Debunking Democracy Myths This Holiday Season

A holiday dinner table filled with people. A woman is presenting a turkey to the table with a shocked face. The graphic has a full red overlay with the exception of the woman.

The holiday season is here, and with it can come some awkward political discussions at the dinner table. For the past two years, we have highlighted some common myths about elections, voting rights and democracy and offered ways to debunk them. The tradition continues this year as we push back on some persisting myths from last year and address new ones that have gained traction in recent months.

FACT: Photo IDs are a needless barrier to voting that disproportionately burden marginalized groups.

MYTH: Government-issued photo IDs are easy to obtain and prevent widespread election fraud.

While photo ID requirements have become a common burden for voters in states throughout the U.S., they were once non-existent. Until the 2006 election, not a single state in the country had ever required government-issued photo IDs to vote — a reality that made sense given that studies have shown the requirements do not notably decrease fraud, but rather depress minority turnout.

The rise in ID requirements didn’t come after any substantial increase in voter fraud, but rather after a controversial 2000 presidential election and a couple of dangerous U.S. Supreme Court rulings.

Acquiring photo ID can be extremely difficult for a wide variety of voters, especially for minority and low-income individuals. Barriers including limited ID services, circular and confusing document requirements, expensive acquisition costs and discriminatory and prejudicial practices all make obtaining photo ID a challenge. 

Roughly 30 million people in the U.S. lack a driver’s license and between 15 and 18 million adults lack documents proving their birth or citizenship. Experts have estimated that as many as 11% of eligible voters lack the kind of IDs required by the strictest photo ID laws.

FACT: Hand counting can be useful to confirm electronic counts, but is inefficient, expensive and ripe for inaccuracies as a primary counting method.

MYTH: Hand counting is a safe and efficient method to tally all results in all elections.

Calls for hand counting have exploded since the 2020 election, when former President Donald Trump and Republicans nationwide launched a full-scale assault on Dominion Voting Systems and other electronic voting machine companies — baselessly alleging that the machines somehow flipped votes or overcounted ballots. Numerous recounts, investigations and expert testimony have confirmed no such events took place.

Electronic voting systems are the dominant counting method throughout the U.S. and have modernized our elections to allow for quicker and more accurate vote counts. 

Hand counting in certain instances can be helpful to confirm results that have razor-thin margins. But as a primary counting method, the practice is expensive, inefficient and, comparatively, extremely inaccurate. 

FACT: U.S. elections are chronically underfunded, and private funding for election administration can help to alleviate this issue. No evidence suggests private funding helps Democrats more than Republicans. 

MYTH: Private funding for elections makes them less secure and improperly helps Democrats win.

Yet another Republican myth born out of the 2020 election surrounded private funding for election administration. A $350 million dollar funding effort by Mark Zuckerburg helped local election offices keep up with the costs of the 2020 election amidst COVID-19. The grants were given to localities all across the country and to areas dominated politically by both Democrats and Republicans.

Republicans attacked the crucial donation, labeling the funding “Zuckerbucks” and falsely asserting that the money was meant to disproportionately help Democrats increase turnout and undermine election safety.

The claim was never substantiated, and the libertarian Cato Institute pushed back on this argument and made clear that the allegation was bunk. The evenly bipartisan Federal Election Commission also unanimously voted against allegations that the grants were improper donations meant to swing results.

Multiple states have since banned private funding, and congressional Republicans have introduced legislation that would ban the process nationwide — despite the fact that American elections are chronically underfunded.

FACT: It is unconstitutional for noncitizens to vote in federal elections. Minuscule examples exist of noncitizens illegally voting.

MYTH: Democrats are allowing noncitizens to vote in federal elections, leading to fraud.

False allegations of wide numbers of noncitizens illegally voting largely started after the 2016 presidential election, when Trump dumbfoundingly claimed that millions of noncitizens voted for Hillary Clinton.

A review of 23.5 million votes in the 2016 election found just 30 instances of suspected noncitizen voting, or .00001% of votes cast.

Republican fear mongering over noncitizens voting in federal elections has continued since then — noncitizen voting fraud claims resurfaced after the 2020 election and congressional Republicans have introduced legislation that would prohibit noncitizens from voting in federal elections, despite the fact that this is already the case. Republicans have also falsely alleged that Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives voted to allow noncitizen voting — no such vote took place.

Noncitizen voting is allowed in local elections only, if localities choose to allow it. Multiple cities have chosen to do so in the last year.

FACT: Redistricting can take place at any time as a result of litigation and legislation. 

MYTH: Redistricting is a once-in-a-decade process that only deserves attention following the release of U.S. census data.

It is true that the standard process for drawing new congressional and legislative maps occurs every 10 years, after the U.S. Census Bureau reveals the latest data and population changes throughout the country.

However, lawsuits over gerrymandered maps — of which there are many — can force states to redraw maps at any point in the decade. Similarly, legislation, be it through voter-initiated ballot amendments or state legislatures, can also force redraws, for example if a state adopts an independent redistricting commission to draw its maps. Ohio, for example, could see an amendment on its 2024 ballot that would immediately force the state to redraw its maps. 

Litigation has resulted in redrawn legislative maps in a handful of states in the last few years — a court-appointed special master drew the Alabama map that will be in place for 2024, Georgia will redraw its map in a special session beginning on Nov. 29, Louisiana has the opportunity to redraw its maps and South Carolina could be forced to do the same soon.

Analysis Debunking Election Myths This Thanksgiving

By Caroline Sullivan, former Democracy Docket Staff Writer