The myth of widespread voter fraud persists, despite a constant failure to prove claims

The myth of widespread voter fraud persists, despite a constant failure to prove claims
Voters in suburban Chesterfield County cast their ballots at the Edgewater precinct, which Trump won in 2016 but Democrats took in the 2017 gubernatorial race. (Source: Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

TOPEKA, Kansas — Scott Moore had never heard of the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck program before election officials in Kansas and Florida exposed his personal information, along with 944 other Kansas voters.

The now-defunct Crosscheck was designed to help county clerks clean up registration lists by looking for voters who had moved to neighboring states. But for Kris Kobach, who oversaw Kansas elections as secretary of state from 2011-2019, the outdated software was a tool for propping up his narrative about widespread voter fraud.

Kobach convinced 28 other states to swap voter records through unsecured emails. When the program matched names and birth dates, officials exchanged and manually compared partial Social Security numbers. The program produced false positives more than 99 percent of the time.

Moore, who served as a plaintiff in an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit that took down Crosscheck, said there are probably thousands of people who share his one-syllable first and last names.

“Boom,” he said. “Must be the same Scott Moore in Florida who is voting down there.”

Kobach, President Donald Trump, various state political leaders and think tanks like the conservative Heritage Foundation use the myth of widespread voter fraud to justify laws and tactics that make it more difficult to vote. Research and court records show voter fraud is extraordinarily rare, but Kobach and Trump have influenced public opinion by frequently repeating debunked claims.

The president appears prepared to use accusations of voter fraud to challenge an unfavorable result in November. In the pandemic-influenced 2020 election cycle, the talking points have shifted to fears that an unprecedented volume of mail-in ballots will lead to rampant fraud.

“They’re being sold,” Trump claimed during last week’s debate. “They’re being dumped in rivers. This is a horrible thing for our country.”

Advocates for voting rights say there is no evidence to warrant restrictions on voting by mail or intensive purging of voter registration lists.

The Virginia Mercury is a new, nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.