Democracy requires voter engagement. At Veterans for Responsible Leadership, we believe public officials have a responsibility to maximize voter participation, and should work to make it easier for all citizens to vote.

The right to vote is core to American democracy and one of the most sacred ideals members of the armed forces pledge their lives to defend. Maximizing voter participation is the only way to ensure elected officials are reflective of and responsive to the communities they represent. Importantly, in a country where military service is optional, it helps ensure decisions impacting our military members and their families — including when and why to put them in harm’s way — truly represent the will and best interests of the people.

Voter turnout in 2020 was the highest it has been in decades, owing, in part, to measures taken by states to expand mail in and early voting due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, rather than taking this as a lesson in how to address America’s alarmingly low voter participation, states around the country have proposed at least 250 laws that threaten to do the opposite. Supporters of these laws claim they are necessary to alleviate concerns about the integrity of the electoral process — concerns resulting from mis- and disinformation spread by the former president and Republican lawmakers themselves.

Claims of voter fraud have long been used by those on the losing side of an election as an excuse for their defeat and justification for enacting legislation aimed at disenfranchising voters. New Jersey’s first constitution in 1776 gave both men and women — including African Americans — the right to vote, but in 1807 the state enacted legislation to restrict voting to white male citizens and give an advantage to what was then called the Democratic-Republican party in the 1808 presidential election (women often voted for the opposing Federalist party). The explanation? Alleged voter fraud during the 1806 election, to include men and boys dressing as women to vote a second time.

This historical example is an early illustration of an unfortunate American tradition, where politicians abandon their responsibility to protect the sanctity of the vote by lying, fear-mongering, and changing the system for their own benefit. Disenfranchising women to keep men from voting twice was not a logical solution. But rather than logic, the aim was to present a theoretically principled excuse for keeping those likely to vote for the opposition — in this case, women — from the polls. It is a tactic as old as America, one that has been honed over time and is just as effective today as it was in 1807.

This tactic is effective because, as with all believable lies, there is some truth to it. Voter fraud does occur, because no system is capable of preventing all fraud. But, despite all claims to the contrary, the American system comes close to doing so: the Brennan Center for Justice found that fraud occurs in just .0003 percent of voting. The Heritage Foundation’s Election Fraud Database, described as a “sampling of recent election fraud cases from across the United States,” lists 1,317 proven cases of voter fraud from 1979 to 2021, a 32-year time period during which hundreds of millions of Americans voted in thousands of national, state, and local elections.To put this in perspective, if all those cases occurred during just the last Presidential election, that would be one out of every 118,060 votes, or 0.00000847 percent.

When presented with this data, many of those pushing so-called “election integrity” laws argue that, because some voter fraud may go undetected, the true extent of election fraud in the US is unknown. While true, this line of reasoning does not support the conclusion that the amount of undetected fraud is great enough to sway the outcome of an election and thus requires additional safeguards. Importantly, it begs the question: if we don’t know if and how the fraud is occurring, how can we determine what will be effective in preventing it?

Advanced analytics technologies are well-suited to help elections officials detect fraud. They’re readily available, have been proven in other industries, and some states are already using them to analyze voter data. We should continue to investigate and analyze all credible (substantiated) claims of voter fraud — and election fraud more broadly — to understand, identify any vulnerabilities, and take a data-driven approach to safeguarding our elections while maximizing voter turnout.

In the meantime, politicians who sincerely wish to alleviate their constituents’ concerns can do so by clearly communicating the facts about voter fraud: that voter fraud is rare, that the 2020 election was not stolen, that the vast majority of Americans can be trusted at the polls. Doing so will require courage, humility, integrity and a willingness to put country over party and over self. It will also send a clear message about their commitment to protecting the integrity of elections, Americans’ faith in the process and ensuring all citizens’ voices can be equally heard.

If you share our view that facts matter and public officials have a responsibility to speak truthfully to their constituents, make policy decisions based on evidence and in the best interests of all Americans, and maximize voter participation, we encourage you to:

Veterans for Responsible Leadership (VFRL) is a diverse nonpartisan organization whose mission is to uphold the integrity of American democracy from those who seek to undermine and subvert its institutions, the rule of law, and electoral system for personal or political advantage. We exist to advance adherence to our founding ideals through shared sacrifice, civic engagement, and political leadership. Its members believe that service to the country shouldn’t end when they take off the uniform, and all are asked to sign the Veteran Code to keep faith with their oath, their country, and their fellow veterans.

Supporting evidence for this article was provided in part by Fact Briefs published on Repustar. Anyone may request new Fact Briefs on claims in the news by mentioning @FactSparrow on Twitter. Follow @FactSparrow to learn more.