There aren't too many issues that trigger as much instant anger as the question of voter fraud in America. Of course, presidential candidate Donald Trump has made the issue even more controversial with his recent claims that the election may be "rigged" to go along with the more traditional argument that the voter registration rolls are seriously inaccurate and ripe for abuse.
The basic divide in the nation can be summed up this way: Most Republicans and conservatives believe voter fraud is a serious problem or at least a serious potential problem that needs to be combated with voter I.D. laws. Most Democrats and liberals refuse to believe voter fraud is a problem and think voter I.D. laws are really just racist voter suppression schemes. These two beliefs seem oceans apart, and it doesn't look like there's any chance of reconciling them anytime soon. But there's no need to be so pessimistic as long as we can agree to a broader definition of what vote fraud and chicanery really is, and follow a little common sense.
On the first point, let's agree that voter fraud or the actual acting of fouling the vote isn't just about bogus registration rolls, repeat voters, or even illegal immigrants showing up to the polls. It also includes confusing ballots, tampered ballots, electronic voting mishaps, and even insufficient or ill-prepared polling station volunteers. And let's further agree that all of the above can and has hurt both parties in the past.
And let's also use that common sense and agree that elections are extremely valuable to the winners. Even local offices present the victors with real power over lots of people and the ability to profit politically and financially for years to come. Anything of value is going to be stolen from time to time, or at least people will always try to steal it.
This is not even up for some kind of Utopian counter-argument. It's simply human nature. Another weak argument comes from those who are willing to admit there is limited vote fraud in every election, but not enough to make much of a difference. That reasoning would make sense if elections in America weren't winner take all affairs that can be decided by just one vote. This is especially true in presidential elections where 48 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia award all their electoral votes to the top vote getter no matter how small the majority or plurality.
And we should all remember recent elections where small margins of victory coupled with some voting or ballot irregularities made major news. In 2000, the infamous "butterfly ballot" and hanging chads in Florida helped add to the chaos that became a presidential election where millions of Americans still believe the Supreme Court simply selected George W. Bush to take the Oval Office.
In 2008, Al Franken won his U.S. Senate seat from Minnesota, and gave the Democrats a super majority in the Senate, by a 312-vote margin fraught with evidence that many ineligible votes were cast and counted. And we're already hearing of a number of questionable cases of possible repeat voters in the early voting process across many states in this election so far.