I have written this oped for today’s New York Times. It begins:
Does voter fraud sometimes happen in the United States? You bet. But we are dealing with this relatively small problem in an irrational and partisan way.
In a 1996 primary in Dodge County, Ga., rival camps for county commissioner set up tables at opposite ends of the county courthouse and bid for voters’ absentee votes in what a county magistrate later called a “flea market” atmosphere.
Recently, officials in Cudahy, Calif., admitted intercepting absentee ballots and throwing out ballots not cast for incumbents. Every year we see convictions for absentee ballot fraud. Not a lot, but enough to know it’s a problem.
So you might think that Republicans, newly obsessed with voter fraud, would call for eliminating absentee ballots, or at least requiring that voters who use them show some need, like a medical condition. But Republicans don’t talk much about reining in absentee ballots. Eliminating them would inconvenience some voters and would likely cut back on voting by loyal Republican voters, especially elderly and military voters.
If only Republicans would apply that same logic to voter-identification laws.
While Republicans have been more to blame than Democrats, partisanship runs both ways. Democrats reflexively oppose efforts to deal with ineligible voters casting ballots, likely out of fear that the new requirements will make it harder for casual voters supporting Democrats to cast a ballot. They have adamantly opposed the efforts of Florida and other states where Republican election officials want to remove noncitizens from the voting rolls. Noncitizen voting is a real, if small, problem: a Congressional investigation found that some noncitizens voted in the close 1996 House race in California between Robert K. Dornan, a Republican, and Loretta Sanchez, a Democrat, but not enough to affect the outcome. Unlike impersonation fraud, noncitizen voting cannot be dismissed as a Republican fantasy.