Charles Poole, 70, checks in upon arriving to cast his ballot at a polling site during early voting in Atlanta, Ga. on May 16, 2014.
David Goldman/AP

Voter-fraud crusader just can’t help himself

Back in 2007, when the Bush/Cheney administration was eager to give Hans von Spakovsky a six-year term on the Federal Elections Commission, Dahlia Lithwick offered some advice to the Senate: “Do not vote for this guy.”
Lithwick’s piece was a rather brutal takedown, making the case that von Spakovsky “was one of the generals in a years-long campaign to use what we now know to be bogus claims of runaway ‘vote fraud’ in America to suppress minority votes.” She added, “[E]ven a brief poke at his resume shows a man who has dedicated his professional career to a single objective: turning a partisan myth about voters who cast multiple ballots under fake names (always for Democrats!) into a national snipe hunt for vote fraud.” Hans von Spakovsky, Lithwick concluded, “symbolizes contempt for what it means to cast a vote.”
Alas, the Republican’s persistence has not waned. This week, the Wall Street Journal published a piece from von Spakovsky under the headline, “Here Comes the 2014 Voter Fraud.”
What is the likelihood that your vote won’t count? That your vote will, in effect, be canceled or stolen as a consequence of mistakes by election officials or fraudulent votes cast by campaign workers or ineligible voters like felons and noncitizens?
Unfortunately, we can’t know. But one thing is almost certain: Voter fraud will occur.
Actually, we can know, and what’s certain is that the scourge of voter fraud is largely imaginary.
As we discussed in August, the most comprehensive investigation to date into every “specific, credible allegation that someone may have pretended to be someone else at the polls, in any way that an ID law could fix” – research that included “general, primary, special, and municipal elections” – identified 31 different fraud incidents out of more than 1 billion ballots cast. That’s  a fraud rate of about 0.00002%.
Hans von Spakovsky, however, says he has a study, too.
His WSJ piece cites a “new study by two Old Dominion University professors, based on survey data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, found that 6.4% of all noncitizens voted illegally in the 2008 presidential election, and 2.2% voted in the 2010 midterms.”
Simon Maloy highlighted the problem.
He did accurately cite the researchers’ findings, as laid out in this post for the Washington Post’s “Monkey Cage” blog. What he left out was the Post’s follow-up entry laying out all the methodological critiques aimed at the study from “academics and commentators” who “expressed skepticism about the paper’s assumptions and conclusions.” In a nutshell: the researchers made unwarranted assumptions about the data they used to arrive at their conclusions, and got rapped on the knuckles for it by their peers.
Spakovsky doesn’t care about that, though. The conclusions support his case, so he ran with them and carefully discarded the information that undermined the evidence he cited…. People like Hans von Spakovsky make sensationalist claims about voter fraud, throw in some questionable research to back up their argument, and trust that no one will bother to dig too deeply into what they’re saying. That’s the only way to manufacture a national panic over what is actually a very minor problem.

Voter Fraud and War On Voting

Voter-fraud crusader just can't help himself