University of Minnesota students associated with the liberal advocacy group Students Organizing For America are being investigated for illegally vouching for strangers at the polls. What these students did was at best naive, at worst felonious, and, in any case, a serious violation of the spirit of open elections. That they — and not the thousands of students who did their civic duty legally and responsibly — should represent the University in this year’s post-election headlines is most regrettable.
Nevertheless, their actions are hardly indicative of Minnesota’s entire electoral system. We expect that the authorities will thoroughly investigate and prosecute this and other questionable voting incidents across the state. We maintain, however, that the benefits of vouching and same-day registration, which encourage civic participation by facilitating the voting process, outweigh their potential abuses.
More importantly, these benefits vastly outweigh the few actual, measured abuses of the system. Nonpartisan studies of voter fraud consistently find that illicit voting only accounts for a tiny fraction of 1 percent of votes in any given U.S. election.
Not surprisingly, this case has become fodder for those already calling vociferously for stricter, more exclusive voting requirements in Minnesota. These critics of same-day voter registration and advocates of required identification at the polls rely on an unfounded, shamefully exaggerated idea of voter fraud to further their cause.
In terms of the broader integrity of Minnesota’s elections, too, these few cases of alleged fraud are small potatoes. So long as the money of special interests continues to flow freely and anonymously into our political system, we’ll be far from the fair elections we deserve.