How many known cases of in-person voter fraud could have been prevented by Voter ID Laws?

  • Liberals often claim that while there may be other forms of voter fraud in the United States, like voter registration fraud, the only kind of voter fraud that a voter ID law can possibly prevent is in-person voter fraud (where someone shows up at a polling station and votes when they're not legally permitted), and that there have been almost no documented cases of someone committing intentional in-person voter fraud in the United States.

    How many confirmed cases have there been in the United States of intentional in-person voter fraud which could have been prevented if the state in question had passed voter ID laws?

    And whatever that number is, has it ever been big enough to significantly alter vote totals? What if you throw in unintentional cases as well?

    So lets set a really high bar for acceptance and then point to how no one can get over the bar to show that something is not happening. We do not require ID's in most places to vote. So someone walking in and voting for someone else is not likely to be caught. Twice I had someone vote using my name and both times the election official said that it was probably a mistake that someone was given my sheet on accident. I do not believe in coincidences when they happen repeatedly.

    @Chad - I think the question as currently written is theoretically answerable, because it's asking for `confirmed cases`, which means documentation. Even if there's only (for example) 10 confirmed cases, it'd be possible to say for each one whether a voter ID law would have affected it or not. You can't draw a broader conclusion from that, but that's no longer what the question is asking for.

    @Bobson - Sure its answerable... but it is meaningless. It is basically impossible to confirm the cases because there is no id required to vote. So what happens is when someone shows up to vote and they have already been voted for they are either turned away or given a provincial ballot that never gets counted. There is no investigation no matter how hard you press for one.

    @Bobson - what Chad said. How many confirmed cases of voter fraud is a completely irrelevant information, since there's zero way to confirm whether those confirmed cases consitute 0.001% of all voter fraud or 99.99% of it. The whole point is that the lack of voter ID requirement means that one can commit voter fraud with near impunity without almost any risk of detection. Any assertion of how many DO commit it, is merely a random guess. The only purpose a question like this serves is to prove a partisan point by presenting nominally true but useless info that can not illuminate reality.

    @DVK you can't assert that we don't know the detection rate of voter fraud and then say voter fraud is unlikely to be detected. That's a contradiction.

    @DVK - I'm only answering the question as written. If it gets edited to remove "confirmed" from the qustion, then I'll delete my answer and vote to close as unanswerable. But as written, it *can* be answered, even if that answer is meaningless in the larger picture.

    @Avi - We went through this before. Because of different possible ways that voter fraud can be perpetrated that are clearly undetectable, the ONLY possible answer is "We **don't know** how much voter fraud is there".

    Why did you add back in, "What if you throw in **unintentional cases** as well?" Unintentional fraud doesn't exist. So the answer to that question is **zero** regardless of whether VoterID is being used in that state.

    @user1873 Well, whether you classify it as fraud or not, it's still possible that there may be cases of unintentionally voting when not legally authorized to do so, so that's another possible situation that voter ID laws could potentially prevent.

    @KeshavSrinivasan, **That is correct.** VoterID could prevent unintentional voting when a person wasn't legally allowed to vote. Your question through isn't about unintentional voting, but **known** cases of fraud. So, it is important to note that liberals are **incorrect** when they say, "the **only kind** of voter fraud that a voter ID law can possibly prevent is in-person voter fraud."

    Well, by the definition of fraud you're using, they're correct, because unintentional illegal voting wouldn't be fraud. But in any case, I am also interested in confirmed cases of unintentional illegal in-person voting which could have been prevented had the state in question passed a voter ID law.

    @KeshavSrinivasan, *"I am also interested in confirmed cases of unintentional **illegal** in-person voting"* the bolded part doesn't make any sense for the reasons I indicated above. If you vote but don't **know** you are inelligible, it isn't illegal. If you **are** interested in unintentional inelligible voting, I suggest you reword the question.

    I should clarify, "usually isn't illegal." Some recent laws have made it illegal for aliens to vote when they are ineligible, regardless of whether tbey were aware of the fact that they shouldn't be allowed to vote.

    @KeshavSrinivasan - I've edited my answer to also explicitly address "confirmed cases of unintentional illegal in-person voting".

    I think this question could use a little more cleaning up. You accepted the News21 answer, so perhaps you should tighten up the broad timeline to "recent (2000+) voter fraud." Additionally, you might want to clarify that you mean photo id when talkng about VoterID. Without the time limit, would we have to consider in-person voter fraud that occured before the invention of photography?

