A story of voter fraud committed by Democratic State Rep. Christina “Tita” Ayala has gone viral this week, indicating that Ayala was arrested for committing 19 counts of voter fraud and alleging that voter fraud is a serious problem, which has been “ignored and downplayed” by the Democrats.
The story itself is true. As the New Haven Register reports, Ayala was arrested on 19 counts of voting fraud. Of course, what this week’s stories fail to mention is that this happened in the last week of September in 2014. And as the CT Post reported a year later, she pleaded guilty to and was sentenced for at least some of those charges.
But aside from leaving out the dates, that’s pretty much where the facts come to a screeching halt.
The article published this week focuses on a few things that have been right-wing talking points for a number of years but have been brought particularly into focus during this election season. They include the prevalence of voter fraud and the subsequent need for strong voter ID laws. Proponents of voter ID argue that voter fraud is happening regularly, and America needs common-sense voter ID laws to maintain the integrity of the democratic process.
Many, as reported by The Washington Post, point to a study conducted by the South Carolina DMV, which found more than 900 instances of already-deceased voters. The study has since been debunked, as noted by the British comedian, John Oliver, on Last Week Tonight. A careful examination of the results found only three voters registered who could not be otherwise accounted for by clerical error or extenuating circumstances.
Opponents, meanwhile, argue that, at best, voter ID is cutting off the nose to spite the face. In other words, it’s a drastic, unnecessary reaction to a minor issue. At worst, they call it disenfranchisement or a deliberate effort to prevent certain demographics from voting. And there’s plenty of solid evidence to back this up. The New York Times reports that while many believe voter fraud is a common issue, it essentially doesn’t happen.
So what, then, of Christina Ayala?
It’s true that she committed voter fraud. But it’s also true that she was caught, charged, and punished for it. These aren’t the days of ballot box stuffing, and while errors do occur, significant discrepancies are typically spotted and acted upon. Perhaps, even more importantly, she was charged with 19 counts over a series of elections between 2009 and 2012, in which she placed one or two extra votes in Bridgeport Town Council elections, a city of some 150,000 people. It is exceedingly unlikely that her extra votes had any impact whatsoever.
Conversely, according to a report from the Brennan Center for Justice, up to 11 percent of voters could be rendered unable to vote by voter ID laws. A restriction that, unlike one or two extra votes, could have a significant impact on elections, and one that demonstrably impacts poor people and minorities very disproportionately.
Of course, all of this ignores one other important fact. Ayala’s voter fraud could not have been prevented by a voter ID law.
Ayala executed her crime by voting in elections in districts where she was registered as living, but did not actually live, something that presenting ID would do nothing to prevent.
Voter fraud does exist and does happen, and nobody denies that. But it is so rare as to be statistically nonexistent, and the few fraudulent votes that are placed have in all probability never changed the results of a single election. This is something that can’t be said of voter ID laws, which many proponents admit. Politicians who have fought to enact strict voter ID laws have repeatedly stated on record that they believe them to have impacted the 2008 Presidential election results.
So, while the story now being circulated is true, it’s not only out of date, but it draws conclusions that simply can’t be rationally drawn from the example. If anything, the story of Christina Ayala and her 19 counts of voter fraud demonstrate that it’s simply not a problem we need to worry about.
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