The Voting Rights Act turned 50 on Aug. 6, but the anniversary also doubled as an occasion for voting rights advocates to celebrate a new victory: The day before, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas’s 2011 photo ID law was unconstitutional, because it violated the rights of minority voters. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., went on ABC’s This Week on Aug. 9 to explain why he supported the decision: “Take Texas for example, where Lyndon Johnson’s obviously from, they passed these voter ID laws. In the decade before it, 10 years, they only prosecute two people for in-person voter ID, only two people. You’re more likely to get struck by lightning in Texas than to find any kind of voter fraud.” We were surprised by the colorful comparison. So we decided to see if we could figure out whether lightning really is more likely to strike in Texas than people trying to cast ballots using fake identities. … An expert from the National Weather Service confirmed to us that the probability of being struck by lightning in Texas is slightly lower than the national average, right around 1 in 1.35 million. So how does this 1 in 1.35 million chance compare to the probability of finding voter fraud?
To find out, we first counted up the total number of ballots cast from 2000 to 2014 using the Texas Secretary of State’s online record. The website includes presidential, congressional, and special elections, but skips over a lot of the more local ones. We came up with just about 71.5 million votes cast, but since the database isn’t comprehensive, we rounded up to 72 million (though that’s probably still an underestimate).
… Since 2002, there have been a total of 85 election fraud prosecutions, not all of which have resulted in conviction. Only a small number of those cases — four or possibly fewer — included allegations of in-person voter fraud, also called voter impersonation. Those are the kinds of cases the voter ID law in Texas is aimed at preventing, and Booker is right that they have been less frequent than lightning strikes. Overall, we rate his statement True.