Widespread voter fraud is a myth.

Image source: NC State Board of Elections, photographer uncredited

Voter fraud is a conspiracy theory invented by Republicans. The theory alleges that hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people cast fraudulent ballots in our elections every year. The solution, we are told, is the imposition of a photo ID requirement, because if we all have to show a photo ID no one will ever get away with voting illegally ever again. Sounds almost reasonable, right? And it might be, except for the fact that this kind of fraud doesn’t really happen all that much. Certainly not enough to affect the outcomes of most elections.

I’ve tried many times to find evidence that supports the claim of widespread voter fraud, and every time most of what I find are instances of Republicans voting twice, or in their dead grandma’s stead, or worse. When they get caught it’s always the same excuse; they were just trying to prove how easy it is to get away with.

If it’s so easy to get away with, why do they always get caught? And why do they always get little more than a slap on the wrist, like this guy, who used to live right here in Randolph County?

Robert Lee Youngblood, the former President of the Randolph County Tea Party, submitted a mail-in ballot in the 2014 primary, where he was running for a seat on the county board of education. He then voted again at the polls on the first day of early voting. He pleaded guilty to charges of voter fraud. Mr. Youngblood was sentenced to two days in jail to be followed by 18 months of unsupervised probation and was fined $750. (SOURCE: Heritage.org Voter Fraud Database)

When asked why the District Attorney’s office agreed to a misdemeanor charge they said that the applicable felony charges would have resulted in a jury trial, “which can go either way”.  Under North Carolina law, people guilty of misdemeanors can still vote. If Youngblood had been convicted of felony voter fraud, which he should have, he could have faced a fine of up to $10,000 or imprisonment of not more than five years, or both, and would have lost his right to vote until his time was served.

Given Mr. Youngblood’s Tea Party affiliation and the fact that Randolph County is one of the deepest Republican strongholds in the state, it’s a safe bet that the D.A.’s office chose to let him off with a misdemeanor because he was one of their own rather than because they feared losing the case. If Mr. Youngblood had been a Democrat I have little doubt that the D.A.’s office would have thrown the book at him and upon conviction lobbied for the maximum penalty.

Last March, in an interview on Fox News, Donald Trump gave voice to what Republican politicians have known for years. The now twice-impeached former president referenced Democratic proposals in a coronavirus stimulus package Congress was negotiating that would have increased funding for voting absentee by mail, saying, “The things they had in there were crazy. They had things — levels of voting that, if you ever agreed to it, you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.”

Republicans know higher election turnout means more votes for Democrats across the board. That’s why they work so hard to enact voter ID and other laws that make voting even marginally more difficult, all while watering down the impact of Democratic voters by packing them into as few districts as possible via partisan and even racial gerrymandering.

That’s right! Our Republican-controlled General Assembly managed to get a constitutional amendment requiring voter IDs approved by referendum a few years ago, only to have it struck down because the Republican majority itself was the result of racial gerrymandering and therefore could not legitimately place such amendments on the ballot. In a just world, that judge should have been able to overturn everything else the illegitimate majority had done, but I guess that would be asking a bit too much.

Widespread, election-altering voter fraud is a myth invented by conservatives to suppress the votes of poor people, especially poor people of color because people of color historically vote for progressive candidates. They almost never vote for conservatives. Why would they since the main thing conservatives seem to want to conserve these days is patriarchy and systemic racism?

Today’s Republican Party is concerned with one thing, remaining in power.  At least half of them don’t seem to give a damn about governing unless it’s in the form of tax cuts for billionaires and corporations or funneling tax money to private schools, or refusing to expand Medicaid. They know their policies harm poor and working-class people and they don’t care. They can’t win fair elections and they know it, so they cheat at every opportunity.

The Heritage Foundation, a Republican think tank, maintains a voter fraud database currently containing 1,311 confirmed cases of illegal voting. The examples found there come from many different elections over several years, but let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that those 1,311 cases all happened in one election; kind of a worst-case scenario.

2020 saw the highest turnout in a U.S. presidential election in our nation’s history, 159,633,396, but to keep things interesting let’s choose a different year with a lower turnout because that will make 1,311 a higher percentage of the total. Let’s use the 2012 vote total: 126,849,299.

1,311 is 0.001033, or just over 1/1,000th of one percent of the 126,849,299 votes cast for presidential candidates in 2012. In 2020 it would be an even smaller fraction of a percent because we had a much higher turnout.

Heritage says its number is not complete, just the number they have been able to confirm, so let’s assume more fraud takes place. Let’s suppose there were 13,110 confirmed cases of illegal voting in 2012. What percentage does that represent? 0.0103%. Even if there were 1,311,000 illegal votes cast in that election it would still barely account for one percent of the total turnout. Significant? Yes. Realistic? Absolutely not!

1.3 million people are slightly more than the current estimated populations of either Wake or Mecklenburg counties, two of the most populous counties in North Carolina. If that many fraudulent votes were being cast in our national elections in any given year we would all know it and no one would doubt it. It would be very obvious to everyone.

So, yes, voter fraud happens, but nowhere close to the degree Republican leaders would have us believe. In most cases, the perpetrators get caught and their illegal votes are thrown out. So why are so many Republicans convinced that there is an epidemic of Democratic voter fraud going on in this country? If Democrats were going to steal an election wouldn’t we have given ourselves veto-proof majorities in Congress, or at least gotten rid of Mitch McConnell?