Long before Donald Trump made voter fraud an issue at the final presidential debate on Wednesday, Vic Heinold was sounding the alarm bells that such fraud is real and ongoing.

Heinold, a former Indiana state senator, considered voter fraud to be such a brazen threat to the integrity of elections that he changed the face of the national debate in 2005. That is when he sponsored the first law that would require voters to present photo identification before casting their ballots.

“People who deny voter fraud are lying and giving cover to criminal activity.”

Compared to previous legislation in other states, Heinold’s Indiana law was considered one of the strictest, and it would eventually withstand scrutiny from the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Hoosier law kicked off both a wave of new ID requirements at the polls and teeth-gnashing at MSNBC and the like. Today, 16 states require a photo ID to vote. Another 15 states require some type of identification. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia require no ID at all.

It all came about because of a civic-minded postal worker, Heinold says.

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In the throes of a 2004 election battle, Heinold drove his campaign van to a nearby city outside of his district. There, a postal worker who must have thought Heinold was already in the Senate approached him.

The postal worker had a simple question for Heinold.

“When are you guys going to do something about people voting more than once?” Heinold recalls the postal worker saying.

The postal worker said he was approached by a Democratic precinct committeeman who said it would be no problem for the worker to come to vote on Election Day 2004 — three different times, in person, during the day, at the same precinct. He could vote two more times under different names, the Democratic precinct committeeman told him.

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Back in 2004, Heinold was running for a state Senate seat, which included two small burgs in Northwest Indiana called Kouts and Valparaiso. The Republican businessman owned an agricultural company in Kouts.

After he was elected, Heinold went to work in the Indiana Senate in January 2005, where he was placed on the Senate Election Committee. He told the committee chairwoman he would be interested in legislation concerning voter ID, and she let him take over Senate Bill 483, which was being shaped to require voters to present a photo ID at the polls.

When Heinold came to the next hearing, he saw many reporters and TV cameras. He asked a fellow Republican: “Who has the hot bill today?”

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Heinold was told he was the subject — and his voter ID bill.

“Little did I know, I had a tiger by the tail,” said Heinold. “I was surrounded by TV cameras and microphones.”

The media and political vilification came next. MSNBC hosts and others bashed the law — for the next several years. Democrats said Heinold’s bill would disenfranchise voters, especially the poor and African-Americans.

But Heinold added language that would allow people to cast provisional ballots if they did not bring IDs. The bill also provided free state identification for people without an ID, which was an important step past charges that the requirement was essentially a “poll tax.”

In April 2008, the bill was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court by a 6-3 vote. Despite all the complaints the bill would hurt voter turnout, Indiana saw record numbers vote for president in 2008. And Barack Obama won the state for the Democrats for the first time since 1964.

But the media and the Democratic battle to play down voter fraud remains. And their aim is not just to play it down, but to oppose any regulation that would add integrity to the election system or help officials track fraud.

“Yes, there is rigging in America,” said Matthew J. Dowd, “ABC News” political analyst, via Twitter on Monday. “But it isn’t voter fraud.”

Christian Adams, general counsel for the Public Interest Legal Foundation and a former Justice Department attorney, said voter fraud tends to benefit the Democrats and, thus, the policy outcomes they desire, so they play fraud down.

He said the Democrats and liberal pundits often downplay in-person fraud, which is likely not as common as fraud through absentee ballots or ballot-casting by non-citizens. But it all happens, and regularly, Adams said.

One example is a recent study by Adams’ foundation that found more than 1,000 non-citizens had voted in eight Virginia localities in the 2008 and 2012 elections.

Another more recent example is an ongoing Indiana investigation into the activities of Patriot Majority, a voter registration group operating in numerous states. The Indiana State Police said they are investigating Patriot Majority’s efforts in 57 Indiana counties.

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Adams said the media is complicit in playing down the research, news stories, and examples of election fraud in all its forms.

He noted studies from other groups often ignore cases his own group has identified — such as a 2014 study that only found 31 cases of voter fraud from 2000 to 2012. Adams said that kind of research is biased before the numbers are tallied.

“The people who do these studies don’t want there to be voter fraud,” he said.

But Adams said some institutions have found surprising numbers that reveal just how poorly run the election system is. Like Trump, Adams cites a 2012 Pew Center on the States study that found 24 million voter registrations in the United States that are no longer valid or are significantly inaccurate; more than 1.8 million deceased individuals who are listed as voters; and approximately 2.75 million people who have registrations in more than one state.

Yet the media and Democratic spin on voter fraud continues. According to them, it is extremely rare.

“People who deny voter fraud are lying and giving cover to criminal activity,” said Adams. “The fact is we know [fraud] has swung close elections.”