Since the 2020 presidential election, concerns about voter fraud have been a constant topic of conversation among Republican lawmakers and voters. According to The Poynter Institute, as many as 65% of Republicans do not believe that President Joe Biden was the winner of the 2020 presidential election and that fraudulent votes were cast in his favor to secure his victory.
Thus far, none of the investigations into widespread voter fraud have found any concrete evidence that such activity is taking place. According to The Brennan Center For Justice, from 2000 to 2014, 31 cases of voter fraud were identified in a sample size of over one billion ballots.
“It is more likely that an American will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls,” the group said in a memo released in 2020.
John Hibbing, a professor of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said controversial elections are nothing new in American Democracy. However, Hibbing, who specializes in political behavior and public opinion, said the level of concern around election integrity since 2020 is unique.
“People don’t like to lose; that’s true of all of us,” Hibbing said. “So, if you can blame the referees or say the system is rigged against you, that’s psychologically pleasing. But we have to rise above that.”
In the case of the 2020 election, he said he felt that slices of the population haven’t.
Hibbing feels that calling the integrity and fairness of elections into question is incredibly damaging to the safety of democracy, but it also undermines one of democracy’s most important tenants: Democracy protects the losers.
“[Democracy] says ‘look, you’re gonna have a fair shot at this in four years– or two years– or whatever,’” Hibbing said. “If we don’t believe that, then we’re in big trouble.”
Prior to 2020, even after controversial election results, Americans and lawmakers have maintained that the system works, even if the results aren’t what they wanted. In the case of 2020, Hibbing said, that belief may not be as present as it once was. That skepticism, Hibbing said, can be attributed to the actions of one individual: Former President Donald Trump.
Hibbing said he hopes voter fraud fades from the conversation as the Trump presidency moves further and further into memory but feels it’s likely to remain a prominent part of political discourse going forward.
“I think it’s horribly counterproductive,” Hibbing said. “If we reach the point where some people have convinced themselves that it’s no longer a fair system, then that really raises some serious questions about democracy going forward.”
Since 2020, Trump has endorsed 159 Republican candidates in state and federal elections who have publicly denied the validity of the most recent presidential election. Of those 159, 80% have gone on to win their primary elections.
In Nebraska, 58.2% of votes were cast for Trump in the 2020 election, with Biden bringing in 39.2%, and according to investigations done into the validity of the state’s elections, no signs of fraud were found.
Hall County Election Commissioner Tracy Overstreet said Nebraska remains the gold standard when it comes to election integrity, and all investigations into the state’s voting processes seem to agree. According to Heritage.org, only two instances of voter fraud in Nebraska have ever been recorded. Both took place in 2016, not 2020.
Republican lawmakers have suggested that the best way to preserve election integrity is to implement voter ID laws that would require voters to provide a government-issued state ID before voting.
To date, 21 states require a photo ID to be presented before a ballot can be cast in person, with another 14 accepting a non-photo ID. Most of the states that have implemented Voter ID laws are Republican-held states.
What might be surprising to some is that Nebraska remains one of the 15 states that require no form of ID before voting. Secretary of the State of Nebraska Bob Evnen is looking to change that.
After the 2020 election, Evnen’s office refuted claims of voter fraud in Nebraska. However, Evnen declined to say whether or not he felt voter fraud was a problem in other states. Evnen and his office maintain that even without Voter ID Laws currently in place, elections in Nebraska are perfectly safe, and residents who want to vote can do so knowing their ballots will be fairly counted.
In a tweet on Sept. 6, Evnen announced that the Voter ID initiative had reached the necessary number of signatures and would be included on voting ballots this November.
Overstreet said it’s impossible to say if she’s simply ‘for’ or ‘against’ voter ID legislation, as there’s nuance involved in voting rights laws.
“The concept of voter ID is a good one because it’s about security,” Overstreet said. “No one that I know is against safe and secure elections. We’re all for that, but it’s the details in getting there that I think can be a challenge to work on.”
Voter ID laws are made more complicated with the meteoric rise in the popularity of alternative ballot casting. In 2020, 69% of voters cast ballots through mail-in voting or early voting.
Overstreet is particularly concerned about how mail-in voting and early voting would be impacted by some of the proposed Voter ID laws.
Overstreet expressed reservations in last year’s legislative session that many of the proposed Nebraska Voter ID laws led to unnecessary disenfranchisement, specifically among college students, those with mobility issues and military servicemen and women. These groups may not have the documents or the means to meet the requirements proposed in Voter ID legislation, Overstreet said.
“[Voter ID] would probably make things a lot easier at the polling site for our poll workers,” Overstreet said. “There’s a lot of people that come in who want to show you ID [at the polling site] and currently we have to tell them to put it away and they’re confused by that, and some are even angry.”
Critics of voter ID laws often echo Overstreet’s concerns about disenfranchisement. In Nebraska, Evnen said those objections shouldn’t stop the implementation of Voter ID laws.
“Ninety-eight percent of Nebraskans have the documentation we require,” Evnen said. “And it’s unclear if the remaining 2 percent who don’t are interested in voting at all.”
Ahead of the November midterms, Overstreet said elections in Nebraska would continue to be some of the safest in the country.
“I do not feel that a lot of the questions and concerns being raised should be of concern for Nebraskans,” Overstreet said. “That said, if someone has concerns, I think it’s always good to ask questions so that you can educate yourself and feel more comfortable in the process.”
Overstreet also strongly encouraged those with questions or uncertainties about the safety of elections to get involved in the process in their communities as poll workers.
“Fewer than a half percent of Americans ever see the back side of an election,” Overstreet said. “I think it’s a great time to use our skepticism in the process to become more educated in that process.”