The stated rationale behind the Republican campaign to require voter ID at the polls is utterly baseless, evidence from a new study confirms.
Republican legislatures are increasingly imposing strict ID requirements for voters, ostensibly to deter in-person voter fraud. But voter fraud in general is rare. And that particular form of voter fraud is "virtually non-existent," according to the extensive public-records search conducted by News21, a nonpartisan investigative news project funded by the Carnegie and Knight foundations. Researchers filed more than 2,000 public-records requests and reviewed nearly 5,000 court documents, official records and media reports to get their information.
They identified 2,068 alleged cases of voter fraud since the year 2000, a period during which there have been more than 600 million votes cast in presidential elections alone. That, the study noted, is an "infinitesimal amount." It also showed a total of 10 cases of in-person voter fraud during that period.
With Republicans in control of so many state houses, 25 laws and two executive actions to restrict voting have passed since the beginning of 2011, in 19 states. The most common new voting law, now effective in nine states, requires voters to show certain government-issued photo identification cards.
Supporters defended voter id laws when News21 presented its data. “Whether you have proof of it or not, what in the heavens is wrong with showing an ID at polls?” said Bill Denny, a Republican state representative in Mississippi who sponsored his state’s voter ID bill.
So why are Republicans pushing for ID cards so hard? One obvious answer: voter suppression.
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