“Massive Voter Fraud” in Philly Is a Myth

And here's why: Because it's practically impossible to pull off.

I know a guy who voted twice on election day.

He pressed the button in two different polling places, in two different precincts, in two different counties in Pennsylvania. He wasn’t registered in either place, and no one asked him for ID, even though he’s not even eligible to vote at all. Even worse, he slipped out of both places under the radar and undetected. And of course, he voted for Obama both times.

Sounds pretty scary, right?

Except the “guy” is my son, Jonah. He’s eight months old. I took him with me in the morning when I voted in Delaware County and let him press the “vote” button. After that I dropped him off at his grandmother’s in Philadelphia, and when she went to vote later in the morning she brought him with and did the same.

In this month’s election day and in others, anecdotes about “massive voter fraud” were pretty common, especially in Philadelphia. And virtually all of them have never amounted to much more than the case of the double-voting baby.

Thanks to plentiful stories and the ever-present scourge of the New Black Panther Party, Philadelphia has been ground zero for this, as expert campaign reporter Dave Weigel pointed out last week. I know my Facebook timeline was filled, on Election Day and the few days after, with supposed examples of election fraud. But in the two weeks since, no hard evidence of fraud or conspiracy has yet emerged- and most of the stories of “massive voter fraud” have turned out either anecdotal or  apocryphal.

And there’s a reason for this: In-person voter fraud is nearly nonexistent, because it’s nearly impossible. In order to vote fraudulently, one would have to register falsely, show up to the right precinct under their fake name, and vote. For this to take place on a massive scale — massive enough to affect, say, the outcome of a presidential election or even flip a state– would require a pretty large conspiracy. But no such conspiracy has ever been uncovered, even though there’s now an entire cottage industry devoted to finding one.

(And no, ACORN doesn’t count. They were accused of voter REGISTRATION fraud, a completely separate crime.)

Most of the local accusations of “massive fraud” have turned out to be anything but. There were 59 different Philadelphia precincts recorded no Romney votes? There were also precincts in Utah in which Obama received zero votes. Ninety percent of Philadelphia precincts had 90 percent or more voter turnout? Those reports were premature and ultimately inaccurate. Voter registration forms were shredded? Doesn’t sound like it.

Then there’s the New Black Panther Party, which reared its ugly head once again this year, with a whopping one NBPP member showing up as a poll-watcher in North Philadelphia.

The truth is the same as in 2008: The NDPP isn’t some dangerous militia out to subvert democracy. They’re a handful of idiots playing dress-up. They command no constituency  and enjoy no influence. Their lone role in U.S. politics is to occasionally appear on Fox News shows and yell stuff about whitey. That way, Fox can perpetuate the lie that the NBBP is both extremely influential and closely allied with the president, and that legions of scary New Black Panthers are ready to brandish a billy club at anyone with any thoughts of voting Republican.

Unlike the actual Black Panthers from the 1960s– who have disavowed them, by the way— the NBPP don’t actually matter in American history. They’ve had no effect on the last election or this one, and if they wanted to have one, showing up at a heavily pro-Obama polling place wouldn’t exactly be the most effective way.

I agree with my colleague Larry Mendte that any serious election irregularities should be fully investigated. I just don’t see, in Philadelphia anyway, how anything that happened on election day rises to that level.

I was afraid that in the event of a super-close Obama victory it would become an article of faith on the right that voter fraud was the reason why. Luckily, it’s only the fringe who buys into that now- including our old buddy, the Unskewed Polls guy!

In all, Barack Obama won Pennsylvania, and the election. And he didn’t need the votes of dead people- or babies- to do it.