    @user1873 If you're aware of confirmed cases that are older than 2000, I'd be happy to hear about those too. I think "Voter ID law" is a pretty standard term, referring to the laws that a bunch of state legislatures have proposed and/or passed in recent years.

  • Bobson

    Bobson Correct answer

    8 years ago


    • Cases of confirmed fraud (prosecuted or not): 10 (0.4%)
    • Cases of confirmed fraud or non-citizen voting (which would be caught by checking drivers licenses): 52 (2.5%)
    • Total confirmed illegal votes by non-felons (which puts an upper bound on our data): 239 (11.6%)

    ~~~~ How many known cases? ~~~~

    This article appears to be the most in-depth investigation of the topic.

    A News21 analysis of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000 [until 2010] shows that ... in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tough voter ID laws, is virtually non-existent.

    In an exhaustive public records search, News21 reporters sent thousands of requests to elections officers in all 50 states, asking for every case of fraudulent activity including registration fraud, absentee ballot fraud, vote buying, false election counts, campaign fraud, casting an ineligible vote, voting twice, voter impersonation fraud and intimidation.

    Their conclusion was that very few cases of fraud were of the type that could be prevented by voter ID laws. Most cases involved absentee ballot or registration fraud (where your ID would not be checked). Those that involved in-person fraud were usually of the "able to vote twice" or "am I eligible in the first place" variety, which is also not resolved by proving that you are who you're supposed to be.

    Their database only has 10 cases of in-person voter impersonation fraud, which is the only kind that a loose voter ID law would catch (i.e. any proof of ID). A stricter form which required a type of ID which only proven citizens could get (such as a driver's license) would have eliminated 52 more cases of (probably) unintentional fraud. Taken together, these account for 2.5% of all reported cases over a ten year period.

    There's also their 187 cases of generic "Casting Ineligible Vote" by Voters, which includes some felon voting (not caught by voter ID), some non-citizen voting (which is included above), but mostly there isn't information on what type it was. If you assume this extra set is entirely the kind of illegal voting that would be caught by voter ID, and that there's no overlap with the above set, that raises the total to a maximum of 239 cases of illegal voting (11.6%).

    ~~~~ So what is the impact? ~~~~

    Under this worst-case scenario, where all of the 239 cases reported come from separate instances of detectable voter fraud, it's still not enough to have any significant impact on the majority of elections. These cases were spread throughout much of the country, over a twelve year spread. But even if they were all concentrated in one district, in one year, they still wouldn't be enough to have an impact on any national-scale election. For example, the smallest districts (on average) have around 500,000 people. Even assuming that only 125,000 (1/4th) of those are actually registered voters, and there's only 10% turnout, that's still 12,500 votes cast. A 51-49% split would have the winner win by 250 votes, which is more than the 239 known cases of fraud.

    To put it another way, there were 351,971,792 votes cast (total) in the presidential elections in the years in question (2000, 2004, 2008) (2012 was too late to be included in the database). 239 votes represents 0.0001% of that total.

    ~~~~ References & Notes ~~~~

    I will point out that I only looked at national-scale elections: Representatives, Senators, and the President. It's possible that local elections (for mayor or other city/county positions) were decided by a small enough margin that a few people voting fraudulently (deliberately or not) would have swung the result. However, I'm not going to look into the data that closely, and the smaller the vote, the harder it will be to vote too often.

    Finally, I'd like to also reference this answer, which points out that in order to have even 1000 deliberately fraudulent votes:

    [E]ither one person has to travel to and vote at a 1000 booths to supply a 1000 votes, or a 1000 people have to collude to vote above and beyond any normal legal incentives to vote. Which is why Tammany Hall corruption was quite visible.

    Note: The database is as comprehensive as possible, but is not 100% complete. See here for details, but basically not all government officials responded. However, if the government didn't respond, any fraud they may have had cannot be considered "confirmed".

    You can query their data directly here, as well as images of every document they sent or received as they were building it.

    What if only 1% or less of voter fraud is being detected? We had 30% turn out at my precinct and 20 cases where someone tried to vote but found that someone had already voted for them and had to fill out a provisional ballot(that gets tossed), that translates to ~70 total votes, our alderman was selected by a margin of 8, and our School Superintendent by 11.

