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Claim vs. Reality: Refuting False Republican Claims on Voter Fraud

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On July 14, 2011, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus held a conference call with conservative bloggers and Republican leaders to perpetuate the myth of widespread voter fraud in American elections. Following this call, Priebus circulated misinformation that made the same erroneous claims used by Republican state legislatures to support harsh photo ID requirements in more than 30 states.

Here are some of the false claims that the RNC is trying to peddle.

Claim: Voter fraud is real, this is not anybody’s imagination.

Claim: The Milwaukee police department reported some detailed fraud in the 2004 presidential election in Wisconsin.

  • Voter impersonation is the only form of voter fraud that photo ID laws could possibly prevent. Yet the Milwaukee police department found only one possible example of voter impersonation in the 2004 presidential election, and was unable to confirm if it was actual voter impersonation or an administrative error. For more information, see here.

Claim: The Colorado Secretary of State found last year that 5,000 non-citizens voted in their Senate race, which was decided by a close margin.

  • Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler’s report failed to show that any non-citizens voted in 2010. During the period the report investigates, over 32,000 Colorado residents became United States Citizens. It is not surprising at all that 4,947 newly-naturalized voters (out of 32,000 total) may have cast ballots in 2010. See here for more information.

Claim: And probably all will remember Minnesota in 2008 when more ineligible voters were identified than the margin between the winning and losing Senate candidates.

  • This claim echoes the debunked allegations from Minnesota Majority, a right-wing advocacy group that specializes in trumped up charges of voter fraud, attacks on embryonic stem cell research, and climate change denials.
  • Responding to the group’s latest accusations, the head of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association, John Kingrey, called the voter fraud allegations “wildly-overstated” and said they wasted limited public safety resources. A recent study cited in the USA Today offers a much more plausible account of ineligible voters in Minnesota.

Claim: Representative Todd Rokita, formerly Indiana Secretary of State, said “In fact, our voting went up 2 percent as we introduced the photo I.D. law. We attribute that to the confidence that the law inspired in the voting public.

  • As election law scholar and Loyola Law School associate professor Justin Levitt has pointed out, photo ID laws are just one of many factors that affect voter turnout on Election Day. The suggestion the photo ID law caused Indiana’s turnout increase is especially misleading, given the high Democratic turnout in the 2006 midterm elections and the huge national voter turnout for the 2008 Presidential election.

Claim: And as for people who don’t have photo ID, American University Center for Democracy in Election Management found recently that 99 percent of eligible voters have the proper ID.

  • The study in questionis not at all representative of the American electorate. The survey questions voters in just three states: Indiana, Maryland, and Mississippi.
  • Rather than look at the entire population of eligible voters, the study only surveyed voters who were already registered. Moreover, the survey did not ask if the respondents’ photo identification was current and up-to-date, which is required under the Republican photo ID legislation. Importantly, the survey also failed to examine the impact these laws have on Latino voters, a constituency that comprised 6.9 percent of all American voters in the 2010 midterms.
  • In a survey conducted by the Opinion Research Corp., a polling firm that is an official partner of CNN, found that 11 percent of eligible Americans lack valid government-issued photo identification.

No matter how many times Republican tales of voter fraud are debunked, they continue telling the same mistruths. Stories like this make it clear that GOP leadership will say anything for partisan gain.

But that doesn't mean it's not worth our time to continue exposing the lies for what they are.