The Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) in an attempt to discredit a NAACP report this week on the lack of voter fraud evidence has bolstered the view that there is no need for voter ID laws, imposed by many states. The RNLA produced data showing 46 states and various convictions for voter fraud. Presumably by their absence, 4 states and the District of Columbia had no convictions.
Viewing the data for the period 2000-2010, the report by its own account shows there is no link between voter fraud in states and the need for stricter voter ID laws. The data shows that during the entire 10 year period, 21 states had only 1 or 2 convictions for some form of voter irregularity. And some of these 21 states have the strictest form of voter ID laws based on a finding of 2 or less convictions in ten years. Five states had a total of three convictions over a ten year period. Rhode Island had 4 convictions for the same 10 years. Taking a close look at the RNLA data shows 30 states, including the District of Columbia had 3 or less voter fraud convictions for a 10 year period.
Voter ID laws enacted now in over half the states, require voters to present some form of identification as a requirement to vote. Fourteen states require a government issued photo ID when voting in person. At the time of registering to vote, other states like Kansas and Alabama further demand proof of citizenship beyond the federal legal requirement that citizens swear they are citizens. Kansas had one conviction for voter fraud in ten years; Alabama had three convictions in the same time period. During the 2011 legislative session, five states—Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina—joined Georgia and Indiana by enacting the strictest form of photo ID requirement for voters, and most of these newest changes will first come into effect for the 2012 elections.
The RNLA says the voter ID laws are needed to prevent against double voting, non-citizen voting, fictitious voter registration and voter impersonation. To hear Republicans tell the tale, one would think there has been massive voter/election fraud necessitating the need for stricter voter ID laws across the country. Now the Republicans’ own data dispels their rampant voter fraud myth. A closer scrutiny of the RNLA data shows voter fraud has no correlation to needing strict voter ID laws.
In the states with higher convictions of improper voting, most involved voters improperly filling out registration forms, vote buying or a person with a felony conviction attempting to vote. Vote buying occurs when a voter is paid or offered money for their vote. Neither of these issues would be prevented by state photo ID requirement. While the RNLA data shows 17 cases of non-citizen voting convictions over 10 years in Florida and one in both Alaska and Illinois, this hardly justifies the requirement of proof of citizenship requirement.
The GOP and conservative groups fought to enact strict voter ID laws in more than 30 states. According to George Washington University law professor, Spencer Overton, a former member of the Commission on Federal Election Reform, “the existing evidence suggests that the type of fraud addressed by photo ID requirements is extraordinarily small and that the number of eligible citizens who would be denied their right to vote as a result… is exceedingly large.” And now we see firsthand that the proof is in the pudding. And there’s no proof to support the need for these laws.
Debbie Hines is a lawyer, former prosecutor and legal commentator appearing in national and local media including CNN, the Michael Eric Dyson Show, XM Sirius radio, NBC , ABC and CBS -Washington, DC affiliates, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She founded LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on race and gender in law and politics. She also writes for the Huffington Post.