There’s nothing so democratic as a lynch mob, as concerned citizens of Ohio and Pennsylvania have recently shown. In Pennsylvania this week, a judge upheld Act 18-2012, the now-famous piece of anti-voter-fraud legislation. Voter fraud has been a huge topic of concern in the past several years, and not entirely without reason. Since the year 2000 there have been 2,068 documented cases of reported voter fraud throughout the United States. In Pennsylvania in 2008, in fact, a temporary employee at ACORN named Luis R. Torres-Serrano was accused of submitting over 100 false voter-registration cards to election officials.* Act 18-2012 can be viewed, therefore, as a shining example of populist outrage forcing the state to right a wrong. Except that it isn’t. Although there have been 2,068 reported cases of voter fraud over the past eleven years, Act 12-2012 only targets one specific kind of fraud: in-person voter impersonation. The number of those cases is significantly less. Since 2000 there have been only 10 cases of voter-impersonation charges made – that’s nationally, for all elections. The lawyers for the state, in fact, admitted that not only were they “not aware of any incidents of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania,” they agreed that even without the law such fraud wasn’t really “likely to occur in November of 2012.” Initially GOP officials estimated that they thought the law would adversely affect about 90,000 voters that did not have the type of ID now required. They have now revised that number to over 758,000 voters, about 9% of the state’s overall adult population.
So if you’re not taking notes at home, that’s 9% of the population no longer able to vote in order to stop a type of fraud that has occurred 10 times throughout the entire country in over a decade, and that its advocates admit probably isn’t happening anyway. If that seems crazy to you, it’s because you’re not thinking like a populist politician.
The law was passed by a GOP legislature because the 9% of voters that the measures potentially stop from being let into the polls are generally either poor, black, hispanic, or elderly – and collectively are overwhelmingly Democratic. And unlike most of these cases where charges of rampant partisanship like this are denied, Pennsylvania House Leader Mike Turzai has admitted that this was why Act 12-2012 was passed. (Mind you, he admitted it giving a speech at a GOP fundraiser when he wasn’t aware he was being recorded, but hey, no one ever said you had to be smart to be honest.)