he wave of new voter restrictions and scare tactics being implemented for the 2012 elections — such as voter ID laws, early voting restrictions, threatening billboards, misleading mailers and vigilante poll watchers — could intimidate countless numbers of Americans from exercising their right to vote. Republicans have proposed voting restrictions in a majority of states since 2011, including strict voter ID laws and limits on early voting and voter registration. Though many of the laws have been blunted, confusion about voting requirements could still make it harder for many Americans to exercise their right to the franchise. At the same time, the Tea Party group “True the Vote” — which has been accused of voter intimidation — is pledging to send one million observers to polling places on November 6, and has been filing largely baseless lawsuits to purge voters from the rolls.
Each of these measures is purportedly designed to prevent “voter fraud,” despite no evidence that in-person fraud or double-voting actually exists on a significant scale, and certainly not on a level that could affect the outcome of an election. “It makes no sense for individual voters to impersonate someone,” Rutgers public policy professor Lori Minnite recently told The New Yorker. “It’s like committing a felony at the police station, with virtually no chance of affecting the election outcome.” University of California-Irvine election law professor Rick Hasen told The New Yorker that he “tried to find a single case” since 1980 when “an election outcome could plausibly have turned on voter-impersonation fraud,” but found nothing.