This, he thinks to himself, is a spot where a police car looking for speeders is usually parked. I better watch my speed or I’ll get a ticket.
In a very simplified form, that is until recently the basic premise behind the nation’s voting laws. The enforcers of this law can’t be everywhere at all times, but woe to violators if they get caught committing voter fraud; hefty fines and jail terms are the punishment.
The exception is that cases of motorists exceeding the speed limits happen a lot more frequently than cases of voter fraud. A lot more.
“The number of people who commit actual voter fraud in a given year is smaller than the number of people who are struck and killed by lightning,” Justin Levitt, a Loyola University law professor who has studied the issue extensively, told The Star’s Tim Lockette.
Since 1990, less than a dozen Alabama residents have been convicted of voter fraud. The NCAA has sanctioned the athletic departments of the University of Alabama and Auburn University about as many times over that same period. Yet, the Alabama Legislature isn’t writing laws to prosecute corruption in the state’s athletic departments. It’s taking steps to crack down on voter fraud with a new law taking effect in 2014.
For proponents of Alabama’s law, as well as similar laws across the country, fraudulent voting is all around us. Yet, when pressed for evidence of widespread wrongdoing, very little is provided. Last year Artur Davis, the former congressman from Alabama, claimed he was confident voter fraud was happening in Alabama.
“Voting the names of the dead, and the nonexistent, and the too-mentally-impaired to function, cancels out the votes of citizens who are exercising their rights —- that’s suppression by any light,” Davis wrote in a 2011 Montgomery Advertiser column. “If you doubt it exists, I don’t; I’ve heard the peddlers of these ballots brag about it, I’ve been asked to provide the funds for it, and I am confident it has changed at least a few close local election results.”
Reached for further comment by The Star’s BamaFactCheck.com, Davis refused to offer specifics. “I don’t think that anybody who has lived in the state of Alabama over the past 10 years doubts that voter fraud exists,” he said.
Voter fraud, in this telling, is all around us, yet as difficult to nail down as the ether.
Consider the case of the Alabama Secretary of State’s office. It maintains a voter fraud hotline where Alabama residents can report law-breaking. Julie Sinclair, elections attorney for the Secretary of State, told The Star that less than 10 calls a year concern allegations of voter fraud. And, remember, these are but allegations. Convictions are even scarcer.
The nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice has closely examined voter ID laws, like the one Alabama will implement in two years. The center looked at new voter ID laws in 14 states and concluded voting could become “significantly harder” for more than 5 million properly registered voters in 2012.
“Like fool’s gold, the claims of widespread voter fraud are fast, cheap, and shiny — and collapse under close inspection,” the center concludes.
Bob Davis is editor of The Anniston Star. Contact him at 256-235-3540 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: twitter.com/EditorBobDavis.