The other week, federal and state investigators quietly wrapped up a major, four-year investigation into claims of voter fraud in North Carolina — without delivering a shred of evidence of the “systemic” or “pervasive” fraud that Republicans had long promised.
Despite “dragnet-style” subpoenas of 44 counties, across state agencies, invasive data mining and records collection, hundreds of hours of professional staff time and more, investigators were able to charge a grand total of 41 people of some form of fraud — out of 5 million votes cast and 7 million voters.
This development is a major embarrassment for Republicans, who for a decade have loudly spun colorful and outrageous yarns about “voter fraud.” Indeed, the existence of this investigation itself was a big victory for their leaders. Republicans promised shocking revelations and far-reaching conspiracies involving undocumented immigrants, criminals, and incompetent elections officials. After all, that has been the putative rationale behind Republicans’ aggressive push for voter ID and purging the voter rolls. (Why Republican leaders collected data on racial differences in voting behavior, and then designed ID requirements for maximum impact against people of color, readers may decide for themselves.)
This Republican-led investigation cost the taxpayer millions of dollars — in staff time, travel, expenses, budgets and more. It represented a major commitment of public money. And yet…
Normally, when taxpayers foot the bill for a major state investment, they expect a proportionately large public benefit as a matter of course. Yet in this case, that is not what we received. Indeed, that money now appears to have been utterly wasted in a nakedly political fishing expedition that could not even cobble together the barest justification for its own existence. In this way, it is like other such high-profile investigations into voter fraud, like President Trump’s own 2017 voter integrity commission, which also quietly shut down in 2018 without finding any evidence of significant fraud.