Home Politics Politics Lists

The ‘Voter Fraud’ Myth Debunked

Voter Fraud

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As we've reported at Rolling Stone, over the past few years Republicans in more than a dozen states have been knocking themselves out passing laws that make it harder for people to vote. It hasn't escaped notice that the voters most affected by these measures – from voter ID laws to restrictions on early voting – are Democrats. But no matter: Republicans deny they're waging a partisan "war on voting" – they say the new laws are needed to combat rampant voter fraud. That's the line laid down most recently by Florida Gov. Rick Scott to justify purging his state's voter rolls of alleged noncitizens. "We need to have fair elections," he said last week. "When you go out to vote, you want to make sure that the other individuals that are voting have a right to vote."

But here's the thing: Not only is voter fraud not rampant – it's virtually nonexistent. The iron-clad word on the subject comes from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, whose 2007 report, 'The Truth About Voter Fraud,' sorts through thousands of allegations going back to the 1990s in the most in-depth voter fraud study ever undertaken. The bottom line, confirmed by all subsequent research: "Usually, only a tiny portion of the claimed illegality is substantiated — and most of the remainder is either nothing more than speculation or has been conclusively debunked." In fact, "one is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit voter fraud."

We've used the Brennan findings to put together this quick-and-dirty guide to voter fraud claims. Click through to find out about the most commonly cited voter fraud allegations – and why they almost never pan out.

More
Rolling Stone: The GOP War on Voting
Brennan Center for Justice: The Truth About Voter Fraud

voting by dogs

Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

Voting by Dogs

That is, people are voting in their dogs' names. As in: 'Prank Lands Voter in the Doghouse,' 'Woman Registers Her Dog to Vote; Prosecutors Growl."

The truth: Brennan turned up only nine specific reports of dogs found on the voter rolls. In six of the nine, the dogs were put on the rolls by people trying to make a point — that's it's possible to place a dog on the voter rolls. "Which is to say, if people no longer registered dogs to show that dogs are on the rolls, dogs would no longer be on the rolls." No wonder this kind of fraud rarely happens: To get a dog on the rolls, you need to risk up to 30 years imprisonment on federal charges alone. All for one vote!

Typical case: There is no typical case. Brennan found only two cases – ever – of ballots being submittted in the name of a dog: a ballot cast by "Duncan MacDonald" in 2006 and 2007 (but labeled "VOID" and signed with a paw print), and another cast by "Raku Bowman" in 2003 in a local election in Venice, California.

More
Rolling Stone: The GOP War on Voting
Brennan Center for Justice: The Truth About Voter Fraud

vote buying

© DPA/Jafza/N. Otty/Getty Images

Vote Buying

The truth: This does occasionally happen, with votes being bought for a small amount of money, or food, or cigarettes. But: Vote buying is not fraud – it's an illegal agreement between citizens, usually with the direct involvement of a candidate or campaign – and can't be addressed by most of the remedies put forward to tackle fraud – photo ID laws, restrictions on registration, etc.

Typical case: Not applicable, since vote buying, while a very serious crime, is not a type of voter fraud.

More
Rolling Stone: The GOP War on Voting
Brennan Center for Justice: The Truth About Voter Fraud

Show Comments