Fairfax County election officials have asked local, state and federal authorities to investigate whether 17 people may have voted twice in the 2012 general election – once in the county, and again in Maryland. Such allegations are shocking. They also need to be considered in context. Photo identification wouldn’t have thwarted the double voting, if it occurred, because voters in these cases didn’t need to impersonate somebody else. Still, Republican-controlled legislatures have passed laws in many states, including Virginia, requiring photo ID – keenly aware that the constituencies that tend to vote for Democrats are less likely to have them. Virginia’s new law took effect July 1. The Virginia Voters Alliance, a conservative advocacy group, examined full names and birthdates in data it purchased from the commonwealth and Maryland. Reagan George, president of the alliance, told me he turned over the information on suspect voters to Fairfax officials. “We’ve moved past the point of stuffing ballot boxes,” said George, who lives in the county. “Voter fraud has become sophisticated.”
Brian Schoeneman, secretary of the Fairfax County Electoral Board, said that after an initial review of county voting records “and a comparison to Maryland voting records, we determined that it was in the public interest to refer these individuals to law enforcement for investigation.” The board sent information to local prosecutors, the state Attorney General’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice.
No one has been accused of a crime, Schoeneman said, and the 17 voters “are of diverse ages, genders and political affiliations.” He told me the conventional wisdom is that someone votes in person in one state and by absentee ballot in the other.
I don’t want people to cast votes illegally. That undermines the process and places a cloud over winning candidates.
But a bigger question is how prevalent fraud really is, and whether the prescribed remedies do more to keep legitimate voters away from the polls than to root out law-breaking.