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A Republican lawmaker may have inadvertently confirmed Democrats' suspicions of voter ID

On Tuesday, Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) got a bit too real about the effect Wisconsin's voter ID law may have on the 2016 presidential election.

Asked about how Ted Cruz or Donald Trump could win Wisconsin in the general election, Grothman said, "I think Hillary Clinton is about the weakest candidate the Democrats have ever put up. And now we have photo ID, and I think photo ID is going to make a little bit of a difference as well."

The last sentence is eye-opening. Republicans have long said that voter ID laws, which typically require a state-issued photo ID to vote, are about preventing voter fraud. But Democrats have long argued that voter ID laws, which hit Democratic constituents like minority voters the hardest, are actually about tilting elections in Republicans' favor.

Grothman seems to confirm that Democrats are at least partly right. And this isn't the first time this has happened; several Republicans have made similar comments in the past.

But a more charitable reading of Grothman's comment is that he believes voter fraud is more likely to benefit Democrats, so measures that prevent voter fraud are also more likely to hurt Democrats. In 2012, he said something along these lines: "Insofar as there are inappropriate things, people who vote inappropriately are more likely to vote Democrat."

In-person voter fraud is practically nonexistent

Despite Grothman's claim, there's no reason to believe that in-person voter fraud is swinging elections in Democrats' favor.

The type of in-person voter fraud that typical voter ID laws target is nonexistent to extremely rare. Loyola Law School professor Justin Levitt has tracked credible allegations of in-person voter impersonation for years, finding 35 total credible allegations between 2000 and 2014, when more than 800 million ballots were cast in national general elections and hundreds of millions more were cast in primary, municipal, special, and other elections.

The kinds of voter fraud that do happen are absentee voting, vote buying, insider ballot-box stuffing, double voting, and voting by people who turn out to be ineligible. The New York Times's Jim Rutenberg reported on a 1997 case in which it was revealed that Miami Mayor Xavier Suárez clinched his electoral victory "with the help of hundreds of absentee ballots bearing the names of dead people, felons and other ineligible voters." While Suárez was never charged, he was eventually forced to step down from office after an appellate court threw out the absentee ballots.

In fact, Republicans have accused some groups of planning or carrying out these types of voter fraud. During and after President Barack Obama's 2008 election, conservatives took aim at the New Black Panther Party (which isn't affiliated with the original Black Panther Party) and the community organizing group ACORN with various accusations that they engaged in voter fraud.

But voter ID laws don't address the types of fraud that do happen. In fact, some voter ID measures, such as North Carolina's controversial law, actually make it easier to vote by absentee ballot.

In other words, Grothman is either making a misleading claim about voter fraud and Democrats' victories in the presidential elections or he's revealing a dark side to the motive behind voter ID laws.


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