That defense relies of course on the assumption that in-person vote fraud -- the only kind dissuaded by voter ID -- is a major problem or at least a minor problem or even a problem at all. GAO researchers went looking for evidence of such a problem, and they could find none. For example, in sifting through all the claims and counterclaims, they found five research efforts into vote fraud of sufficient rigor to be cited. The results of those five studies?
- "No significant indicators of voter impersonation fraud in the 2012 general election."
- "No suspicious anomalies found in voting patterns."
- "Five questionable votes cast in the November 2006 general election in Georgia." That's five out of 2.1 million votes cast. The GAO notes that when researchers tried to explore those five votes further, county registrars did not respond to requests for information. "If provided, information from the registrars may have clarified the status of the 5 questionable votes identified." In other words, even those five cases may be nothing.
- "Forty-eight individual voter defendants charged with violating federal election laws from 1996-2005. These cases may or may not include instances of in-person voter fraud." Again, that's 48 over a 10-year period over the entire country, and no evidence they included in-person fraud.
- "10 confirmed cases of in-person voter fraud among the over 2,000 election fraud cases identified" over the entire country from 2000 to 2011.
Based on the evidence, GAO researchers say they can't prove that in-person vote fraud exists, nor that it does not exist. In that regard, I guess, you could say the same about the Loch Ness monster, or about the ISIS terrorists said to be pouring across our border with Mexico. Proving a negative is difficult.
In short, over the past few years the party of small government and less bureaucracy has imposed a significant new bureaucratic hurdle on American citizens, and at considerable taxpayer expense, based on zero evidence of a problem, in hopes of discouraging participation in democratic government and thus gaining a small political advantage. To that degree, it has been a success.
And I admit that just in terms of strategy, you have to admire what they've pulled off. GOP strategists knew that they do better when turnout is lower, particularly among certain groups, and they knew that voter ID would help them achieve that lower turnout, just as poll taxes and literacy tests had in earlier generations. So, lacking an argument that would justify such a step, they created an entirely spurious outcry about widespread voting-in-person fraud that to this day has never been documented.
And it worked. They succeeded in whipping up a hysteria among a base that just knew they couldn't be losing all these elections fairly and squarely, and in short order the existence of widespread fraud became something that every conservative had to believe in order to remain in good standing as a conservative, regardless of whether it had a factual basis.
And that's where we find ourselves today.