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Reminder: Voter Fraud Is a Nonexistent Problem

Voter ID laws were struck down in Texas and Wisconsin, exposing the lie that voter fraud is a widespread enough problem to warrant a law.

Federal judges struck down voter ID laws in Texas and Wisconsin yesterday, throwing out government-issued identification requirements at the polls; in Wisconsin's case, the law was halted permanently. The Texas Justice Department ruled that the ID requirement would disproportionately affect eligible Latino voters, who are 47 to 120 percent more likely to lack the required identification than non-Latino voters. Circuit Judge Richard Niess wrote in his ruling against Wisconsin's law, which took effect last May, that it would “impermissibly eliminate the right of suffrage altogether for certain constitutionally qualified electors.”

These laws were just two of the dozens of restrictions put in place nationwide in the past couple of years, mostly by Republicans, that could potentially affect 5 million voters. The fact that they've been struck down is good news not only for Latino and minority voters, but for young, elderly, and low-income people, too. More than anything, it exposes the enduring lie that voter fraud is a widespread enough problem to warrant a law—by all measures, it isn't.

The threat of voter fraud has long been a standard conservative scare tactic (given that most of the voters it affects are Democrats). Yet not one reputable study or investigation has turned up any evidence of this phenomenon. Even right-wing experts admit as much when pressed. Take Texas as an example: The state's Attorney General, Greg Abbott warned several years ago about an "epidemic" of voter fraud in Texas, then launched an investigation that turned up almost nothing. He found a total of 26 cases to prosecute (all against Democrats, and all but one against black or Latino voters). Out of those, two-thirds were technical violations in which voters were eligible and had properly voted. And in none of the cases would the voter ID requirement have affected the outcome.

Voter ID laws aren't a thing of the past; they still exist in Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee. But the decisions in Texas and Wisconsin have made it easier to call out these voting restrictions for what they are: partisan, classist, ageist, racist tactics meant to make the electoral process even more restrictive than it already is.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user sun dazed.

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