The details reporters choose to emphasize can make a big difference in the weight a reader assigns to a story, and Ken Block’s just-released report on voter registrations and potential fraud provides a good example.
Katherine Gregg’s Providence Journal article seems to me to emphasize Block’s finding that more than 30% of registered voters (143,111) in Rhode Island “did not register to vote with either a Social Security number or driver’s license number.” Kim Kalunian on WPRI doesn’t even mention that number, focusing instead on the 100 Rhode Islanders who seem to have voted in two places and 225 who registered at non-residential addresses.
That’s quite a spread on the magnitude of the issue.
Most of the 143,111 voters who didn’t register with a Social Security number or driver’s license did so before that was a requirement in the law, so to me, the key number is 22,389. That’s the number of people who registered without those numbers after the law supposedly required it. Numbers in the tens of thousands are clearly within the range of having real effects on Rhode Island races.
Tie that with Block’s description of registration process’s clear vulnerabilities:
A letter would be sent by the U.S. postal service to the address provided on the voter registration application [that had been submitted via mail]. If the letter is not returned as undeliverable, then the applicant is duly registered and no further checks would be performed unless the registration was challenged by a person or entity outside of government. If the letter was returned as undeliverable or if the improperly listed commercial business returned the letter with a postal comment that the registering individual did not live at that address, then the application would be put on hold.
Assuming the John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt voter application was approved, the individual claiming to be Schmidt would need to provide a photo ID to obtain a state-issued voter ID card in order to then cast an actual vote. Schmidt could obtain a voter ID card by submitting a wide range of identity items that fail to meet the social security number and driver’s license number threshold outlined in the federal HAVA law, such as a gym membership photo ID.
The kicker is that nobody would check that such a gym actually exists. So, somebody intending voter fraud could send in a registration form using any address that would be unlikely to bounce and then complete the registration with a fake ID card from a fictional business printed at Staples.