On Sept. 8, the Brennan Center for Justice released a misleading reportpurporting to debunk The Heritage Foundation Voter Fraud Database.
Needless to say, the report is filled with inaccuracies and its claims are wildly off base.
Given the Brennan Center’s apparent goal of misleading the public into leaving our nation vulnerable to election fraud, a response is appropriate because the truth deserves a defense.
The Heritage Foundation’s Voter Fraud Database is the result of two years of effort to track down examples of proven voter fraud throughout the nation.
At present, the database has 1,071 such incidents, including 938 cases that have resulted in criminal convictions, 43 that have ended in civil penalties, 74 that have seen defendants enter diversion programs, and 16 that are supported by judicial or other official findings of election fraud.
The database contains proof of fraud in 47 states, involves elections at all levels of government, and describes the duplicitous activities of fraudsters on both the right and the left.
To any impartial observer, these numbers ought to be concerning—even more so because the database is not a comprehensive assessment of the scale or scope of vote fraud in recent American elections. This is made clear on the cover page of the database, which identifies it as a mere “sampling” and “not an exhaustive list.”
Yet the Brennan Center claims on multiple occasions that it is a complete list. In fact, the Brennan report states—falsely—that Heritage reviewed “decades of cases and billions of votes cast.”
The clear implication is that this is the maximum extent of fraud in the country.
In reality, Heritage’s database is the tip of the iceberg. Most fraud goes undetected because of the lack of robust procedures designed to detect fraud before it occurs, and a great many instances where fraud is, in fact, uncovered are never taken up by prosecutors or elections officials, often because of competing priorities and lack of interest after an election is over.
Even the number of cases that are discovered and prosecuted, or otherwise addressed, is higher than the number of cases in the database. The reason is simple: The database relies heavily on local media reporting to identify cases to track and enter.
The incidents of fraud that are reported in the database are thus only those that, first, are detected; second, are prosecuted or otherwise handled; third, result in incontrovertible proof of fraud; fourth, are covered by the media; and fifth, are discovered by Heritage staff.
Heritage’s compilation—which is continually being updated as new cases are discovered and vetted—is the bottom floor of possible fraud, not the ceiling, which in all likelihood is much higher.
Nonetheless, the Brennan Center accuses Heritage of “inflat[ing] the prevalence of voter fraud.”
How? The database includes “a broad variety of conduct … includ[ing] allegations of voter intimidation, vote buying, interfering or altering ballots by election officials, wrong-doing pertaining to the collection and submission of signatures on ballots petitions, and technical violations of ballot-assistance laws.”
Most Americans would consider rigging elections and buying votes to be blatant examples of election fraud, but Brennan Center analysts repeatedly insist they are not.
Consequently, the Brennan Center puts much of the Heritage database on the chopping block. It dismisses 55 cases of vote buying—after admitting that the “vast majority of defendants in these cases are candidates or campaign staff involved in a scheme to purchase votes”—simply because “[t]hese cases are not examples of ineligible people voting or attempting to vote.”
Brennan writes off voter intimidation cases as well, because they “involve illegal activity by defendants to obtain votes by eligible voters; the cases do not involve ineligible voters registering or voting.”
Yet even those cases that the Brennan Center concedes are election fraud are systematically winnowed away.
The Brennan Center casts doubt on 41 cases of noncitizen voting by noting that five noncitizens appear not to have cast ballots—the implication being that false registration is not a serious issue (even though it is a felony under federal law) so long as the noncitizen didn’t act on it.
By that logic, victims of home invasions should not be concerned when a burglar merely breaks into a home but doesn’t end up taking anything.
We are also told there is likely nothing sinister about instances of ineligible felon voting because there is no way to know how many merely “mistakenly cast ballots believing they were entitled to do so.”
The Brennan Center seems not to care that every vote cast by someone who is ineligible to vote negates the vote of an eligible voter.
The Brennan Center insists that double voting is really the result of “clerical errors” and “confusion,” not “intent to defraud the election system.”
Its report conveniently ignores the numerous cases where intent was proven—like Jose Gomez, who was convicted in Texas of double voting in conjunction with a scheme to submit large numbers of mail-in ballots in the 2006 Democratic primary, or Melowese Richardson, a Democrat and Ohio poll worker who voted twice in 2012 and in the name of others in three other elections.
Richardson was hailed as a hero by Rev. Al Sharpton upon her release from prison.
One case, a 2014 entry detailing an investigation by the New York City Department of Investigation, is brushed aside because it did not involve “specific conduct by any particular voters.”
What did it involve? An effort by agents to test New York City’s election system. In 61 out of 63 attempts, agents were able to vote in the name of ineligible voters, convicted felons, and deceased former residents.
If the bias of Brennan Center analysts is not apparent by this point, the paper’s concluding section makes their bias clear beyond any doubt.
Their report launches personal attacks on conservative members of the President’s Election Integrity Commission, including Heritage’s own election law expert, Hans von Spakovsky. It seeks to paint the Commission as solely focused on ineligible voting as cover for implementing ostensibly discriminatory voter identification laws.
This is a tired argument that many on the left have repeated in recent months. In actuality, the Commission is bipartisan, advisory, and has a mission to investigate a broad array of potential deficiencies and vulnerabilities in our electoral system, and to suggest solutions.
Heritage’s database, combined with recent reports of wide-scale noncitizen voting in Virginia and tens of thousands of duplicate votes in the 2016 election, makes it abundantly clear that such vulnerabilities do exist, and are often exploited by fraudsters.
And contrary to the spurious claims of the Brennan Center, those vulnerabilities extend well beyond impersonation fraud and ineligible voting.
Why is the Brennan Center spending so much time and effort trying to “debunk” our database? Perhaps it is because liberal groups—including the Brennan Center—have insisted for years that evidence of fraud is nonexistent.
Heritage took that as a challenge and has produced nearly 1,100 irrefutable, proven examples of a wide range of election misconduct.
The Brennan Center’s response is telling. Rather than forthrightly reviewing the data, it mischaracterizes and misleads. Rather than acknowledge that fraud is real, it minimizes and dismisses it.
Rather than call the perpetrators of these illegal actions what they are—convicted criminals—the Brennan Center refers to them only as “defendants” and ascribes to them the most innocuous of motives.
It may not be surprising that the Brennan Center would release such a report, but it should be alarming: For years, the left has claimed there is no evidence of voter fraud.
Now, with evidence staring it in the face, the Brennan Center’s response is to break out the shovel and seek to bury it.
This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal