Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus made a curious claim on MSNBC today, alleging that Wisconsin is a state “that was absolutely riddled with voter fraud.”
The problem? A recent study by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice found just seven cases of voter fraud out of three million votes cast in Wisconsin during the 2004 election, a fraud rate of 0.0002percent. All seven of these cases involved persons with felony convictions who weren’t eligible to vote after being released from prison.
Unfazed by the minuscule incidence of actual voter fraud – comedian Stephen Colbert jokedthat “our democracy is under siege from an enemy so small it could be hiding anywhere” – Priebus went on MSNBC to defend Wisconsin’s new photo ID requirement and yesterday’s anti-voting rights measure passed by the House GOP. When host Martin Bashir pushed the RNC Chair about his party’s motivations for restricting voting rights, Priebus pointed to his home state of Wisconsin and declared, “I come from a state in Wisconsin that was absolutely riddled with voter fraud, okay?”
BASHIR: Just last night Republicans in the House voted to dismantle the Election Assistance Commission, the sole purpose of which is to make sure states meet voting standards that prevent fraud. Why would Republicans do that if they’re honestly concerned about preventing fraud? [...]
PRIEBUS: Well listen, I don’t want to get into the specifics here, but let me tell you something. I come from a state in Wisconsin that was absolutely riddled with voter fraud, okay? They had the smokes-for-votes exchange in Milwaukee. This is something that has nothing to do with constitutional rights of the people who are committing the fraud, it has to do with the constitutional rights of people under our Constitution that one person gets one vote, not two or three or four or five, by not having reasonable voting standards in this country to make sure that fraud doesn’t occur.
Research has found that voters are 39 times more likely to be struck by lightning than commit voter fraud at the polls, and 3,500 times more likely to report a UFO encounter.
Voter fraud certainly ought to be prosecuted in the extremely rare instances when it occurs. But Republicans like Priebus are using the false specter of fraud as a cudgel to disenfranchise millions.