by Félix Pérez
Legislators in various states in the last 10 years have passed — almost always by straight party-line votes — a raft of laws to curb voter fraud. Problem is, fraud committed by voters appears to be a rare phenomenon.
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The latest investigation to come up empty was conducted by the Government Accountability Office, which was unable to document any cases of voter fraud over the last 10 years.
“Today’s GAO report shines a light on the wave of newly enacted state laws that burden and restrict the right to vote for millions of Americans,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, in a statement.
The GAO report, released October 4, is sure to cast fresh doubt on the claim by many Republican lawmakers that they have passed restrictive voter laws to combat voter fraud. Voter ID laws have generated the most attention, but state legislators and governors have also limited early voting and imposed voter registration restrictions.
“We must make it easier, not harder, for poor and working people to vote and to participate in the political process,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who, along with Leahy and two other senators, requested the GAO study. Added Sanders,
There is no credible evidence of voter fraud having had any impact whatsoever on the outcome of an election in recent history. Using unfounded scare tactics and isolated cases to weaken the public’s faith in elections and to disenfranchise millions of eligible voters is reprehensible.”
According to the comprehensive report by the GAO, the nonpartisan research arm of Congress, 21 states passed new voter ID laws in the last 10 years, while seven added more requirements, bringing the total number of states requiring identification to 31. In addition, 18 states imposed new restrictions on voter registration drives during the past 10 years.
The senators asked GAO for details on “any prosecutions or convictions for voter impersonation fraud within each state during the previous 10 years.” GAO researchers were unable to document any fraud.
Two other widely cited national investigations, one by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and the other by the U.S. Department of Justice during the administration of President George W. Bush, likewise found little substance to allegations of voter fraud.
In a related item, a federal court reinstated in-person early voting in Ohio the three days before Election Day. The October 5 ruling from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allows local boards of elections the discretion to decide whether to allow voters to cast an early ballot.