When a political party claims it represents a majority of Americans but cannot consistently win elections it must come up with an explanation for its failure to do so. For our two incumbents parties their explanation is that they are being cheated at the ballot box. For Republicans it is an allegation of voter fraud, typically either people being allowed to vote who are not qualified to do so or some shenanigans in the counting. For Democrats it an allegation that “their” voters are being prevented from voting. While there is a grain of truth in both allegations, as recently documented by the non-partisan group, No Labels, these allegations are mostly partisan talking points.
Let’s start with voter fraud. The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, has created a database of proven voter fraud incidents. Their database documents cases from 1982-2021. It contains 1,340 cases of proven fraudulent conduct around elections over that nearly forty-year period, about 35 per year. While the database indicates that some small local elections have been overturned, there is no case of a major election being reversed.
Shortly after the last presidential election, President Trump raised millions for legal fees to contest the election and filed about 60 lawsuits in six states where the results were close. But not a single court anywhere in the country found a basis to overturn any of the results certified by those states. According to an analysis by the Brookings Institute, a wide majority of judges from both parties ruled against Trump’s challenges, but the results of those suits was not as conclusive as the media depicted them to be.
That is not to say that there were not irregularities in the 2020 election, or in every election for that matter. But it is exceedingly rare for there to be enough illegal votes to affect the outcome of an election. I have been working in elections in Texas for over 50 years and during that time I can count on one hand the number of elections where I thought there were enough illegal votes to possibly affect the outcome.
However, the Democrats’ allegations that votes are being suppressed is equally fanciful. In fact, voting has never been easier than it is today and that is especially so in Texas.
In 2020, there were extraordinary accommodations made to allow voters to avoid voting in person because of the pandemic. The purpose of most of the laws passed by various states since the 2020 election was to rein in some of those accommodations.
For example, Harris County proposed sending a mail-in ballot application to all registered voters, notwithstanding that mail-in voting is only allowed in certain circumstances. Such restrictions on mail-in voting is not unusual. In fact, there are only eight states that currently allow anyone to vote by mail. Many predominantly Democratic states, especially in the northeast, have had extremely limited mail-in voting. Of course, none of the Democrats castigating states like Georgia and Texas for limiting mail-in voting have mentioned a peep about the Democratic states that actually have more severe restrictions.
The same is true for early voting. For years, Texas and Georgia both have had more days of early voting than most states. Before 2020, New York, Delaware and Connecticut had no early voting and I did not hear anyone accusing them of voter suppression.
None of this is to say that our voting laws are perfect. There were several things I did not like in the Texas bill. The requirement for additional identification information on mail-in ballot applications is overly burdensome, but is just as likely to affect voters from both parties. Georgia’s law prohibiting handing out food and water to voters waiting to vote should have included the provisions like those in New York’s law that such handouts cannot identify who they are from. And we will always be tweaking the election rules, especially as technology advances.
But the assertion that either of the two incumbent parties are losing elections because of voter fraud or voter suppression is nonsense. They cannot consistently win elections because only about 25-30% of Americans claim to be affiliated with each party. They cannot put together regular election victories because they do not come close to representing a majority of Americans.