In recent years there has been concern, largely among conservatives, that voter fraud is a very real and common problem – the statistics, however, do not bear this out. A recent New York Times article reported that 36 percent of Republicans nationally feel that voter fraud accounts for a few thousand or more votes in national elections while only seven percent of Democrats feel the same way. The Washington Post compiled the statistics from various states earlier this year to find that fraud was nearly non-existent.
Iowa, for example, had nearly 1.5 million registered voters in 2010; in 2012, a two-year investigation was launched by the Republican Iowa Secretary of State. The result? Six votes were found to be fraudulent (.0000003 percent of all potential voters). by this same math, we can extrapolate that to Utah’s 1.4 million registered voters, approximately 5.5 votes are actually fraudulent. To put this into perspective, in 2012 there were twice as many convictions for gambling, five times as many convictions for embezzlement, six times as many convictions for murder, and 20 times as many convictions for prostitution.
Does voter fraud exist? of course, but the numbers do not appear to show that it is nowhere close to a pervasive problem fundamentally altering our elections.
Now, Representative Curt Webb (Republican – Logan), isn’t banging the war drum demanding that more restrictions be placed on potential or active voters – that ship has long since sailed. Instead, Webb is proposing a modification to the part of the code that allows people to formally protest if someone belongs on the voting roster in the first place.
HB 55 – Voter Eligibility Amendments would update the criminal code to allow people to submit evidence to a county clerk to allege voter fraud; evidence such as documentation, affidavits, and what the bill calls “other evidence.” This would not be required, mind you, but it would be allowed in order to build a stronger case.
Similarly, the legislation also clarifies that a district court can review any protests and issue rulings based on the information presented along with any additional information presented by a county clerk as part of their investigation.
This legislation places a slightly greater burden of proof on the accuser, something that should be appropriate considering the nature of the accusation. It is always a dangerous proposition to attempt to take away someone’s right to vote in a democracy, so an extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof.
The bigger problem, however, is that our state feels that such extreme circumstances can and need to take place in order to prevent the near non-existent problem of voter fraud.
This is not to say that voter fraud doesn’t exist in our state, nor does it suggest that voter fraud will never be a problem in our state; however, the state has and will continue to spend time discussing and debating a topic that has a far larger impact in people’s heads rather than in reality. Even if the statewide voter fraud has doubled from its possible six per 1.4 million voters to 12, and if those fraudulent votes existed in one voting district as opposed to statewide, it would have had no impact on any final election result in recent history.
As such, Webb’s legislation is both necessary and unnecessary at the very same time. As evaluations are based on current law, or the impact that legislation would have on the current law, we have to evaluate Webb’s law as-is rather than what could or should be. However, this legislation should be used to spur a greater conversation about the necessity and strict nature of such laws overall.
To contact Representative Webb, Click Here or call 435-753-0215
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