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Statistics, Politics and Policy

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Elections 2012: Suppressing Fraud or Suppressing the Vote?

Arlene S. Ash / John W. Lamperti
Published Online: 2013-01-11 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/spp-2012-0002


Recent years have seen a wave of laws making it more difficult to vote in the United States. Their ostensible purpose is to prevent voting by persons not legally qualified, and thus to improve public confidence in electoral integrity. Are such laws in fact needed to address serious fraud problems? On the other hand, how many and what kinds of legitimate voters will be, or have been, disenfranchised by them? Is voter confidence positively, or negatively, affected by voter ID laws? This article surveys what is known about these issues and offers suggestions for how statisticians can contribute.

About the article

Corresponding author: John W. Lamperti, Dartmouth College, Mathematics, Hanover, NH, 03755, USA, Tel.: +1 603 646 2866, Fax: +1 603 646 1312

Published Online: 2013-01-11

See, for example, Wendy Weiser and Lawrence Norden, “Voting Law Changes in 2012,” Brennan Center for Justice (NYU School of Law), 2011.

Los Angeles Times (online), February 15, 2001.

Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, Voting: What Is, What Could Be, July 2001. See also MIT News, July 16, 2001.

http://www.amstat.org/outreach/electionauditingresources.cfm, accessed August 27, 2012.

“New Voter ID Laws and the 2012 Elections,” National Public Radio, The Diane Rehm Show, June 11, 2012.

For example see Justin Levitt, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” Brennan Center for Justice, 2007; also Lorainne C. Minnite, The Myth of Voter Fraud, Cornell University Press, 2010.

The Myth of Voter Fraud, pp. 5–6.

Supreme Court of the United States, Crawford et al. v. Marion County Election Board et al., opinions of Justice Stevens (for the majority, to uphold the Indiana law) and Justice Souter (dissenting).


Stephen Ansolabehare and Nathaniel Persily, “Vote Fraud in the Eye of the Beholder: The role of public opinion in the challenge to Voter identification Requirements,” Harvard Law Review 2008: 1737–1773.

See among others Keesha Hawkins and Sundeep Iyer, “The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification,” Brennan Center for Justice, July 17, 2012. Their paper contains this extreme example:The Mississippi Catch-22Although Mississippi’s restrictive law is not yet in force, citizens there without ID face particularly perverse rules. To secure government-issued photo ID, many voters will need a birth certificate. Yet the state requires a government-issued photo ID to obtain a certified copy of a birth certificate. These rules jointly represent another major hurdle to voting placed in the path of those with the least means to surmount them.

“Defending Democracy: Confronting Modern Barriers to Voting Rights in America,” A Report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the NAACP, 2011.

See note 1, “Voting Law Changes in 2012,” p. 37.

“Citizens Without Proof: A survey of Americans’ possession of documentary proof of citizenship and photo identification,” Brennan Center for Justice, November 2006.

“Without Proof: The Unpersuasive Case Against Voter Identification,” Heritage Foundation Legal Memorandum no. 72, August 24, 2011.

“‘Citizens Without Proof’ Stands Strong,” Brennan Center for Justice, September 8, 2011.

Never, that is, until January 2012 when James O’Keefe and the ill-named “Project Veritas” sent several individuals to New Hampshire who requested and received ballots under false names, presumably to show that committing voter fraud was possible. These activities were crimes, but the individuals immediately left the state and so far have not been identified or prosecuted.

Governor Lynch’s Veto Message (June 27, 2011) regarding SB 129.

Stephen Prager, Manav Raj and Joseph Singh, PRS Policy Brief 1112–05, Rockefeller Center at Dartmouth College, March 6, 2012.

See for example Justin Leavitt, “Fast Facts on the Impact of Photo ID: The Data,” Brennan Center for Justice, 2008.

See for example Peter Wallsten, “In States, Parties Clash Over Voting Laws that Would Affect College Students, others,” Washington Post (online), March 8, 2011. See also New York Times editorial “Keeping Students From the Polls,” December 26, 2011.

Project Vote Newsletter, March 29, 2012.

New York Times study, March 27, 2012.

CBS News Political Hotsheet (on line), May 31, 2012.

The Miami Herald, August 9, 2012.

“United States v. State of Florida: Court Cases,” Brennan Center for Justice, June 26, 2012.

See for example Myrna Pérez, “Voter Purges,” Brennan Center for Justice, September 30, 2008.

Molly Ball, “Will Florida’s Voter Purge Cost Obama the Election?” The Atlantic (online), July 24, 2012.


See testimony of Michael Herron and Daniel Smith before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, January 27, 2012.

Figures in this and the following paragraph are from Uggen, Shannon and Manza, “State-Level Estimates of Felon Disenfranchisement in the United States, 2010,” The Sentencing Project, July 2012.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 28, 2012.

Quoted in Brentin Mock, “Florida to People of Color: Don’t Vote Here,” The Nation, July 16–23, 2012.

Columbus Dispatch, August 19, 2012.

San Jose Mercury News, June 20, 2012.

Citation Information: Statistics, Politics and Policy, ISSN (Online) 2151-7509, ISSN (Print) 2194-6299, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/spp-2012-0002.

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