NY-22 Minute: Tenney Cites Voter Fraud as "Very Real Issue"
Yesterday Representative Claudia Tenney stated during a telephone conference with constituents that voter fraud is a “very real issue” that needs to be addressed. Tenney shared her related views responding to a question about undocumented immigrants voting.
Tenney stated that the Constitution specifies only citizens can vote and people are "slipping through the cracks," causing electoral fraud.
The U.S. Constitution largely left voter eligibility to the states, who are responsible for administering local, state, and national elections. States can and do differ in who they allow to vote and how. Felon voting rights, for instance, “vary tremendously.”
Separate federal law does prohibit noncitizens from voting in national elections. Some cities can and do allow noncitizens to vote in local elections. Political scientists have documented how “for most of America’s history and in the vast majority of the USA, voting by noncitizens was the norm, not the exception.”
The U.S. Constitution only mentions voting a few times and not in relation to citizenship. Later amendments, such as the fifteenth and nineteenth amendments, expanded franchise to include African-Americans and women.
Tenney also claimed turnout in recent U.S. elections has exceeded 100 percent in various places around the country.
This perspective was propagated online following the 2012 presidential election, typically in support of Voter ID laws. Politifact debunked the assertion (examples here, here and here) as well as related claims (see here).
These sentiments were also expressed by Donald Trump, who claimed the electoral system was “rigged” prior to the 2016 election. Politifact debunked this notion and Trump’s claim that over five million noncitizens voted in 2016.
“Free and fair elections” is a key measure of democracy used by scholars and governments, including our own. The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, a premier international body for election observation, has observed American elections this century. Their report on the 2016 election concluded the election was “highly competitive and demonstrated commitment to fundamental freedoms.”
Political Scientists focused on U.S. elections have long documented sensationalism regarding recent voter fraud claims. For instance, The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University's School of Law extensively researched this issue and found allegations of voter fraud “often prove greatly exaggerated” because “by any measure, voter fraud is extraordinarily rare.”
Political Scientists have also demonstrated how “immigrant resentment is strongly associated with voter fraud beliefs.” In other words, “widespread hostility toward immigrants helps nourish public beliefs about voter fraud and support for voting restrictions in the United States.”
Representative Tenney referenced President Trump’s controversial commission on voter fraud that was disbanded earlier this year. Tenney believes electoral fraud is still an important issue and supports the Securing America's Future Act (commonly called the "Goodlatte Bill"), which withholds federal funding to sanctuary cities and states.
This story was updated at 4:08pm, March 15, 2018.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College.
Read the NY-22 Minute for timely and comprehensive analysis of the campaign.