It’s no secret a sizable chunk of the population of this country thinks widespread fraud is taking place in America’s elections.
Anyone who does even the tiniest bit of homework with factual sources knows that’s false. In Massachusetts, the cases of voter fraud in the last 10 years can be counted on one hand, and most of those involved candidates or their spouses illegally obtaining blank ballots and trying to stuff a ballot box.
In spite of the facts, a group in Massachusetts has been seeking signatures to get an initiative petition on the 2022 ballot requiring voters to show an ID before they can vote. Those signatures have to be filed today, Nov. 17, with local registrars of voters for certification.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s happening in red states across the country as Republicans continually impose requirements — requirements that are really restrictions — to keep individuals, mainly in Democratic areas, from voting. Those most affected are those who do not have photo IDs or drivers’ licenses, often poorer people who live in urban — mostly Democratic — areas.
In the recent Newburyport election, at least two polling places led some voters to believe they had to produce a license to vote. Poll workers at Ward 1 and Wards 3 and 4 (both in one building) improperly asked would-be voters for an ID such as a driver’s license at the check-in table. Scanning a driver’s license into the city’s new Poll Pad electronic system might make registration quicker — which is how City Clerk Richard Jones tried to explain the situation — but in Massachusetts, producing a license isn’t a requirement to vote, except in rare cases, when, for example, a voter casts a provisional ballot.
Jones insisted the request to have an ID ready was only a suggestion to streamline the process. He said “many, many, many people don’t mind showing a license. In fact, many people thought it was a good thing.”
He did not say whom he polled. And it doesn’t matter.
Under Massachusetts law, voters are not required to produce identification. Signs asking for IDs and poll workers’ baseless requests for licenses are improper and intimidating, and could deter some registered residents from coming to the polls and exercising their right to vote.
As far as “voter fraud” in Massachusetts, it’s almost nonexistent.
“I’m not aware of any cases prosecuted in Massachusetts in the last four years or even further back than that,” said Debra O’Malley, spokeswoman for Secretary of State William Galvin, whose office oversees voting.
She said the office occasionally gets a call from someone who thinks another person voted illegally, “but it’s often a case of someone in town with a similar name or it’s a clerical error.”
The story is the same in Attorney General Maura Healey’s office. A spokeswoman there said, “Our office has only received a handful of election-related complaints alleging voter fraud. We have not prosecuted any claims of voter fraud” in recent years.
The tracking website Heritage.org reports only four cases in Massachusetts since 2012 in which someone was prosecuted for voter fraud. Three involved plans by candidates or their spouses to illegally obtain blank ballots so they could stuff a ballot box. In the fourth, a Worcester man’s lawyer said his client had voted under someone else’s name, but it was only a prank. The client admitted to sufficient facts for a guilty finding, and was ordered to pay $1,000 in court costs and perform 200 hours of community service.
In 2012, a former state representative pleaded guilty to two counts of voter fraud in a scheme in which he obtained absentee ballots for ineligible voters and, in some cases, cast their ballots without their knowledge. He was sentenced to four months in prison, a year of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine.
So it’s clear that cases of voter fraud in Massachusetts are rare, and they are taken seriously — and prosecuted — by authorities.
Massachusetts doesn’t need a voter ID requirement. There is no evidence to justify imposing this on all voters.