Republicans across the country are waging a steady war against the American voter, pushing voter suppression and photo ID bills that will potentially disenfranchise students, seniors, minorities, low-income, and millions of other Americans come 2012. Conservatives insist that this regression in civic rights is necessary to combat a demonstrably non-existent problem, voter fraud.
Last night on the O’Reilly Factor, Occidental College political science Prof. Caroline Heldman endeavored to relieve host Bill O’Reilly of his dogged belief that the infinitesimal rate of voter fraud warrants disenfranchising 5 million people. “You’re harboring the misconception that’s you have lots of people trying to vote [fraudulently]. You face five years in prison and a $10,000 fine if you engage in voter fraud, that’s why almost nobody does it.”
Condescendingly mocking her expertise, O’Reilly rattled off “stats” to prove that voter fraud is rampant in Wisconsin, which Heldman noted is near 0.000001 of one percent. “Great,” she said. “Where is all the legislation that is trying to protect people that are struck by lightning because that’s really the same priority that this should have on the agenda.” Watch it:
Heldman noted that the voter ID bills that are popping up around the country aren’t in response to an actual problem but actually created by the American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC) which has written, printed, and pushed an identical voter ID bill in several different states. In fact, “every single one of the five states that recently passed Voter ID legislation had [ALEC] members as co-sponsors of the legislation.” O’Reilly responded, “I’ve never heard of that,” later adding “it doesn’t matter if its common sense.”
“It’s anti-democratic, it’s going to demobilize 5 million legally registered voters,” Heldman tried again, citing the Brennan Center, ThinkProgress, and the ACLU’s research. “ThinkProgress, that’s a far left outfit,” O’Reilly said. “I don’t believe that for a second.” To which Heldman replied, “They’re crunching numbers, Bill. Numbers are numbers.”
Indeed, there’s really only one problem with the numbers Professor Heldman presented to O’Reilly last night — a voter is actually 39 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit fraud at the polls.