A year after Alabama’s Voter ID took effect, the state announced that Wednesday that it would close 31 drivers license offices, leaving 28 counties without a place to get a license. In Alabama’s Black Belt — disproportionately poor and disproportionately African-American — either 12 or 15 counties (depending on which counties you count in the Black Belt) will no longer have a place to obtain the most common form of identification used at the polls. State officials were quick to assure voters that they could still obtain special Voter ID cards through their probate offices. But let’s face it — why are we doing this at all? The old arguments are worth revisiting.
First, Voter ID solves a problem that doesn’t exist. Voter fraud is real, but voter fraud by impersonation isn’t the real problem. One comprehensive study by Justin Levitt, a professor at the Loyola Law School, Los Angeles, looked at 14 years of voter fraud cases in the United States. That study found just 31 credible cases of fraud by impersonation. “To put this in perspective, the 31 incidents … come in the context of general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014,” Levitt wrote. In general and primary elections alone, more than 1 billion ballots were cast in that period.”
There’s a simple reason why fraud by impersonation isn’t more common — it’s a lousy way to steal an election. You would need one co-conspirator for every bogus ballot you’d want to cast, or perhaps you could have one co-conspirator return to the same voting precinct wearing a different wig each time, or you could have a team of confederates driving from place to place. Ultimately, it’s a lot less work to win the election by legal means.