The foundation of Florida’s election-law changes — the bedrock belief that spurred major reforms this spring – was the notion that voter fraud is rampant. So the Legislature passed and Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill that limits early voting, makes it harder for some groups to register voters and will cause headaches for voters who’ve recently moved. Their ballots might not even be counted.
And guess what? We’ve known for months the “voter fraud” excuse was phony.
Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux and Susan Blackwell, president of the Okaloosa chapter of the League of Women Voters, said that instances of fraud are rare. It just isn’t a big problem. Richard Means, a former Illinois prosecutor, wrote an essay denouncing some states’ new “voter ID” requirements. Those laws, too, were applied after lawmakers raised the specter of voter fraud.
“As a former prosecutor of election-law violations in Chicago,” Means wrote, “I know a little something about election fraud. But what I found in years of pursuing cases of ballot abuse is that it almost never involved ordinary citizens who, say, voted when they weren’t eligible, voted under an assumed name or voted multiple times.
“Instead, the fraud was almost exclusively perpetrated by political operatives who stuffed ballot boxes, ‘lost’ ballots or otherwise manipulated the vote totals in their precincts and wards.
“On the unusual occasions when individual voters were involved, they were bribed or intimidated into cooperating with the scheme by a political operative. National and local investigations over the years have confirmed my personal experience.”
Means said flatly that widespread fraud by individual voters is “a nonexistent problem.”
And that means Florida is tightening its election laws for a nonexistent reason.
Everyone who cherishes the right to vote, and who believes government should encourage voting instead of finding ways to impede it, ought to demand that Florida restore the liberties it seems intent on taking away.