An April 13 Post and Courier editorial reflected on a Raleigh News & Observer story reporting that, according to North Carolina election officials, a 28-state "cross check" found potentially 35,750 fraudulent votes were cast in the 2012 election. That finding was based on the discovery of duplicate first and last names, birthdays and last four digits of Social Security numbers in different states.
The editorial also said that "further investigation is required to determine the true extent of 2012 voter fraud in North Carolina - and beyond," and that "2013 allegations about 2012 voting fraud in South Carolina ... were eventually shown to be vastly overstated."
As a reminder, our governor claimed that 900 dead people voted in South Carolina in 2012. A State Law Enforcement Division investigation found that the S.C. Department of Motor Vehicles was not careful in matching names and Social Security Numbers and that human clerical errors also posed a problem. The final result - not one case of a fraudulent voter using a dead person's name was found.
Further investigation of the aforementioned possibly 35,750 fraudulent votes is indeed prudent, and should consider the reality that many voters share the same first and last names and birthdays.
Political scientist Michael McDonald and election law scholar Justin Levitt affirmed that when they checked Republican National Committee leader Sean Spicer's name and found 20 individuals with his name and birthday.
Further investigation may also show that human error is amplified when examining the voter rolls of 28 states. People sometimes sign on the wrong line and identifying information is sometimes incorrectly recorded. In some states, unavailable Social Security numbers are accounted for with a single code, like "9999." Additionally, hundreds of thousands of Americans share the last four digits of our seven-digit Social Security numbers.
Further investigation may ultimately account for the overwhelming majority of the 35,750 votes in question. Kansas Secretary of State and "Crosscheck" founder Kris Kobach admitted that of 84 million voter records analyzed, only 14 were referred for prosecution and that none of those referrals resulted in a voter conviction.
My hope is that the editorial pages of the Post and Courier will highlight the eventual investigative results, so that the difference between what's alleged and what's factual can be made clear. I'd also urge the editors to explore a few other things. The first is ample and chronic evidence of voter suppression and intimidation. Billboards were erected in Ohio's minority community in 2012 warning of the legal penalties for voter fraud. A conservative Florida political operative, who sponsored voter registration drives in minority communities, threw the registration forms in the trash.
In some states, minority voters received "robo calls" reminding them to go to the polls one week after election day. In South Carolina, mailings have been sent - sometimes on bogus NAACP stationery - reminding voters to go to the polls, but warning that they would be checked for outstanding warrants and child support payments and should bring their credit reports to the polls.
I also suggest that the editors objectively consider who will be most impacted by laws to combat statistically nonexistent voter fraud. Why is it that in some states, a concealed weapon permit is allowable voter identification but a student ID card is not? What happens to voters of modest means who have little other need of a photo ID because they don't drive, board airplanes or have bank accounts? Why should seniors, who were born at home and are identified on their birth certificates as "baby boy" or "baby girl," have to spend precious funds to straighten things out?
Objective consideration may indicate the group of voters Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Mike Turzai had in mind when he said at a 2012 State Republican Committee Meeting, "Voter ID, which is going to allow Governor Mitt Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done."
Finally, I'd encourage editorial advocacy for other ways to improve the election process - like early voting, more polling places and a uniform national standard for registration and voting that would eliminate things like the use of paper ballots in some parts of North Carolina.
We'd then have a system that guarantees fair elections and doesn't disguise legalized voter suppression as zeal to "combat voter fraud."
The Rev. Joseph A. Darby is presiding elder of the Beaufort District of the AME Church and first vice president of the Charleston Branch NAACP.
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