Still more “voter fraud” fraud

In six years of vigorous effort, DoJ has discovered no systematic vote fraud. It has, however, managed to ruin the lives of people who made innocent mistakes.

I’m not sure whether to laugh, cry, or pound my head against the wall in frustrated rage.

1. For years, Republicans have accused Democrats of systematically stealing elections by, e.g., voting dead people. They have used that as an excuse for a variety of voter harassment, intimidation, and suppression efforts, from having armed men at polling places to making spurious challenges to slow down the lines to “voter ID” laws which have been shown to reduce participation especially among the poor, the elderly, and minorities.

2. After Bush’s friends stole the 2000 election in Florida by, among other things, running a purge of the voter rolls that, as they knew it would, disenfranchised thousands of eligible registered voters because their names resembled those of felons, his appointee as Attorney General, John Ashcroft, announced that a crackdown on voter fraud would be a major DoJ priority.

3. In pursuit of the supposed massive set of conspiracies to steal elections, Ashcroft and his minions changed the previous DoJ policy providing that voter fraud would be prosecuted only when it was part of a systematic effort. Now any individual who happened to mistakenly violate local election laws was potentially facing Federal prison time.

4. After six years of vigorous effort, DoJ has discovered not a single organized attempt to steal an election for a Federal office.

5. They have, however, managed to indict a number of innocent people, for example people who filled out a voter registration card, were told they had gotten it wrong, filled out another card, and voted, once. Nonetheless, they were indicted for “vote fraud” for multiple registration. They were acquitted, as were the majority of the people charged with vote fraud by the Wisconsin U.S. Attorney’s office that also brought the bogus corruption case the Seventh Circuit just contemptuously tossed out.

6. At least one alien who innocently voted, not understanding the citizenship requirement, has been deported. Another, who filled out a registration form at the motor vehicle office and who never attempted to vote, faces deportation.

7. A woman who voted despite being on probation, and who tried to undo her vote after discovering her mistake, has spent more than a year behind bars.

Footnote Lest you imagine that the green-card holders caught in this trap were making an incomprehensibly stupid mistake, recall that the link between citizenship and the franchise is a late-19th-Century invention. Previously, resident immigrants were allowed to vote, as a literal reading of the principle “No taxation without representation” would seem to require.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: