News21 had a mission: to see how common legitimate cases of voter fraud are. The organization was inspired by voter fraud laws that require voters to present ID’s at the voting booth and was curious to see what the history of such fraud was.
The results are posted in their Election Fraud in America database.
According to the Washington Post, the undertaking was unprecedented: News21 sent more than 2,000 public records requests to elections officials and prosecutors seeking documents detailing allegations of election fraud. The project ended up costing $1,800 in public records fees.
(For perspective, this is a huge project. I led Sunshine Review’s investigation of 152 local governments and the compensation of public employees. Coordinating responses to requests, negotiating fees, analyzing and posting the data was a yearlong process, and a 100% response rate would have taken even longer.)
The project uncovered 2068 cases of election fraud. The most prevalent fraud was Absentee Ballot Fraud with 491 cases comprising 24 percent of total cases.
The question News21 was reacting to was the controversy regarding voter ID laws and whether they protect the legitimacy of the voting process or whether they just work to exclude voters. Could voter ID laws have prevented the 2068 cases of uncovered election fraud?
Actually, no. The cases reported to News21 from all the public-records requests cover a dozen different kinds of election illegalities and irregularities. Only one of those categories — impersonation of another voter at a voting place — involves the kind of fraud that Election Day voter ID laws could prevent.