There’s been a lot of discussion this election year about voter fraud. The discussions range from a belief that the existence of the republic is endangered by all these fraudulent voters, to the belief that voter fraud is negligible and the pursuit of it is racism.
I can think of three basic kinds of voter fraud:
- Improperly credentialed voters
- Malevolent tabulation
- Buying votes
The first, improperly credentialed voters, is the target of the voter ID legislation that has been passed in a number of states in recent years. Where I live (Texas), you can vote with only your voter registration card for identification. If you forget your voter registration card, you can vote with a photo ID. The intent of the legislation is to require both. Recently, in Dallas County, there was a conviction of somebody who voted in a local election who was ineligible. They lied about where they lived in order to register and vote for a family member who was running in the Democratic primary. The DA who prosecuted was also a Democrat. I can’t imagine how they caught this individual, unless an opponent knew for a fact that she lived someplace else.
That’s the thing about this type of voter fraud: it’s hard to find examples of it, because it’s really hard to detect. If this person had been required to show her driver’s license, with her real address, she wouldn’t have bothered to try filing a fraudulent vote.
One example of this type of thing made history. Lyndon B. Johnson won a Democratic primary for senator from Texas in 1948, when he won by 87 votes out of a million cast. The difference came from a ballot box in Alice, Texas, where a significant number of ballots were cast in alphabetical order and in the same handwriting, and all of the voters involved were dead. When the loser filed suit, the ballot box disappeared, never to be found again. Imagine the latter half of 20th Century American history with no Lyndon Johnson.
Malevolent tabulation is suspected most notably in the Presidential election of 1960. This was an unbearably close election, and the decision came down to a couple of states, Illinois and Texas. Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago held back the tally for Cook County until he knew how many votes John F. Kennedy would need to carry Illinois. Texas had all manner of shenanigans. There were investigations afterwards, and some convictions in Illinois, but only one state flipped sides after the election (Hawaii). Nixon believed the election had been stolen, and who knows if his paranoid behavior after he was elected President himself were in part caused by that belief.
Finally, buying votes goes on all the time. I had the privilege of living for a time in both New York and Chicago, and I would have to say vote buying was endemic. Of course, it’s not called vote buying – it’s called “walking around money” or money given to help people get to the polls, and maybe buy some coffee and donuts on the way home. It happened in 2008, but for some strange reason the Attorney General was not interested in prosecuting it.
It’ll be interesting to see what types of voter fraud are found next month. Maybe they’ll come up with some new ones.