Thursday, April 12, 2007

Findings on Voter Fraud Altered

In case you missed this on one of the 25,000 other blogs to cover it:
A federal panel responsible for conducting election research played down the findings of experts who concluded last year that there was little voter fraud around the nation, according to a review of the original report obtained by The New York Times.

Instead, the panel, the Election Assistance Commission, issued a report that said the pervasiveness of fraud was open to debate.

The revised version echoes complaints made by Republican politicians, who have long suggested that voter fraud is widespread and justifies the voter identification laws that have been passed in at least two dozen states.

Though the original report said that among experts “there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud,” the final version of the report released to the public concluded in its executive summary that “there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.”
That's not really the same thing, is it? Although if you read that sentence carefully, you'll realize it's not exactly not true. It's just that all the "debate" is among Republicans, and it's less of a debate and more of a widespread and factually unsupported belief that has convenient implications for Republican politicians. And by "factually unsupported" I mean something like this:
Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.

Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year.

Most of those charged have been Democrats, voting records show. Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show.

In Miami, an assistant United States attorney said many cases there involved what were apparently mistakes by immigrants, not fraud.

In Wisconsin, where prosecutors have lost almost twice as many cases as they won, charges were brought against voters who filled out more than one registration form and felons seemingly unaware that they were barred from voting.

One ex-convict was so unfamiliar with the rules that he provided his prison-issued identification card, stamped “Offender,” when he registered just before voting.

A handful of convictions involved people who voted twice. More than 30 were linked to small vote-buying schemes in which candidates generally in sheriff’s or judge’s races paid voters for their support.
That's not quite the same thing as elections run by "colonels in mirrored sunglasses" that Rove insists are happening in parts of the country, is it?

The fact of the matter is this: the Republican party focuses on the issue of voter fraud-by which they do not mean rigged electronic ballot machines-because it is a convenient fiction that justifies measures that make it more difficult for minorities, ex-felons, or immigrants to vote for Democrats in elections. This hasn't stopped the Bush administration from bending the DOJ in other ways to pursue cases that have little merit, but are helpful to the Republican party. And U.S. attorneys who have been unwilling to play the game, have been canned.

Connect the dots, and you get a larger picture of an administration that has no compunctions about twisting law and justice for partisan political gain. There is nothing that this administration won't use for political advantage, whether its the prosecution of innocent Democratic officials, or launching an unjustifiable war in Iraq. Thanks to Republican toadies in Congress, they've gotten away with it. But with Democrats in charge, the Bush White House can now look forward to explaining these things slowly and painfully until about November of 2008.

UPDATE: Others are so much pithier than I. This from Jack Balkin, on the real voter fraud that took place on 2000 and what it produced:
In the past seven years this Administration and its political operatives have proved themselves to be an unscrupulous band of rogues who combined illegality with demagoguery to gain power and keep it, while driving the country into the ground through a toxic mixture of ideology, idiocy and incompetence.
UPDATE II: And Kevin Drum does a better job summarizing the issue:
In 2002, DOJ changed their guidelines to make it easier to prosecute voter fraud. They made it a priority to find voter fraud cases. They appointed a clean slate of U.S. Attorneys loyal to the Republican Party. They set up training classes to help prosecutors charge and win voter fraud cases. But after all that, they managed to demonstrate fraud in a grand total of only 86 cases over four years. And even then, many of the cases of confirmed fraud were simply mistakes, while virtually none of them were actually designed to affect the outcome of an election.

...This stuff can also ruin lives. Be sure to check out the part of the story about the guy who was deported to Pakistan because he mistakenly filled out a voter registration card while standing in line at the DMV. I'm sure the prosecutor who brought that case is proud of himself.
Nothing comes before political advantage in this administration. Not anyone's right to vote, not anyone's right to live in this country, not anyone's right not to die in a misguided war, and not anyone's freedom. Nothing.

UPDATE III: I suppose I should finish trolling the vast blogosphere before I go writing about things, but then I'd miss out on the fun of multiple updates. Here's one more that makes my blood boil. For the Republican party, it hasn't been good enough to go after poor blacks and ex-felons; they've been throwing Natives under the bus as well:
Republican party officials and elected officials use bogus claims of vote fraud to do three things: 1) to stymie voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote efforts in poor and minority neighborhoods, 2) purge voter rolls of legitimate voters and 3) institute voter ID laws aimed at making it harder for low-income and minority voters to vote.

This sounds like hyperbole but it is simply the truth. (A great example of this in microcosm was the 2002 senate election in South Dakota -- Johnson v. Thune -- in which Republicans spent the entire election ranting about a massive voter fraud conspiracy on the state's Indian reservations, charges which turned out to be completely bogus but had the aim of keeping voting down on the reservations. You can find much more on this in the TPM archives. Go to the search feature and type in some combinatin of 'fraud south dakota' etc.)
I did just that, and found this TPM post from back in the day on just how bogus and engineered those charges were. But apparently the legitimate instances of voter fraud which were few and far between justified this response in 2004:
In South Dakota’s June 2004 primary, Native American voters were prevented from voting after they were challenged to provide photo IDs, which they were not required to present under state or federal law.
Have you ever been to one of the reservations in South Dakota? You'd be surprised how little Natives who live there actually need any kind of photo ID for day to day life. Which of course was very convenient for those telling them they had to have one.

If you ever needed any more evidence that the modern Republican party is the party of the rich and powerful, a party opposed to the interests of the poor and disenfranchised, this voter fraud scandal is it.

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