Conservative supporters of voting restrictions think they’ve found the holy grail in North Carolina: A genuine case of massive voter fraud that can be used to justify efforts to make it harder to vote. The reality, of course, is far less clear. Non-partisan election experts are already pouring cold water on the claims, noting that other recent allegations of major voting irregularities have fizzled upon closer scrutiny. In a report released Wednesday, North Carolina’s elections board said it had found 35,570 people who voted in the state in 2012 and whose names and dates of birth match those of voters in other states. The board said it also found 765 North Carolinians who voted in 2012 and whose names, birthdates, and last four digits of their Social Security number match those of people in other states. The board said it’s looking into all these cases to determine whether people voted twice. There’s a lot riding on what the board finds. North Carolina Republicans last year passed a sweeping and restrictive voting law, which is currentlybeing challenged by the U.S. Justice Department. The law’s voter ID provision would likely have done nothing to stop the double voting being alleged here, but solid evidence of illegal voting could still bolster the state’s case that the measure is justified. It could also make it easier for the state to remove from the rolls voters who are thought to be registered in two states—raising concerns that legitimate voters could wrongly be purged.
But Republicans and conservative media, predictably, aren’t waiting for the results of the probe. Instead, they’re already shouting voter fraud. “N.C. Board of Elections audit finds up to 35,750 instances of ‘double voting’ (voter fraud) in the 2012 election,” tweeted Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer Wednesday. A headline at National Review made the same claim. In astatement, state Sen. Thom Tillis, the frontrunner for the GOP Senate nomination, pointed to “alarming evidence of voter error [and] fraud.”
The notion that the board found over 35,000 cases of voter fraud—or even one case—is flatly false. With the investigation not yet even underway, the board, headed by Republican Kim Strach, hasn’t come close to concluding that any specific case involved double voting. And there are very good reasons why it’s held off.
First, it helps to understand statistics. The political scientist Michael McDonald and election law scholar Justin Levitt have shown in a detailed statistical study that the number of people who share a name and birthdate is much higher than it might at first appear. (Just for fun, take the RNC’s Spicer. Though his name is less common than many, online records show 20 different Sean Spicers who were born on September 23rd, his birthday.) That statistical reality, McDonald and Levitt conclude, has big implications for how to treat potential cases of illegal voting. “I would be very interested indeed in how many of the 35K alleged double voters are the results of mistakes or mistaken assumptions,” Levitt wrote Wednesday in an email to a group of election lawyers. “I’m going to bet on the vast majority evaporating upon closer scrutiny.”
Full Article: Voter fraud in North Carolina? Not so fast | MSNBC.