There is real voter fraud going on in Kansas and across America. Ironically, the perpetrator is Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a noted voter-fraud alarmist, joined by his allies. Their goal is not to fraudulently cast votes, but to fraudulently suppress them.
Last Sunday I appeared on a television program immediately following an interview with Kobach. His claim that “there haven’t been any studies on voter fraud” left me astonished. In fact, extensive reports are available online from New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, among others. Here are the facts:
Researchers have found few documented voter-fraud cases around the country during the past 10 years. Urban legends about deceased people voting are generally due to either a voter dying later in the same year after the election or two voters sharing both name and birthday. Stories about votes being cast where no house is located are typically due to the voter living in an apartment or group home, someplace not zoned for single-family houses.
Myths about undocumented workers registering and voting are unsubstantiated. For example, Kobach’s famous claims regarding voter fraud by Somali immigrants in Kansas City, Mo., involve an election with only two proven cases of voter fraud. Both were by relatives of one candidate and were caught and successfully prosecuted without proof-of-citizenship or photo-ID laws.
Kobach’s laws suppress votes, not fraud. I recently completed research with Chapman Rackaway of Fort Hays State University and Kevin Anderson of Eastern Illinois University. Analyzing the change in turnout between 2008 and 2012, and accounting for other factors, we estimate that a county with 30 percent poverty will experience a voter-turnout drop of more than 3 percent because of the proof-of-citizenship laws Kobach favors. Indeed, under such a law, Kansas fell from 28th to 36th among the states for voter turnout between 2008 and 2012 – America’s third-largest drop. Other research finds similar effects for photo-ID laws.
The annual Kansas Speaks survey from the Docking Institute of Public Affairs at Fort Hays now asks: “Were you prevented from registering by a proof-of-citizenship law?” and “Were you prevented from voting by a photo-ID law?” In 2013, seven respondents answered “yes” to the first question and seven more said “yes” to the second – a total of 14 respondents in a survey of 944 people. Just shy of 1.5 percent, this percentage is larger than the margin by which many close elections are determined.
The real voter fraud here is Kobach and his allies’ trumped-up claims of fraud, used to justify policies suppressing legitimate votes. Ruling on similar laws in Wisconsin, that state’s courts have determined that the cost of obtaining a birth certificate constitutes a poll tax, which is forbidden by both the U.S. and Wisconsin constitutions.
Also, Kobach ally Americans for Prosperity recently was caught mailing fraudulent voter-registration cards in North Carolina that contained incorrect instructions and were mailed to many ineligible voters, including a cat and a child who would be 4 1/2 years old had she not died two years ago.
It is time to ask: Who are the ones really perpetrating voter fraud?
Michael A. Smith is an associate professor of political science at Emporia State University.