What’s more common: shark attacks or voter fraud?
This week is officially “Shark Week,” otherwise known as the Discovery Channel’s programming marathon that’s dedicated to raising awareness about the mysterious world of sharks. It’s also some of the highest rated programming in America. Last year, for instance, the week attracted over 53 million viewers, which was the best turnout since the broadcast began in the late 1980s.
Given the popularity of “Shark Week” and Blockbuster mega-hits like Jaws, sharks have been well substantiated in our culture as a ferocious and formidable species. But sharks’ lethality is hardly mysterious. In fact, according to the Florida Museum of Natural History, there were an average of 6 shark attack deaths per year from 2003-2012.
To put that in perspective, see this chart:
Why is any of this relevant?
There is similar analogy when it comes to the notion of voter fraud in America. Every election season, there is rampant hysteria about the danger of phantom voters. The hype is so aggrandized, in fact, that Fox News has set up a dedicated email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) to report instances of illegal voters at the polls, while other political advocacy groups have set up call-in hotlines.
Much akin to sharks, however, there is no mystery when it comes to voter fraud: it barely exists. According to a report from Loyola University Law School, there have been 31 cases of voter fraud since 2000. In other words, the likelihood for voter fraud is 1 in 32 million.
Yes- shark attacks- which are exceedingly rare, outnumber voter fraud cases, which are even more exceedingly rare, by a ratio of 2.5 to 1 every year.
Ok, why is this important?
Preventing voter fraud is frequently cited as the primary justification for making the voting process more restrictive. Setbacks to voting such as eliminating Election Day voter registration, reducing early voting periods, and stringent photo ID requirements have all been made in the name of deterring fraud. As Pat McCrory, the Governor of North Carolina, recently said after passing a highly contentious voter ID law in his state, “if we’re naive enough to think that there’s not voter fraud in the 10th largest state in the United States of America, then I think we’ve got our head in the sand.” He continued to justify photo ID requirements by arguing: “common practices like boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed require photo ID and we should expect nothing less for the protection of our right to vote.”
Except not all citizens fly on airplanes or buy Sudafed. According to data from the US Department of Transportation, 2 out of 5 Americans fly per year, which means that 60 percent of Americans don’t fly. Unfortunately, there are no available statistics on Sudafed use. But it appears the analogy from Governor McCrory is a weak one.
Most disturbing of all are the statistics of eligible American citizens who lack ID. More than 318,000 voters in North Carolina, according to the DMV records, don’t possess a driver’s license or identity card that meets the state’s requirements. And according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, 11 percent of all voters in America don’t have a government-issued photo ID that conforms with the voting requirements in their state.
Irrespective of whether you support or oppose voter ID laws, using them as a justification against voter fraud is even more hysterical than insisting that all ocean swimmers should use shark cages.