North Carolina’s voter ID requirement, struck down by a court last summer, might have stopped just one fraudulent vote had it been in place in the November election, the state has found.
The finding further undermines the claims of ID law supporters who say the laws are needed to stop voter fraud.
A report released Friday by the North Carolina Board of Elections found 508 ineligible votes cast in the November elections—around 0.01 percent of all votes cast.
Of those, 441 were cast by felons still completing their sentences. Most of those appear to be cases where the voter wrongly believed he was allowed to vote after getting out of prison. North Carolina requires felons to complete their parole and probation before getting their voting rights restored.
In response, the state said it would add a box to its voter registration form where the applicant must confirm that he’s completed his full sentence.
No races, even local ones, saw their outcomes affected by ineligible votes, the report found.
It was conducted in response to public records requests and requests from members of Congress.
Only one of the ineligible votes could conceivably have been stopped by North Carolina’s voter ID requirement, which its backers justified by citing the need to stop voter fraud: A voter acknowledged to investigators that he or she had impersonated his or her 89-year-old mother, a “tremendous Donald Trump fan,” who died before being able to cast her own ballot.
“Please understand that my actions were in no way intended to be fraudulent but were done during my grief and an effort to honor my mothers (sic) last request,” the voter wrote in an email to investigators.
Prosecutors declined to charge the voter.
In-person voter impersonation fraud is the only form of fraud that most voter ID laws, including North Carolina’s, could conceivably prevent. Absentee ballot fraud is far more common, but North Carolina’s ID law, and most others, do nothing to stop it.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Phil Berger, a Republican, seized on the report as evidence that the voter ID provision should be reinstated.
“If even one fraudulently cast ballot effectively disenfranchises a legitimate voter, then that is one too many, and that’s why we continue to support common sense policies like voter ID that improve voter confidence,” Berger said in a statement.
In fact, it’s impossible to know how many people the ID requirement might have stopped from voting had it been in effect. But the state has estimated that around 218,000 people lacked acceptable ID.
The ID requirement, along with several other aspects of North Carolina’s restrictive 2013 voting law, were struck down last year by a federal appeals court, which found the law “targeted African-Americans with almost surgical precision.”
The Supreme Court is considering whether to take up North Carolina’s appeal of the case.