Jury is still out on NC voter fraud claims

April 3, 2014 

North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders want to call one election before all the votes are in. They say that state elections officials, having identified hundreds and perhaps thousands of voters who may have cast ballots in two states (one being North Carolina) in the 2012 general election, have justified the GOP’s voter suppression laws. Those laws include curbs on early voting and especially a Voter ID law.

If indeed those elections officials are able to prove significant fraud, then Republicans may crow as they wish. But it’s far too early to pronounce that voter fraud in North Carolina is a massive problem.

In fact, as the State Board of Elections under executive director Kim Strach proceeds with an investigation, 765 alleged voter fraud cases may prove to be not exactly fraud at all.

Basically, the fraud allegations turned up because of a “cross-check” of voter records involving 28 states. The check showed 765 voters whose first and last names, dates of birth and the last four digits of their Social Security numbers matched with a voter registered in another state and who voted in North Carolina and another state in 2012.

Maybe, maybe not

Credit Strach as the voice of reason in the wake of the allegations, while Republican lawmakers were going around the bend with glee. She said the cases could be fraud, or they might not be. The numbers could be the result of mistakes by precinct workers, who in a big election year can be extremely busy checking voters in. And some voters remain on the rolls after they die, at least for a while. Strach’s point was that voter rolls have to be accurate to reduce the chance of error.

And Bob Hall of the watchdog group Democracy North Carolina will doubtless be shouted down by GOP leaders so eager to justify their shameful attempts to reduce the number of Democratic voters. But he made a most salient point in saying that just because there are duplicate names doesn’t mean those voters are guilty of fraud. “I know there is more than one Bob Hall with my birthdate who lives among the 28 states researched,” Hall said.

Numbers fuzzy, motives not

Strach and the elections board have to look more closely into the issue before Republicans, whom Hall noted have a “political agenda” here, can use this number as proof positive that they needed to do what they did on Voter ID. Of course, when they did it, their intention was transparent. Older people who don’t drive, even some college students and the poor are among those likely to lack a conventional photo identification, and they also happen to be more likely to vote Democratic.

Republicans pushed through the suppression measures because they weren’t satisfied with drawing legislative and congressional districts to their great advantage following the 2010 Census.

Also important to consider is that those 765 cases cited represent an incredibly small fraction of millions of voters on the rolls checked. Even if each and every one is a case of voter fraud, and that’s almost certainly not the case, the number would represent a tiny fraction of all voters.

But that’s inconsequential to Republicans who want to use these numbers to their political advantage. What if it turns out, however, that the vast majority of these cases of duplication aren’t fraud at all, but mistakes? We trust that at that point, Republican leaders will step forward to admit they jumped the gun and will promise to undo the damage they did with their voter suppression laws.

Unfortunately, the GOP leaders seem more inclined to ignore any result that runs counter to their ideology and their determination to ensure that election laws favor their party.

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