Twelve employees of a group that worked to register African-Americans in Indiana ahead of last year’s election were charged Friday with submitting false voter registration applications, the AP reported. But, though Mike Pence last year pointed to the case to stoke fear over voter fraud, prosecutors said there was no evidence of illegal voting.
The episode is textbook example of how those like Pence looking to restrict voting have aimed to conflate cases of registration fraud that have no impact on elections with voter fraud itself.
County prosecutors said the people charged created false applications—including registering voters who don’t exist and those who were already registered—in efforts to meet a quota set by their employer, the Indiana Voter Registration Project (IVRP). Some of the workers told investigators that they were told they’d be fired if they didn’t register ten new voters per day. Prosecutors said the number of false applications was “relatively small.”
IRVP was a project of Patriot Majority USA, a Democratic-linked organization.
As part of last year’s investigation, state police raided IRVP’s headquarters, halting the group’s registration efforts a week before the registration deadline last September. Secretary of State Connie Lawson, a Republican, warned local election officials that “nefarious actors are operating here in Indiana.” And Pence, then campaigning to be vice president, said on the stump that a “pretty vigorous investigation into voter fraud” was underway in his home state, bolstering his running mate Donald Trump’s false claims about rampant illegal voting.
Pence is now serving as chair of the White House commission on voter fraud, and Lawson is a commissioner.
But prosecutors also said Friday there was no evidence that the false registrations led to illegal votes. That’s typically the case when canvassers submit false applications, since if a canvasser creates an application in a made-up name, no one shows up to vote under that name. In effect, the canvassers are trying to defraud the organization they work for. The integrity of the election process itself is unaffected.
In 2009, a Nevada state investigation into the community organizing group ACORN turned up evidence that some workers had submitted submitted false applications. As in the current case, it was the result of a flawed internal system in which canvassers’ compensation was tied to the number of applications they submitted. But Republicans in Congress used the surrounding furor to defund ACORN out of existence.
Both ACORN and IRVP appear to have used bad business practices. But the only reason their mistakes are treated as national news is because of the false implication that the voting system itself was compromised. In fact, in neither case was there even an attempt to do that.
The upshot of both cases? An unknown number of marginalized Americans were denied access to voter registration by overzealous investigations which also were used to help advance the false notion that fraud is a problem on a significant scale. Meanwhile, it appears not a single illegal vote was prevented, since there’s no evidence that anyone intended to vote illegally in the first place.
Remind us again where the real fraud is.