election Regulation: Burden without Benefit,” an Issue Brief by Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt. In this Issue Brief, Professor Levitt evaluates new voting regulations across the country, focusing especially on Florida’s recently enacted restrictions on voter registration and early voting, and concludes that these laws are “suspect as a matter of constitutional law and fundamentally flawed as a matter of public policy.”

Analyzing hard data, the author is skeptical that voter fraud is a systemic problem in American elections. “There have been credible allegations of impersonation at the polls,” he writes. “But they are notable for their rarity. In the most prominent forum to date for collecting such allegations, proponents of these rules cited nine votes since 2000 that were caused either by fraud that in-person identification rules could possibly stop ... or by innocent mistake. During the same period, 400 million votes were cast, in the general election alone. Even assuming that each of the nine votes were fraudulent, that amounts to a relevant fraud rate of 0.000002 percent. Americans are struck and killed by lightning more often. And every year, there are far more reports of UFO sightings.”

The Issue Brief argues that the very integrity of the electoral process demands a careful assessment of the costs and benefits of election regulations—and of the rationale behind any proposed regulatory decision. While none of these restrictive policies make voting impossible, as a practical matter they “erect a real barrier to millions of real citizens in order to increase existing protections against an unlikely hypothetical.