Our Viewpoint: What is Voter Fraud? Is It Prominent in This Year's Election?

Category:  Opinions
Thursday, March 31st, 2016 at 12:10 PM

The political landscape has shifted greatly since the last election in 2012. Yet, could we have expected the 2016 election to be nearly this hostile?

Currently, Donald Trump, the Republican front runner, operates a campaign based solely on hate. Ted Cruz, hated even in his own party, and John Kasich, who some believe could take advantage of a contested convention, continues to fight Trump. But Trump leads numerically.

The Democrats have been narrowed down to senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. Clinton is pulling ahead, but Sanders is still in the race and seems to have no intention of dropping out.

And with hotly contested races, people all over the United States have flocked to the polling places to support their favorite. However, in recent months, it seems that voting has become increasingly difficult for many.

Before continuing, let’s take a moment to define voter fraud. Electoral fraud is illegal interference with the process of an election. Matthew Vadum, of American Thinker, said that the mechanisms involved include illegal voter registration, intimidation at polls and improper vote counting.

When Bill Clinton was seen campaigning for Hillary at a polling place in Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, the media covered it. Yet what stood out to me was that nobody in the mainstream media called it what it was: voter fraud.

Clinton was breaking state laws that prohibit campaigning within 150 feet of a polling station on primary days. Clinton had been seen entering polling stations after they had opened for voting and campaigning for his wife. He was also seen signing a “Hillary for President” sign.

Now that we have a working definition and an example of voter fraud, it’s time to consider the issue that happened in Arizona early last week.

In Arizona, a large number of people showed up in the hopes of casting their votes, only to end up stuck in line for several hours. After waiting for several hours, multiple Democratic voters arrived at the polls to find they were listed as independents, Republicans or simply had no party affiliation at all.

Joe Dana, a reporter with 12 News in Phoenix, tweeted that the 2012 primary had 300,000 voters and 200 polling places. However, the 2016 primary has an estimated 800,000 voters and only 60 polling places.

And according to Bob Cesca, of Salon, such a drastic reduction meant there was only one polling place per 21,000 residents. Cesca went on to say that officials, including county recorder and Republican Helen Purcell, said the cutbacks were due to budgetary concerns.

This issue is not limited to a single party. The issue can affect everyone who wants to vote regardless of their political affiliation.

So besides the cases in Arizona and Massachusetts, how common is it? On Tuesday, Jan. 5, Donald Trump raised the issue of voter fraud claiming it was a rampant problem. However, the number of proven cases is actually minuscule. Trump called out Cruz for committing voter fraud during a rally, claiming there needs to be “security with the voting system.” What Trump doesn’t know is that the numbers don’t support his theory.

In 2012, Nick McClellan asked the question, “how much voter fraud is there?” A state-by-state map showed there was almost none. News21, part of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education, mounted an effort to flesh out the record.

Out of hundreds of millions of ballots cast, they counted a total of 633 incidents. Among states with voter ID laws, Georgia and Kansas have seen the most prosecutions, with 80 and 97 cases respectively. The number in Pennsylvania was much smaller with five confirmed cases of fraud in 2012.

And this evidence makes 2016 even stranger. In the last few months it seems that voting is becoming much more difficult for people everywhere. Polling places are running out of ballots and they also seem to be having difficulties with their record keeping.

As stated previously, people would show up at polling places and would not be affiliated with the correct party. This is not necessarily fraud, but it is voter suppression which is equally damaging. Why does voting have to be so difficult?

According to New York Times author Ross Ramsey, the people in politics and government encourage voting the same way other institutions encourage dieting, fitness and saving for retirement. Yet an important distinction to make is that those other institutions don’t create obstacles.

John Oliver spoke about voter ID laws on Feb. 14 on an episode of “Last Week Tonight.”

“In some parts of the country the offices that issue [voter] IDs are hardly ever open,” Oliver said.

He would continue, “In 2012, a study found that in Wisconsin, Alabama and Mississippi, less than half of all ID-issuing offices in the state are open five days a week.”

“In Sauk City, Wisconsin… the ID office is only open on the fifth Wednesday of every month and only four months in 2016 even have five Wednesdays.”

Oliver also looked at voter fraud. Oliver stated that American history is littered with vote-buying, vote-tampering and ballot box stuffing. He went on to say that voter ID doesn’t prevent those crimes.

“The only crime it prevents is voter impersonation; one person, showing up to the polls pretending to be someone they’re not.”

Several media outlets continue to push the issue of voter fraud. For example, in South Carolina in 2012, there were supposedly over 900 votes that were cast by people who were deceased. The Washington Post reported on the case of “zombie voters” in South Carolina.

Although, shortly after that story was published it was revealed that the claims of “zombie voters” were false. Oliver also touched on this issue as well.

Oliver stated that “of the prior election’s 207 suspicious ballots, 92 of them were cases where someone had the same name as a deceased voter, usually a father and son.”

He would continue, “Fifty-six of them were cases where the social security number of a living voter was mistakenly matched with a dead person. Thirty-two were simply scanner errors. One person requested an absentee ballot, completed it and then died while it was in the mail and most of the others were an array of random clerical errors.”

There were only five ballots out of 207 that could not be accounted for when the investigation was completed.

Along the same lines of voter fraud is the concept of ghost voting. This is a practice in which a member of a legislative assembly casts a vote without being present in the voting chamber. Ghost voting was brought to the forefront when it happened in the Texas legislature.

“As they debated a photo identification mandate for voters, house members passionately and frequently defended the imperative of ballot integrity,” Dallas Morning News author Christy Hoppe wrote.

“And then, often and openly, many of them voted for themselves, then reached over and cast their colleagues’ votes, too, on some of the bill’s 63 amendments.”

Jennifer Kraus, an investigative reporter out of Nashville, Tennessee reported that this practice is so common that many lawmakers have sticks they use to reach others’ voting buttons.

Kraus also discovered that lawmakers are not just voting for each other either. When the clerk takes roll, lawmakers scurry around pushing buttons of others so that even those who are not there are marked as present.

This is a serious problem, especially when you consider what the Texas lawmakers were voting on.

When the legislation was up for consideration representative Debra Maggart told the other house members, “you should be who you say you are when you go to vote.”

Voting is a staple of American democracy.

Then, why must it be so difficult?

Our Viewpoint is voted on by the staff of The Spectator.

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