On March 1, 2012, Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert moved in on Florida’s controversial new election law for a recurring segment, “People Who Are Destroying America.” The target: a Panhandle teacher named Dawn Quarles, who turned in 76 voter registration forms from her students beyond the state’s new 48-hour deadline. She could face a $1,000 fine. One of the people Colbert interviewed for his sarcastic report is Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. Florida officials claimed they needed to pass the law to prevent voter fraud, but these cases are actually pretty rare, he said. “There are probably a larger number of shark attacks in Florida than there are cases of voter fraud,” he said. We couldn’t resist diving in: Are there more shark attacks than cases of voter fraud in Florida?
… Florida regularly leads the country in unprovoked shark attacks. In 2011, Florida’s 11 attacks comprised 38 percent of the nation’s total and 15 percent of the world’s attacks. Volusia County, home to the spring-break mecca of Daytona Beach, had the most attacks (six). While the shark attack figures are cut and dry (sorry!), the voter fraud numbers are not. There could be more cases than we know about, involving more people. The numbers may not represent total voter fraud cases, as those could be handled by local supervisors and state attorneys. Also, one “case” may represent multiple counts of voter fraud, perpetrated by multiple people, said agency spokesman Chris Cate. He points to a November 2011 case that resulted in the arrests of nine people from the North Florida town of Madison, including the supervisor of elections. On the other hand, the fraud list does not count only convictions. So some of these cases could be proven unfounded.
The ACLU’s claim is true on its face, but we’re knocking it down a peg with consideration of a few things. One, the state’s count doesn’t represent a complete set of possible fraud being prosecuted in the state. Two, a “case” does not always include just one instance of fraud. Using the Madison case as an example, we know nine people were arrested in just one case. We rate this Mostly True.