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We need to invent a catchy phrase in the elections community to describe overblown allegations of voter fraud. As Lorraine Minnite has documented, most charges of fraud don’t stand up to scrutiny. It’s important that Americans have faith in the security and integrity of the ballot, but it’s just as important that overblown charges of “fraud” be challenged.

Take the latest series of charges and counter charges regarding voting irregularities in Indiana. Rick Hasen noted the “latest salvo” from the state GOP chair.

I am careful to use the word “irregularities” and not “election fraud” because, regardless of the rhetoric, even a cursory examination of the list of charges only reveals one case that rises to any level of concern: allegations regarding absentee ballot fraud for a single UOCAVA ballot. (I’ve been searching fruitlessly for the reasons why there are 65 counts in the indictment; some stories refer to absentee ballot “applications” while other stories note a single ballot in question.)

Let’s review the other cases of the “culture of corruption.” The one getting the most press is “hundreds of signatures to get Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the primary ballot in 2008.” Let’s be clear what is being claimed–that without these signatures, Obama and Clinton, two of the main contenders for the presidency, would not have been on the ballot. I am not going to excuse illegal signature gathering (in my state of Oregon, we eliminated most of this by banning payment by the signature), but what kind of state runs what kind of party primary which would exclude Obama and Clinton from the ballot?

But voter fraud? No. No one falsified a ballot, changed a vote, hacked a machine, etc.

The third and fourth charges both refer to illegal transportation of ballots – political candidates or campaign staff delivering absentee ballots from citizens to a county office. Again, if illegal, it obviously should be stopped, but once again, “mishandling ballots” is not vote fraud.

Case number 5? A single woman in South Bend said an unknown person called her and tried to tell her she could now vote by phone and didn’t need to vote on election day. The woman wisely ignored the caller and …. voted on election day.

The local television station titled the story “Possible voter fraud in South Bend”. The state GOP says “calls were made” even though only a single allegation surfaced. Yet there was no voter fraud and no one’s right to vote was denied. For all we know, the call emanated from Crank Yankers!

The final charge concerns a voter registration drive conducted by ACORN. In order to meet quotas and to get paid, canvassers falsified names and signatures. Illegal: yes. Voter fraud: no.

Some common themes emerge in the Indiana stories. First, except for the first case, where the facts are still emerging, there is not a single case of actual voting fraud. Second, registration and ballot handling errors are all lumped under the tendentious label “vote fraud.” Third, reporters can sometimes be awfully lazy! And fourth, most of what was alleged in Indiana can be eliminated by banning payment by the signature or by the registration card–something we banned in Oregon a number of years ago.