In an article on the new Virginia voter ID law (“Voter photo ID law to take effect July 1,” June 27-29), the Times quotes Del. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg) claiming as the basis for that law that “We know that voter fraud exists.” Mr. Obenshain was fortunate that the Times did not ask him to provide evidence for this assertion. In fact, the supposed prevalence of in-person voter fraud – like the validity of supply-side economics, the easy life of the American poor due to their generous government subsidies, and the awfulness of the Affordable Care Act – turns out on examination to be just one more right-wing falsehood, repeated so often in the conservative echo chamber that Mr. Obenshain can get away with treating this lie as an evident certainty.
Study after study, and court case after court case, have found that election fraud of any kind is exceptionally rare, and in-person voter fraud (the only kind Mr. Obenshain’s photo ID law can address) is almost nonexistent. For example, in 2012 the investigative new organization News21 reported on an in-depth study they conducted of all types of alleged election fraud since 2000 – a period during which over 600 million votes were cast. The study turned up only 2,068 allegations of all types of fraud, including exactly 10 cases of alleged in-person voter fraud. Earlier this year, in a decision the Republican governor of Pennsylvania has decided not to appeal, a state court tossed out Pennsylvania’s voter ID law – in part because the state presented no evidence that any in-person voter fraud had actually occurred. Reflecting on such evidence, federal Circuit Judge Richard Posner late last year expressed serious second thoughts about a court decision in which he participated in 2007 that justified voter ID laws.
Both experience with such laws and academic and journalistic research have made clear what many people suspected from the beginning: that these laws are not intendedto address virtually non-existent fraud but to erect barriers to voting for groups less likely to vote for Republicans. That Virginia’s law is not the worst of this bad lot does not make it any more justifiable, or any less a waste of the state’s resources.
George Colvin, Oakton