In the eyes of the Obama administration, most Democratic lawmakers, and left-leaning editorial pages across the country, voter fraud is a problem that doesn't exist. Allegations of fraud, they say, are little more than pretexts conjured up by Republicans to justify voter ID laws designed to suppress Democratic turnout.
That argument becomes much harder to make after reading a discussion of the 2008 Minnesota Senate race in "Who's Counting?", a new book by conservative journalist John Fund and former Bush Justice Department official Hans von Spakovsky. Although the authors cover the whole range of voter fraud issues, their chapter on Minnesota is enough to convince any skeptic that there are times when voter fraud not only exists but can be critical to the outcome of a critical race.
In the '08 campaign, Republican Sen. Norm Coleman was running for re-election against Democrat Al Franken. It was impossibly close; on the morning after the election, after 2.9 million people had voted, Coleman led Franken by 725 votes.
Franken and his Democratic allies dispatched an army of lawyers to challenge the results. After the first canvass, Coleman's lead was down to 206 votes. That was followed by months of wrangling and litigation. In the end, Franken was declared the winner by 312 votes. He was sworn into office in July 2009, eight months after the election.
During the controversy a conservative group called Minnesota Majority began to look into claims of voter fraud. Comparing criminal records with voting rolls, the group identified 1,099 felons -- all ineligible to vote -- who had voted in the Franken-Coleman race.
Minnesota Majority took the information to prosecutors across the state, many of whom showed no interest in pursuing it. But Minnesota law requires authorities to investigate such leads. And so far, Fund and von Spakovsky report, 177 people have been convicted -- not just accused, but convicted -- of voting fraudulently in the Senate race. Another 66 are awaiting trial. "The numbers aren't greater," the authors say, "because the standard for convicting someone of voter fraud in Minnesota is that they must have been both ineligible, and 'knowingly' voted unlawfully." The accused can get off by claiming not to have known they did anything wrong.
Still, that's a total of 243 people either convicted of voter fraud or awaiting trial in an election that was decided by 312 votes. With 1,099 examples identified by Minnesota Majority, and with evidence suggesting that felons, when they do vote, strongly favor Democrats, it doesn't require a leap to suggest there might one day be proof that Al Franken was elected on the strength of voter fraud.