(NB: The following letter was sent to the Indianapolis Star on September 24, 2016. The Star never responded to my request to print the letter, whether online or in print.)
September 24, 2016
To the Editorial Board of the Indianapolis Star:
Although I appreciative the investigative rigor that Tony Cook applies to the voter fraud “controversy” in Marion and Hendricks counties, ten registration forms that lack social security numbers—either through haste, negligence, or forgery—hardly qualifies as front page news. At the very least, Mr. Cook fails to provide context to the actual threat that voter fraud poses to our elections.
Study after study has shown that voter fraud does not exist in any meaningful way in the U.S. The New York Times came to this conclusion in 2007. Lorraine Minnite did as well in The Myth of Voter Fraud (2010). Jane Mayer’s investigative piece for the New Yorker, “The Voter-Fraud Myth,” aggregates these and many other studies, including a Bush administration study that found just 86 cases in a nation of 300 million. She too concurs: voter fraud is almost nonexistent.
What then is happening in Marion and Hendricks counties? As Mayer notes, nearly all states suffer from “administrative incompetence, sloppy registration rolls, [and] unreliable machinery.” The second is the likelier explanation for what’s going on in Indiana, and Patriot Majority USA is probably at fault. Some of their workers—in an effort to meet a quota or end a long day—cut some corners.
Still, this is a far cry from voter fraud, which would require those same workers to impersonate the ten voters listed on the ten applications in question. As Robert Brandon, the president of the Fair Elections Legal Network, and a longtime advocate for reform notes, this scenario is “silly” because “you cannot steal an election one vote at a time.” It also never happens.
I encourage Mr. Cook and the Indy Star to reconsider how they frame this issue in future articles. Indiana has one of the most restrictive Voter ID laws in the country. These laws, which disproportionately affect the elderly, poor, and minorities—25% of citizens over 65 and 18% of African Americans lack state-issued IDs—are the greater scourge.
Dr. Derek Mong
Byron K. Trippet Professor of English