- Mother Jones
- MESSAGING: Despite scant evidence of voter fraud, messaging such as this sells another story. And also discourages voting by people fearing persecution.
Jane Mayer of The New Yorker writes about Hans von Spakovsky, the Republican architect of the Voter ID scam to suppress vote by Democratic-leaning constituencies. I’m afraid they’ve won this battle with the public, with the help of rank dishonesty by the likes of Arkansas Republicans who claim the laws would prevent absentee vote fraud. They wouldn’t.
The Mayer piece starts with the challenge of an Ohio household of black voters based on an erroneous computer identification of their home as a vacant lot. This happens repeatedly. Such “mistakes” were at the core of the voter caging project in Florida in which Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin was implicated.
In the faith-based world, facts don’t matter.
Mainstream election experts say that Spakovsky has had an improbably large impact. Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine, and the author of a recent book, “The Voting Wars,” says, “Before 2000, there were some rumblings about Democratic voter fraud, but it really wasn’t part of the main discourse. But thanks to von Spakovsky and the flame-fanning of a few others, the myth that Democratic voter fraud is common, and that it helps Democrats win elections, has become part of the Republican orthodoxy.” In December, Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, wrote, “Election fraud is a real and persistent threat to our electoral system.” He accused Democrats of “standing up for potential fraud—presumably because ending it would disenfranchise at least two of its core constituencies: the deceased and double-voters.” Hasen believes that Democrats, for their part, have made exaggerated claims about the number of voters who may be disenfranchised by Republican election-security measures. But he regards the conservative alarmists as more successful. “Their job is really done,” Hasen says. “It’s common now to assert that there is a need for voter I.D.s, even without any evidence.”
A single vote does count and the Republicans are disqualifying hundreds of voters.
In Hamilton County alone, the new citizens’ groups have challenged more than a thousand names since March. Some challenges, such as those aiming to disqualify college students who failed to include their dorm-room numbers on their registration forms, were tossed out immediately. But the board accepted nearly two hundred challenges, including those to twenty-six voters registered at a trailer park that no longer existed.
In Ohio, if voters whose eligibility has been challenged come to the polls in November, they may be forced to use a provisional ballot, which will be counted only if officials sanction it—after Election Day. Some experts worry that voters who have been needlessly challenged will feel too intimidated even to show up. “People have other things to do with their lives than respond to inaccurate complaints accusing them of being criminals,” Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said.
Every Republican spouting “vote fraud” should be required to read this article, in which Spakovsky fails to produce evidence of voter impersonation or an expert who thinks it’s a problem. It does present people of color wrongfully targeted for exclusion from the ballot. But, of course, that IS the point.
Lorraine Minnite, a public-policy professor at Rutgers, collated decades of electoral data for her 2010 book, “The Myth of Voter Fraud,” and came up with some striking statistics. In 2005, for example, the federal government charged many more Americans with violating migratory-bird statutes than with perpetrating election fraud, which has long been a felony. She told me, “It makes no sense for individual voters to impersonate someone. It’s like committing a felony at the police station, with virtually no chance of affecting the election outcome.” A report by the Times in 2007 also found election fraud to be rare. During the Bush Administration, the Justice Department initiated a five-year crackdown on voter fraud, but only eighty-six people were convicted of any kind of election crime.
Hasen, who calls von Spakovsky a leading member of “the Fraudulent Fraud Squad,” told me that he respects many other conservative advocates in his area of expertise, but dismisses scholars who allege widespread voter-impersonation fraud. “I see them as foot soldiers in the Republican army,” he says. “It’s just a way to excite the base. They are hucksters. They’re providing fake scholarly support. They’re not playing fairly with the facts. And I think they know it.”