Despite their considerable victories in November’s elections, Republicans have lost badly on one issue – voter fraud.
Republican-led states, most notably North Carolina, have passed laws preventing people from voting in the name of another or registering people who are not eligible to vote, even as those restrictions made it harder or impossible for thousands of eligible voters to cast a vote. It’s a necessary protection, Republicans maintain. Indeed President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that “millions” of people voted illegally.
More than a month after the general election, a fine-combing of the results shows what opponents of restrictive voting laws have always contended: voting fraud is a myth used to justify the suppression of voters likely to vote Democratic.
The New York Times reported this week that elections officials in 26 states and the District of Columbia had no cases of voter fraud. Eight other states said they had one allegation.
This dearth of evidence comes out of an election in which 137.7 million Americans cast ballots and results in several states were closely examined through recounts.
In North Carolina, where the Republican-led General Assembly passed the one of the strictest Voter ID laws in the nation, supporters of Gov. Pat McCrory combed through returns trying to overturn his narrow loss to Attorney General Roy Cooper. Almost all of the challenges were dismissed by Republican-controlled county election boards. Of 4.7 million votes cast, 25 were found to be wrongly cast by ineligible felons, most of whom may not have realized that their restriction voting extended not only to their time in prison, but through the duration of their post-release limitations.
After a month, with Cooper’s lead growing as the vote was finalized, McCrory, who signed the voting restrictions as “common-sense protections,” conceded on Dec. 6.
“The old notion that somehow there are all these impostors out there, people not eligible to vote but voting – it’s a lie,” Thomas E. Mann, a resident scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at the university of California, Berkeley told The Times, “But it’s being used in the states now to impose increased qualifications and restrictions on voting.”
A federal court struck down North Carolina’s voter ID restrictions in the Nov. 8 election. But the restrictions – requiring a photo ID from a narrow list of valid forms that excluded college IDs, state employee IDs and ID for government assistance programs – were in place for the state’s March primary elections. Bob Hall, of the voting rights watchdog group, Democracy NC, said thousands of votes were prevented or denied as as result.
The elderly, the disabled and poor people often do not drive and have no need for a license. Many also don’t have ready access to birth certificates or other documents required for a state identification card. Thousands of people, some of whom have voted for decades, are barred from the voting booth by the phony demand for proof that they are who they say they are.
They are American citizens entitled to vote. The baseless attempts to deprive them of that right has been exposed by the scrutiny of elections in November. North Carolina’s Republican leaders should be embarrassed to try to re-impose the restrictions in the 2017 session. But this effort has never been about the fact or about the shame in depriving Americans of their right to vote.