Recently, Pennsylvania (and other states) have become embroiled in legislation attempting to combat ‘voter fraud’. There is a lot of hype and miscommunication on this subject, so I am pretty much writing this to clear some things up, and so I don’t have to write a long-ass explanation everywhere.
What is ‘Voter-Fraud’?
Voter fraud is a FEDERAL (this will be importent later) crime that covers a broad scope of smaller crimes that impede the voting (election) process. The most common of these are voter registration tampering- such as throwing away voter reg forms, or going out to register voters, but only registering members of a single party- but also includes in-person voter fraud (Going to the polls multiple times claiming you are a different person each time), as well as other criminal acts. Clearly these are bad things and should be minimized (or even better stopped altogether).
Now technically, voter fraud is defined as “an individual appearing at a polling station, providing identification bearing a false name, and casting a ballot.”
Pa. Voter ID Law: What does it Stop? Does it stop Voter-fraud?
The recently passed (Though currently on hold) Pa Voter ID law requires you to show a photo ID before casting your ballot. The supposed reason behind this is to stop wide-spread “voter-fraud”.
This Photo-Id could be:
- Photo IDs issued by the U.S. Federal Government or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- PA Driver’s License or Non-driver’s License photo ID (IDs are valid for voting purposes 12 months past expiration date)
- Valid U.S. passport
- U.S. military ID- active duty and retired military (a military or veteran’s ID must designate an expiration date or designate that the expiration date is indefinite). Military dependents’ ID must contain an expiration date
- Employee photo ID issued by Federal, PA, PA County or PA Municipal government
- Photo ID from an accredited PA public or private institution of higher learning
- Photo ID issued by a PA care facility
So, I mean this is all well and good, but it really fails to stop most forms of voter-fraud (other then in-person voting-fraud). The only real fraud it stops is in-person voter fraud, which is very rare. It does nothing to stop voter registration fraud, they still can toss out your forms, and again, that is the vast majority of voter fraud cases.
Something that often goes uncondsidered is just how hard it is to commit in-person voter fraud. You have to go into a voting place, where you will be faced with multiple people, you have to have some form of id (most commonly voter id card, non-photo), give it to the people checking registration, then sign the voter-roll in a similar way to how the person you are impersonating did so on their voter-reg forms. Add into this that you are in a line of people, and are expected to do this fairly quickly, plus there are almost always police (or their equivalent) hanging around the polling place, add to this that you already (or will) voted for yourself, possibly at the same place, and you end up with something that is incredibly hard to pull off. Then you get the real consequences of getting caught It is a federal crime, and you will get significant jail time. It is easy for something to go wrong at any point and get you in that much trouble.
But let’s look at the benefits you get for committing in-person voter fraud, because even though it is clearly very risky, us as Americans love risky behavior if it has a big enough reward (just look at our meth addicts, drunk drivers, etc). What DO you gain by committing voter fraud? Your favorite candidate gets ONE more vote. If you think about the big picture, that one extra vote isn’t even that importent, elections are rarely decided by single votes, but rather hundreds or thousends of votes.
In short, in-person voter-fraud is considerably more risky then it is effective (or beneficial). Basically, there is no strong motivation to commit voter fraud.
And facts seem to back this up. In fact, according to politifact, there has only been 10 proven cases of voter fraud nationally since 2000. If this was as big a problem as lawmakers claim, wouldn’t there be more such cases? I mean, for such a risky crime, I would definitely think that there would be more people cought.
- Voter fraud is a broad term
- The Pa Voter ID law only stops one type of voter fraud (In-person voter fraud)
- In-person voter fraud is very risky, and rare. There is not much motivation for individuals to commit this type of crimes.