You’ve probably never heard of Greene County, Alabama. Yet this small county of 9,000 people in western Alabama, about an hour from Tuscaloosa, was home to one of the biggest voter-fraud scandals in recent history. Corrupt incumbents devised an elaborate scheme to rig the election using absentee ballots. When they prevailed on Election Day, skeptical citizens began asking questions. A subsequent investigation and trial led to the convictions of 11 people involved in the plot.
It’s just one example cited by John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky in their new book, “Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk.” It arrives in stores next week, just as voter ID laws have emerged as a major dispute before the 2012 election.
Two states, South Carolina and Texas, are already engaged in lawsuits with the Justice Department to halt their voter ID laws. Attorney General Eric Holder is currently probing Pennsylvania, which recently became the 11th state to enact a law since 2010.
All of these efforts seek to crack down on voter fraud by requiring a photo ID to vote. It’s as simple as that. Yet liberals have concocted a conspiracy that these laws disenfranchise minorities — an argument the Justice Department is now using in its lawsuits.
That’s why the case of Greene County is so significant. Blacks make up 81.5% of county residents. The median household income is $26,131, just above the federal poverty line. As a result, the county receives more than $80 million from the federal government, making elected leaders powerful figures. And in this case, also corrupt politicians.
Minority voters — the very people the Justice Department is claiming to protect in the current voter-ID cases — were the ones disenfranchised in Greene County. Yet two prominent civil-rights organizations, the NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference, sided with the fraudsters instead of the voters.
Fund and von Spakovsky use other examples like this to debunk liberal myths about voter fraud. Reviewing the book for the Washington Examiner this week, Byron York identified the case of Democrat Sen. Al Franken’s election in Minnesota as one of the most consequential:
With 1,099 examples identified by Minnesota Majority, and with evidence suggesting that felons, when they do vote, strongly favor Democrats, it doesn’t require a leap to suggest there might one day be proof that Al Franken was elected on the strength of voter fraud.
And that’s just the question of voting by felons. Minnesota Majority also found all sorts of other irregularities that cast further doubt on the Senate results.
The election was particularly important because Franken’s victory gave Senate Democrats a 60th vote in favor of President Obama’s national health care proposal — the deciding vote to overcome a Republican filibuster. If Coleman had kept his seat, there would have been no 60th vote, and no Obamacare.
Voter fraud matters when contests are close. When an election is decided by a huge margin, no one can plausibly claim fraud made the difference. But the Minnesota race was excruciatingly close. And then, in the Obamacare debate, Democrats could not afford to lose even a single vote. So if there were any case that demonstrates that voter fraud both exists and has real consequences, it is Minnesota 2008.
Wes Vernon, writing for the Washington Times, points to another anti-ID argument cited by the left: It limits access to the polls. That’s simply not true based on data from two early adopters of voter ID:
The argument that it is racist or suppresses the vote is belied by figures showing no effect or, alternatively, an actual rise in voter participation where implemented.
Take Georgia and Indiana, the two states with the strictest voter ID laws in the country: In 2008, Georgia had its largest turnout in history, second-highest increase in the nation, including a huge boost in Democratic voters (compared to 2004). Indiana’s turnout was the fifth-largest increase nationwide, and there was a very large boost in Democratic voter participation in all 50 states.
Fund, a columnist for National Review, previously wrote “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.” Von Spakovsky, a former member of the Federal Election Commission, now works at The Heritage Foundation. They spoke at The Bloggers Briefing (video below) about why they took on the project.
Rob Bluey directs the Center for Media and Public Policy, an investigative journalism operation at The Heritage Foundation. Follow him on Twitter: @RobertBluey