Monday, October 22, 2012

Fraudulent 112-Year-Old Voters? Nope, Just Birth Dates That Default To 1900

Barry Secrest and some other right-wing bloggers think they've found a bunch of fraudulent votes coming from supposed 112-year-olds in North Carolina (where I lived for 10 years). I investigated the matter using a wonderful technology available at this site and discovered that that's probably not what's happening.  Texas, as it turns out, had a similar issue earlier this year during a primary:
Cavazos said the voters in question registered to vote in the 1970s, when a birth date wasn’t required. When they get their voters registration cards in the mail, they should come in and have the birth date corrected, she said.  
Rich Parsons, spokesman with the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, confirmed that Jan. 1, 1900, and Jan. 1, 1901, are placeholder dates used when a registration application is filled out without a birth date.
That's why the voters look like they're 112 years old, rather than some other elderly age. The system treats your birth date as 1900 if it doesn't have a proper number in there, and 2012 minus 1900 is 112. The idea that this was systematic voter fraud should've seemed pretty weird -- why would the fraudsters all represent ages of 112 or so?

As Justin Levitt's comprehensive report from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School points out, "In the course of millions of recorded votes and voters, it is virtually certain that there will be clerical errors.  Often, what appears to be voter fraud—a person attempting to vote under a false name, for example — can be traced back to a typo." And as the report also says, "It is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls."
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