Anyone listening to Catherine Engelbrecht for any length of time is likely to be convinced that voter fraud is one of the most insidious evils the nation faces. The articulate and passionate founder of True the Vote, a Houston-based tea party organization dedicated to strengthening laws against voter fraud, has convinced several state legislatures of the need for voters to show photo identification at the polling place. But after three years of national attention – and much success – opponents are pushing back. Courts have struck down, limited or delayed recently enacted voter ID laws, including in Texas. Election officials in several states, including the swing states of Ohio and North Carolina, have rejected many of the challenges that True the Vote volunteers have provided, usually on grounds of paltry evidence.
Polling experts insist that Engelbrecht, who lives in Richmond, Texas, is exaggerating the problem and that photo identification will do nothing to prevent the most likely type of voter fraud, absentee and mail-in balloting. Critics also suggest the issue may be more of a ploy by Republican political consultants interested in discouraging likely Democratic voters than a matter of pressing national concern.
Insisting that voter fraud is rampant, Engelbrecht announced at a Houston summit gathering in April that True the Vote would be mobilizing a million poll watchers around the country this fall. The group may fall short of its goal. In an email last week, Engelbrecht said it wasn’t possible at the moment to determine how many poll watchers her organization is training. “Internally, however, we are hitting poll watcher volunteer and training goals,” she said.