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Misidentified Priorities

Tova Andrea Wang
The American Prospect

Newly elected Republicans are pushing state-level voter-ID laws designed to disenfranchise minority voters.

But despite Republican alarmism over rigged elections, voter-ID laws are a solution in search of a problem: They address an exceedingly rare type of vote fraud, cost the state money that could be used to address more pressing issues in a time of economic crisis, and serve primarily to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters -- just so politicians can influence who votes in the next election.

Given the sense of urgency behind these laws, one would expect that on Election Day, droves of people scheme to fix elections by impersonating other voters. That's not the case. The type of fraud that voter-identification laws would address -- that is, impersonation of another voter at the polling place -- is exceedingly rare. An extensive analysis by professor Lori Minnite at Barnard College showed that at the federal level, only 24 people were convicted of or pleaded guilty to illegal voting between 2002 and 2005, an average of eight people a year.