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Voter Fraud Isn't The Problem, Voter Apathy Is

Member of the League of Women Voters responds to article published earlier this month about preventing voter fraud. One local group of people thinks that showing identification at polls should be a requirement to vote.

To the editor:

Recently, Wayne Patch reported that a group is working to require voters to show photo identification before casting a ballot in the November General Election (). The group’s organizer, Rosalie Sabatino, asked in the article: “is voter fraud really true? It is something that you hear about and then you start seeing things and hearing things and then you start asking yourself the question ‘can something like this really happen?’”

In the article, she does not provide an answer to her own question, but goes on to promote a petition that calls for a New Jersey law requiring that people wishing to vote present a photo ID at the polls.

Sabatino’s question has a clear and resounding answer: no.

Voter fraud is not happening. There is no evidence that supports the contention that voters are misrepresenting themselves at the polls.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “Nationwide, since October 2002, 86 individuals have been convicted of federal crimes relating to election fraud (including several offenses not remedied by ID requirements), while more than 196 million ballots have been cast in federal general elections. Statistically, Americans are more likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning."

In fact, we have visited this question before in New Jersey. In 2004, a similar group attempted to probe the accuracy of our state’s voting rolls by comparing them to death records and pushing for photo ID requirements. The Brennan Center investigated their allegations of fraud and found that: “the allegations yielded only eight substantiated cases of individuals knowingly casting invalid votes that counted -- eight voters who voted twice. Given the number of votes cast in these elections, this amounts to a rate of 0.0004 percent. None of these problems could have been resolved by requiring photo ID at the polls.”

Requiring eligible voters to show a government-issued photo ID at the polls before being allowed to vote would constitute an unnecessary barrier to voting and presents a myriad of insurmountable problems for many of those voters.

The Brennan Center reports that as many as 10 percent of eligible voters do not meet, and will not be able to fulfill, the additional requirements proposed by strict and unreasonable voter ID laws. That percentage is even higher for seniors, people of color, students, people with disabilities, and low-income voters. We do not have to look far to see the roadblocks such laws are causing for eligible voters in other states.

In neighboring Pennsylvania, where photo ID laws have been implemented, the Philadelphia Inquirer found that more than 750,000 people, 9.2 percent of the state’s voters, currently lack a state-issued ID. The Justice Department is currently investigating Pennsylvania’s voter ID law.

Ahead of a state trial on the issue, Pennsylvania state officials have acknowledged in court documents that there “have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania; and the parties do not have direct personal knowledge of any such investigations or prosecutions in other states.”

 While advocates of voter ID laws claim that obtaining ID is free and easy, this is simply not true. The Brennan Center recently released “The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification,” which shows that there are a number of obstacles to obtaining “free” ID, including the cost of obtaining a birth certificate or marriage license, the distance voters need to travel to the nearest ID-issuing office, and the limited hours those offices are open.

These facts led the Brennan Center to conclude, “the result is plain: Voter ID laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of poor Americans to vote.  The proposed voter ID laws place a serious burden on a core constitutional right that should be universally available to every American citizen.”

The associated expense required to obtain the “free” voter ID is reminiscent of the unjust and suppressive Poll Tax, which was finally ended in 1964 by the 24th Amendment.

The League of Women Voters deeply believes that voting is a core constitutional right, and we oppose the efforts of those who actively strive to undermine or impede it. 

Citizens should not be working to place unnecessary barriers to voting. Instead, we should focus on encouraging all eligible citizens to participate in exercising one of the most precious rights in our democracy.

Voter fraud is not a problem. Voter apathy is. 

Alice Moskowitz
On behalf of the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters of Wayne Township

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