The Myth of Voter Fraud

The Myth of Voter Fraud

Lorraine C. Minnite
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 312
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctt7zgg1
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Myth of Voter Fraud
    Book Description:

    Allegations that widespread voter fraud is threatening to the integrity of American elections and American democracy itself have intensified since the disputed 2000 presidential election. The claim that elections are being stolen by illegal immigrants and unscrupulous voter registration activists and vote buyers has been used to persuade the public that voter malfeasance is of greater concern than structural inequities in the ways votes are gathered and tallied, justifying ever tighter restrictions on access to the polls. Yet, that claim is a myth.

    In The Myth of Voter Fraud, Lorraine C. Minnite presents the results of her meticulous search for evidence of voter fraud. She concludes that while voting irregularities produced by the fragmented and complex nature of the electoral process in the United States are common, incidents of deliberate voter fraud are actually quite rare. Based on painstaking research aggregating and sifting through data from a variety of sources, including public records requests to all fifty state governments and the U.S. Justice Department, Minnite contends that voter fraud is in reality a politically constructed myth intended to further complicate the voting process and reduce voter turnout.

    She refutes several high-profile charges of alleged voter fraud, such as the assertion that eight of the 9/11 hijackers were registered to vote, and makes the question of voter fraud more precise by distinguishing fraud from the manifold ways in which electoral democracy can be distorted. Effectively disentangling misunderstandings and deliberate distortions from reality, The Myth of Voter Fraud provides rigorous empirical evidence for those fighting to make the electoral process more efficient, more equitable, and more democratic.

    eISBN: 978-0-8014-5906-1
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction: Voter Fraud and the Dynamics of Electoral Mobilization
    (pp. 1-18)

    The 2000 presidential election was a watershed event. The candidate with the most votes lost and the Supreme Court decided the winner. Interest in the deadening minutiae of election administration, never before a subject deserving of so much spilled ink, captured the attention of the public, the press, and academia—and remarkably continues to do so. Blue-ribbon commissions to study the challenges of election administration were convened and reports issued. Thousands of pages of congressional testimony were generated by the hearings and floor debates that led to the passage of the landmark Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA) dealing...

  5. Chapter 2 What Is Voter Fraud?
    (pp. 19-36)

    Before we take up an analysis of the contemporary evidence of voter fraud, the subject of the next two chapters, we must define the term. Most popular meanings boil down to cheating at elections. Voter fraud, vote fraud, and election fraud are blurred in the popular mind and the media, and all evoke the general notions of political corruption, rigged elections, and winning with deception to subvert the rules. There is, however, an important but usually neglected distinction to be made between fraud committed by voters and election fraud committed by officials. Individual voters on their own are not capable...

  6. Chapter 3 Are U.S. Elections Vulnerable to Voter Fraud?
    (pp. 37-56)

    In the aftermath of the contested 2000 presidential election, the theme of electoral corruption returned to U.S. politics. Once again, the colorful lore of voter fraud was featured in the press, invoking the mythic exploits of unscrupulous characters from the past, figures such as William Marcy “Boss” Tweed and the Tammany Ring thugs called the “Short Boys,” who had stuffed ballot boxes, threatened election workers, and intimidated voters.¹ Allegations of illegal aliens swarming over the Mexican border to cast ballots or busloads of college students infiltrating sleepy New Hampshire hamlets from Massachusetts to fraudulently vote recalled the notorious nineteenth-century exploits...

  7. Chapter 4 Evidence from the States
    (pp. 57-76)

    The findings from my research into cases of voter fraud in non-federal elections are consistent with the conclusions we can draw from the federal court data. This chapter describes and analyzes various types of records obtained from four states—California, Minnesota, New Hampshire, and Oregon. The evidence illuminates that the states lack uniform policies for handling, investigating, and prosecuting voter fraud complaints, but at the same time, as discussed in more detail below, it strongly suggests that criminal voter fraud is episodic and rare relative to the total number of votes cast in a given year or election cycle.

    The...

  8. Chapter 5 Would the Rational Voter Commit Fraud?
    (pp. 77-85)

    Our working definition of voter fraud combines the legalistic concept of criminal fraud with the idea that the context is controlling in tying the meaning of voter fraud to the stages of the electoral process exposed to voters. If voter fraud is a crime, the next question is: What is the motive for committing it? If we understand why voters might be motivated to commit voter fraud, we can anticipate the behavior and design procedures that protect the voting process against it.

    Rational choice theorists ask why people decide to vote or not to vote. The individual decision-making process is...

  9. Chapter 6 The Political Work of Fraud Allegations
    (pp. 86-128)

    In this chapter, I develop a theory about partisan voter fraud allegations and about why they are effective; I then test the theory using material drawn from four case studies of voter fraud politics.

    In the debates over the extent of fraud in the late nineteenth century, Peter Argersinger argued that a focus on the incidence of fraud is misplaced. “And while [a claim of ] ‘massive fraud’ injects distortion into any analysis,” he noted, “the reality of election fraud [in the Gilded Age] was its strategic not massive nature.”¹

    Gary Cox and J. Morgan Kousser extend Argersinger’s insight to...

  10. Chapter 7 Voter Fraud Allegations and Their Consequences
    (pp. 129-158)

    Why should political scientists who study U.S. elections and voting rights care about voter fraud? I have established here that fraud itself is a relatively rare event. Rather, the problem is the myth of fraud that can influence the vote count and, more important, shapes the rules that erode voting rights. In this chapter, I examine some recent consequences of the politics of voter fraud and offer suggestions for how we might dispel the myth.

    Unfounded fraud allegations influence electoral politics in two different ways. In the immediate context of specific contests, fraud allegations justify voter-challenge campaigns that can lead...

  11. Appendix 1 Allegations of Voter Fraud in the 2004 Election Cycle by the American Center for Voting Rights Compared to Substantiated Number of Fraudulent Votes Cast
    (pp. 159-200)
  12. Appendix 2 Selected State Election Codes and Case Law Criminalizing Election Fraud in Twelve States
    (pp. 201-217)
  13. Appendix 3 The Quest for Federal Data on Voter Fraud
    (pp. 218-228)
  14. Appendix 4 Steps in Extracting Voter Fraud Records from the Federal Court Cases Integrated Database
    (pp. 229-233)
  15. Appendix 5 Reconciling Differences in Agency Coding of Federal Election Law Violations
    (pp. 234-240)
  16. Appendix 6 Oregon Election Law Complaints
    (pp. 241-246)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 247-290)
  18. Index
    (pp. 291-298)