Voter fraud: If Dahlia Lithwick repeats a lie often enough, maybe it will become true

The notion that present-day Democrats regularly steal elections by engaging in concerted efforts to vote multiple times in funny mustaches is a myth, unsupported by data or fact.

Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, May 24

As outlined at trial, the vote fraud scheme infected not only the actual voting process in November, but also the voter registration process preceding the election. Several persons, including the defendant Cusack, falsely registered to vote by claiming to reside at addresses within the precinct when they actually resided elsewhere. The actual residents at these addresses were asked to place name-tags on their doors that bore the names of the non-resident registrants. The defendants, and several others acting under their direction, also participated in a canvass of the precinct …. Although the canvass disclosed that a number of persons who were registered to vote in the precinct had died, moved away, or for some other reason had become ineligible to vote, these persons were not struck from the list of eligible voters. Finally, on election day the defendants, either personally or by acting through others, caused numerous false ballots to be cast for the straight Democratic ticket.

United States v. Howard, 774 F.2d 838 (7th Cir. 1985)

[T]he U.S. Attorney in Chicago at the time, Daniel Webb, estimated that at least 100,000 fraudulent votes (10 percent of all votes in the city) had been cast. Sixty-five individuals were indicted for federal election crimes, and all but two (one found incompetent to stand trial and another who died) were convicted.

Hans A. von Spakovsky, Heritage Legal Memorandum #23

Update: Some commenters complain that the 1982 example is irrelevant to Lithwick’s claim, because it is modified by “present-day.”

Present-day examples include 2007 cases in Hoboken, NJ, Noxubee, MS, and King County, WA—not to mention the unprosecuted voter fraud in Washington state in 2004, which affected the gubernatorial election. There may be many more examples, except Democrats are using lawsuits to block attempts to compare voter rolls with addresses.

Lithwick’s argument against present-day voter fraud is that there are very few prosecutions, and that therefore prevention measures are not needed. This is akin to arguing that, because very few people are ticketed for running red lights, there is no need for traffic signals. If there’s less voter fraud today, it’s in large part because of the prosecutions in the 1980s. Given Senator Obama’s appalling block on the van Spakovsky nomination to the FEC, and the liberal activism against preventing vote fraud, one worries that an Obama Justice Department will cease prosecuting voter fraud, and that there will be a return to the bad old days, in which case 1980s examples from when the DOJ first started prosecuting vote fraud are quite relevant.


  • If you read DL’s whole column, she is talking about widespread, concerted voter fraud. How many were convicted in US v Howard? ‘Several’? How many is that?
    And where in the world does Dainel Webb get the figure 100,000? His backside? 65 were convicted. If each of them successfully voted 10 times, that would only be 585 fraudulent votes. How does that translate into 100,000?

    IOW, what’s your point?


  • Dahlia was absolutely correct. None of those convicted was wearing a funny mustache.

  • […] in Corruption, Democrats, Despicable Liers, Dishonesty, Election Analysis. trackback Because the rest of that “myth” is sure turning out to be true. For what its worth, I think that the massive amounts of Democratic vote fraud has more to do with […]

  • Tom, you clearly didn’t read the cited links, which answer both your questions. Inter alia, “More than 3,000 votes had been cast in the names of individuals who were dead, and more than 31,000 individuals had voted twice in different locations in the city. Thousands of individuals had supposedly voted despite being incarcerated at the time of the election, and utility records showed that some individuals who voted were registered as living on vacant lots.” Sure sounds like “widespread, concerted voter fraud” to me.

  • In world of warcraft, we call this “WTFpwned.”

  • Let me see if I’ve got this right: a single example of large-scale voter fraud from more than twenty-five years ago in Chicago, a city regarded for several decades as the epitome of political corruption in the United States, is evidence that “present day Democrats regularly steal elections”? This is the kind of illogic that I expect to see in cases reported by Overlawyered.

  • Bill, TomH . . . how many OTHER cases (read: Florida 2000, Ohio 2004, the House race in California that Loretta Sanchez won her seat the first time (late 1980’s?), Chicago 1960 [and likely others]) do you need? Any kind of shenanigans involving ballots or voting should be prosecuted very seriously NO MATTER WHO DOES IT.

    Oh, one other thing: Let’s get over the idea that purging voter rolls is disenfranchisement or “racism/sexism/etc.-ism”, OK? Simply put, if you are dead, in prison, not a citizen of this country (no illegal-immigrants, temp workers, green-card holders, etc. voting!), too young (<18), or not able to vote due to other circumstances, YOU CAN’T VOTE!!!

  • Loathe though I am to be defending the … interestingly … opinionated Ms Lithwick, surely the key to the quote that you use are the words ‘present day’. To provide 20 year-old examples is hardly devastating to her argument.

  • Let’s not forget the Washington Governor’s race of 2004. The current occupant of the governor’s mansion is there after a third recount “found” enough votes to put her over the top by less than 150 votes. It was later found that at least 13 times that number of votes were cast illegally. The whole saga is well documented by STefan Sharkansky over at Just browse through the 2004/5 archives.

  • Update: this post summarizes the Washington State situation pretty well:

  • Years ago when Loretta Sanchez won her Congressional seat it was revealed that at least 800 illegal aliens voted for her. No one was prosecuted, of course. The “Culture of Corruption” moves on.

  • In response to the update, my criticism was not only that the example cited is not “present day” but also that a single example hardly makes a case for “regularly”. The addtional examples cited still don’t make a good case for regular voter fraud by democrats attempting to vote multiple times. Take the Washington case, for example. There was no voter fraud. There was voter registration fraud. That is, a contractor submitted a bunch of false registration cards, with made up names. They did this in order to get paid for registrations that they didn’t actually perform. No one attempted to use these registrations to vote, and that was not the intent of the people carrying out the fraud. Indeed, it was the left-wing organization (not actually the Democratic Party, which was not involved) that was the victim here since they paid for voter registration work that the contractor did not perform.

  • While Lithwick’s quotation is just about “funny mustaches” her entire argument is against any sort of prosecutorial effort for any sort of election fraud and against any sort of legal prophylaxis. After all, if it’s never prosecuted or never caught, it’s like it never happened.

  • […] Who’s right?  Dahlia Lithwick, because “If Dahlia Lithwick repeats a lie often enough, maybe it will become true.” […]