In-person voter fraud is something that rarely happens in American elections. But Republican legislatures and governors all across the country have successfully instituted strict voter ID laws. The purpose, they say, is to stop people from voting illegally. But the real reason, as noted by several courts, is to prevent people of color from voting. When fewer ballots are cast by members of the African-American and Latino communities, Republicans make out better.
You would think that because in-person voter fraud is so rare, Republicans would want to make a big deal about it any time they are presented with a case. But that's not what just happened in North Carolina, where a Republican prosecutor has decided not to bring charges against a woman who admittedly committed voter fraud by casting a vote for Donald Trump in the name of her deceased mother.
According to the Hickory Record, Catawba County District Attorney David Learner has declined to prosecute a woman who went to the polls to cast a ballot for her mother, who died in October. The woman, who has not been identified, supposedly believed that the power of attorney given to her by her mother allowed her to vote in her mother's place, even though her mother was deceased on election day. The mother was a staunch fan of Trump and apparently asked her daughter to cast the vote.
The decision not to prosecute the woman was probably the fair and proper thing to do. Learner said the woman committed the fraud out of ignorance, and in a statement he explained:
"This woman is 67 years old and has never run afoul of the law for anything more serious than a speeding ticket. It is not in the public’s interest to charge her with this felony offense."
He's right about that. But instead of using the incident as a "teachable moment" to educate voters about the issue, Learner actually made excuses for the woman. In a letter to the North Carolina State Board Of Elections, Learner noted that:
"(The woman’s) actions were done during a time of grief and mourning and in an effort to honor her mother’s dying wish."
And he seemingly blamed the election's board for the crime, saying:
"Her mother was alive during the absentee period and if she had received the ballot in time she would have been able to legitimately cast her vote."
Of course the question that will forever go unanswered is whether the woman would have received the same treatment had she cast her mother's vote for Hillary Clinton. Learner insists that politics played no part in his decision. Since we have no way of knowing, we'll put aside speculation on that.
But the case has brought to light some more truth about voter fraud. Like this woman, most people who cast ballots illegally do so because they are not aware that they are not supposed to be voting. According to Vox, an audit of the North Carolina vote found there were 508 illegally cast ballots out of some 4.5 million. But 441 of those ballots came from felons, who were apparently unaware that they couldn't vote while on probation. Another 41 were cast by legal resident aliens, who also apparently weren't aware that they couldn't vote. And once again there is no evidence that the illegally cast ballots were enough to change the results in any race.
The North Carolina case is just the latest example of the voter fraud claim coming back to bite Republicans. Time and time again they claim that strict voter ID laws are necessary, because they say Democrats are gaming the system by encouraging people to vote illegally. But time and time again when the few legitimate fraud cases come to light, it is largely Republican voters who are guilty.