Fact-Check: No Link Between Fake IDs Seized at O'Hare and Voter Fraud
But that hasn’t stopped claims about potential voter fraud schemes from spreading on social media.
"Feds Seize 19,888 Fake State Driver Licenses (Made in China) in Chicago O'Hare Airport," read one Aug. 26 post shared thousands of times. "ALL Registered to Vote -- ALL Demorats!"
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
Yes, nearly 20,000 fake driver’s licenses were seized at O’Hare in the first half of the year, but the post was misleading in suggesting that they are all linked to registered voters who are Democrats. There’s no hint of any connection between the confiscated fake IDs and Democrats or voter fraud.
The poster acknowledged this in a revised post, which appeared soon after PolitiFact reached out to the Facebook user for evidence to support the claim. The current post no longer mentions registered voters or Democrats and instead says, "Not Linked To Voter Fraud, But, What If."
We were curious about the "what if" claim in the revised post, so we looked into how or even whether it would be possible to use a fake driver’s license to perpetrate any kind of voter fraud.
Meanwhile, versions of the post with the original wording still appeared and circulated widely on Facebook with unsubstantiated suggestions of a foreign plot to aid Democrats using fake IDs.
Fake licenses seized
From Jan. 1 to June 30, 2020, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers found thousands of counterfeit driver’s licenses at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport’s international mail facility.
Officers seized a total of 19,888 fake driver’s licenses, according to a July 27 Customs press release. The release didn’t say where the IDs were made, but said they came on shipments mostly from China and Hong Kong, as well as South Korea and Britain. Most were headed to people in states near Illinois, and most were for college-age students. The press release warns that the counterfeit IDs can be used for a wide range of criminal activity, but does not mention voter fraud.
The fraudulent identity documents can lead to problems with "identity theft, worksite enforcement, critical infrastructure protection, fraud linked to immigration-related crimes such as human smuggling and human trafficking," reads the press release. "And these documents can be used by those individuals associated with terrorism to minimize scrutiny from travel screening measures."
Possible voter fraud?
Claims that these fake driver’s licenses were tied to voter fraud efforts on behalf of Democrats appear to originate from a warning in a blog post, although there is no evidence to support the claims. Other fact-checking organizations have debunked the blog’s claims.
Moreover, it’s unlikely that fake IDs could be used to commit voter fraud.
Except for North Dakota, every state requires citizens to register to vote before they can cast a ballot, according to USA.gov, an official federal government information site. (North Dakota keeps rolls of past voters and checks IDs at polling places.) In many states, people can register to vote at a local election office, online, at a motor-vehicle agency office or using the national mail voter registration form.
While every state sets its own voter registration laws, many require some form of identification, proof of residence or the last four digits of a real Social Security number when registering. That information is then checked against the state’s own databases.
In many states, for example, online voter registration only works for people who already have an official state-issued identification of some kind, because of how the registration is validated, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
"That validation step is done by comparing the information on the online registration form against the information provided by the same individual when he or she received a driver’s license or other state-issued identification card," the website says. "When the information does not match, the application is sent to officials for further review or action."
If the information on a counterfeit driver’s license doesn’t match the information the person provided when getting their real state-issued ID, then the fake ID couldn’t be used to register to vote.
Michigan’s validation process
The Customs press release included a picture of a counterfeit Michigan driver’s license among the seized IDs, and said "the bar code attached to the Michigan licenses worked." So PolitiFact reached out to Michigan’s secretary of state about the voter fraud concern.
A spokesperson for the Michigan secretary of state’s office said in an email that a driver’s license or state ID is not required to register to vote in Michigan, so a fake ID wouldn’t help. But voters who do have an official Michigan ID provide that information when they register to vote, she said.
"The local clerk’s office has many avenues to validate a person, up to and including contacting the Department of State to verify a person’s photograph and ID/Driver’s License Record number," she said.
The spokesperson also said she was not aware of any coordinated effort to commit voter fraud using counterfeit IDs and said there were fail-safes in place to catch those trying to use fraudulent IDs when registering to vote.
A Facebook post claims, "Feds Seize 19,888 Fake State Driver Licenses (Made in China) in Chicago O'Hare Airport - ALL Registered to Vote -- ALL Demorats!"
About 20,000 counterfeit driver’s licenses were confiscated at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport in the first half of 2020. But there is no evidence that the IDs were all for registered voters or Democrats or had anything to do with voter fraud, as the post suggests. The Facebook user acknowledged that in a revised post.
And state registration practices make it unlikely that fake IDs could be used fraudulently to vote or register to vote.
We rate this post False.
Fox 5 New York, "Shipments of nearly 20,000 fake driver's licenses seized at Chicago airport," July 29, 2020
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, "Over 19K Fraudulent IDs Seized by CBP Officers in Chicago," July 27, 2020
Snopes.com, "Were 20,000 Fake IDs Seized at Chicago Airport Part of a Voter-Fraud Scheme?" Aug. 18, 2020
WUSA 9, "VERIFY: Seizure of fake licenses falsely linked to voter fraud," Aug. 11, 2020
Email interview with Michigan Secretary of State Spokesperson Tracy Wimmer, Sept. 8, 2020
YouTube, "VERIFY: Seizure of fake licenses falsely linked to voter fraud," Aug. 12, 2020
USA.gov, "How to Register to Vote," accessed Sept. 9, 2020
DavidHarrisJr.com, "Potential Voter Fraud Anyone? Shipments Of Nearly 20,000 Fake Driver’s Licenses Seized At Chicago Airport In 2020!" accessed Sept. 9, 2020
YouTube, "First Time Voter," July 5, 2018
U.S. Election Assistance Commission, "National Voter Registration Act," accessed Sept. 9, 2020
National Association of Secretaries of State, "Trusted Info 2020," Oct. 8, 2019
National Council of State Legislatures, "Online Voter Registration," accessed Sept. 9, 2020
PolitiFact, "PANTS ON FIRE: Trump’s latest California voter fraud claim as baseless as past allegations," June 24, 2019
PolitiFact, "Donald Trump’s dubious claim that 'thousands' are conspiring on mail-ballot fraud," April 9, 2020
PolitiFact, "Donald Trump says there's 'substantial evidence of voter fraud.' There isn't," Jan. 4, 2018
PolitiFact, "The misleading claim that millions of absentee ballots end up ‘missing or in landfills,’" June 9, 2020