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How Rare Is Voter Fraud?

Conservatives are generally concerned about voter fraud, while liberals, almost universally, are not. That in itself tells you something. Of course, liberals don’t explicitly come out in favor of voter fraud; rather, they argue that lax enforcement of election laws is no problem because voter fraud hardly exists.

The problem with this easy assurance is that we have no clear way to know how prevalent voter fraud is. By definition, those who perpetrate it seek to go undetected, and it is a circular argument to say that there is no need for better law enforcement because our current lax enforcement hasn’t caught many violators.

Here in Minnesota, a group called Minnesota Majority has done an excellent job of digging into the voter fraud issue. Today, Minnesota Majority sent out an email announcing its report on criminal convictions that have resulted from its efforts here in Minnesota. It said, in part:

The report finds that 113 individuals who voted illegally in the 2008 election have been convicted of the crime, “ineligible voter knowingly votes” under Minnesota Statute 201.014.

“As far as we can tell, this is the largest number of voter fraud convictions arising from a single election in the past 75 years,” said Minnesota Majority president Jeff Davis, “Prosecutions are still underway and so there will likely be even more convictions.”

The highest number of convictions ever recorded in the United States came from the 1936 Jackson County, Missouri elections in which 259 individuals were convicted of voter fraud. A more recent five-year probe by the United States Department of Justice identified just 53 convictions for voter fraud nationwide.

“It’s mind-boggling to me that as a tiny non-profit corporation, we netted more than double the number of convictions in one year than the US Department of Justice was able to find in five,” said Davis.

Minnesota’s recent charges and convictions stem from research initiated by Minnesota Majority. The research identified upwards of 2,800 ineligible felons believed to have unlawfully voted in Minnesota’s 2008 general election.

“These convictions are just the tip of the iceberg,” said Davis. “The actual number of illegal votes cast was in the thousands. Most unlawful voters were never charged with a crime because they simply pled ignorance. We have evidence of these people casting illegal ballots, but in Minnesota, ignorance of election law is considered to be an acceptable defense.”

At the time of this report, nearly 200 additional cases are still pending trial.

Are a few thousand illegal voters a big deal? When a U.S. Senate race can be decided by 300 votes, they certainly are. In my opinion, there is little doubt that in the famous 2008 Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken, more legal votes were cast for Coleman. Yet it is Franken who now sits in the Senate, and Franken cast the vote the Democrats needed to pass Obamacare.

Minnesota Majority is doing a great job not only of uncovering the crime of voter fraud, but of deterring its future commission. I am not sure whether similar efforts are underway in other states, but if they aren’t, they should be.

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