    @chad you'd have to demonstrate that detection rates were that low. Also, this report is included in my answer.

    I can say that there were 20 examples at my polling place with a 30% turn out. Extrapolate that out and you get to 70 instances out of 750 that is almost 10% not under 1% That is one polling place.

    @chad then without data, you can't make a statement about the detection rate.

    @Chad - it doesn't matter **for this question** what percentage is being detected. The OP asks about "confirmed cases". If the case isn't detected, it can't be confirmed.

    @bobson - your statement says - "while fraud has occurred, the rate is infinitesimal" you put the bad data data in your answer you get the penalty flag for it.

    @Chad - Ok, I've removed that from the quote, since it's not relevant to the point I'm making.

    @Bobson - My point is that you point is flawed because your data collection is flawed.

    @Chad - And my point is that *it doesn't matter*. If only 1% of cases are reported and confirmed, then statistics on how many confirmed cases fall into a certain category are still valid. The fact that 99% of the cases aren't reported doesn't affect reporting on the subset. If I ask "How many registered users has this SE question helped?", I don't care that (for example) 95% of all visitors who may or may not have been helped aren't registered users. I only care about the ratio of upvotes to views (or registered views - not sure if they're tracked separately).

    @Bobson - But your answer is wrong because your answer relies on a report that was compiled using flawed data. Your answer will always be wrong so long as you rely on that.\

    @Chad - Where is the flaw in their data?

    @Bobson - They refused to investigate reported instances. It is the bury the head in the sand technique... it doesnt result in good data.

    @Chad - Do you have an example of News21 refusing to investigate something? Because if the election officials / court system refuses to investigate, then that's an unrelated (and disturbing) problem, but if News21 failed to follow up on something for their database, that would be a relevant issue.

    Read the comments... its all right there. News 21 is only using the accepted reports from the FEC. Not the reports that were discounted or deemed unable to investigate. I can double their report of 10 incidents just in my precinct in Peoria IL

    @Chad - I don't see that anywhere in their official methodology. As I read it, they asked each official who might possibly have records for their records, not just the FEC. And if the official failed to investigate them, that's (as I said) an unrelated (and disturbing) problem which in no way affects the question of *confirmed cases*. And like I commented on the question itself, **I think this question is asking for useless data, but it is data that exists so it can be answered.**

    Then think of the downvotes as a promoting a useless question tax

    That's what downvoting the question is for, but you're free to downvote the answer for any reason you like, including "I flipped a coin" or "The question is stupid and so is anyone who answers it" (exaggeration mine). I'm ok with that. Just don't claim that the *answer* is flawed just because it answers a flawed question which uses a flawed definition to ask for flawed data.

    I'm only interested in cases that would be preventable by voter ID laws, so don't include the 74 felon voting cases.

    @KeshavSrinivasan - Do you find that this answer substantially addresses your question, aside from the digression about felon votes? If so, I'll remove that, tighten it up slightly, and address the scale of the numbers.

    Yes, it's a very thorough answer. And adding something about the scale would be great. Thanks!

    @KeshavSrinivasan - Added some comments on the scale, and the other changes. Also some formatting to break it up. I'm glad I could answer the question for you.

    Thanks! I'm sorry you have zero net votes despite completely answering my question.

    @KeshavSrinivasan - That happens a lot around here, unfortunately. At least upvotes count more than downvotes do.

    The study is useless because that's not the type of voter fraud that voter ID laws are intending to catch or prevent. It's the family and friends voting for other family and friends (who the voter knows isn't going to bother to vote) where this will have the most impact. These cases don't get reported because nobody files a report. Another type of voter fraud is by people who have their main home in one state and a second in another state and they end up voting in both states. When I lived in Florida a paper did research and found over 200 New Yorkers who did this in just my county alone.

    @Dunk - Two things: First, if the law is not enforced by the poll workers, then it doesn't matter whether it exists in the first place. Likewise, if violations of the law aren't reported, then they **also** can't be prevented. It doesn't matter if I have to give *DNA proof* of my identity in order to vote, if the poll worker lets me in and out of the booth five times to vote in place of my family members. So in order to have any sort of rational discussion we **must** accept the reported numbers as the true numbers (or provide proof that they are significantly wrong).

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