The worry that the undeserving may cast votes recalls the major argument that, in the 18th century, was used to justify strict property requirements for all voters in America. As historian Alexander Keyssar points out in his magisterial "The Right to Vote," those without property were deemed incapable of voting soundly, since their dependency would cause them to defer to those above them. And yet, as Mr. Keyssar notes, those arguing against enfranchising the poor were just as likely to believe not that the poor have no will of their own, but that the poor have too much will. Give such have-nots the vote, believed John Adams, and "an immediate revolution would ensue."
Yes, that would be John Adams, second President of the United States. The US was founded as a nation governed by elitists. They didn't want everybody to have the vote, and they gave as one of their reasons that poorer people would vote for whoever they're beholden to. I suppose they might have even been right to a degree, but society has changed so much it's not very often a man has to vote for or against the person who owns his land! And then moving on, allegations of voter fraud were used to stifle the freed slaves and later still European immigrants.
Worse, such aliens were getting organized politically, and setting up their own political machines, like Boss Tweed's Tammany Hall, that had large ethnic numbers on their side. And then there was the liberated South, where millions of black freedmen suddenly enjoyed the right to vote, and so would shortly rule the roost (or so it seemed to many nervous whites). "We have received an almost unlimited immigration of adult foreigners, largely illiterate, of the lowest class and of other races," wrote an anonymous contributor to the Atlantic Monthly in 1879. "We have added at one stroke four millions and more of ignorant negroes to our voting population."
Thus many white Americans, native-born, were primed to buy the tales of massive voter fraud in every ghetto -- party hoodlums stuffing ballot boxes, people selling votes, etc. -- even though such stories were, as Mr. Keyssar notes, "greatly exaggerated." Such anecdotes persisted through the decades, ultimately helping to create a sort of counter-narrative against the history of the South, where whites had long suppressed the black vote with appalling ruthlessness.
Seem familiar? This passage is quoted in an earlier post by Xanthippas:
"I don't want to sound racist, and I'm not racist," Moreland says. "But I feel if we put Obama in the White House, there will be chaos. I feel a lot of black people are going to feel it's payback time. And I made the statement, I said, 'You know, at one time the black man had to step off the sidewalk when a white person came down the sidewalk.' And I feel it's going to be somewhat reversed. I really feel it's going to get somewhat nasty."
The idea that white people are the victims of some kind of reverse racism or that they'll unduly suffer from voter fraud has been perpetrated since the end of slavery. Then again, sometimes they're not even apologetic about trying to keep people from voting. Natives who hadn't been annexed or annihilated weren't made citizens until 1924.
American Indians were not even considered citizens until they were granted citizenship in 1924. The right to vote came later in most Western states, and as late as the 1950s the state of Utah was trying to prevent Indian people from voting.
The author of the first article I was linked to tells us that incidences of vote fraud have been committed by both parties in the past century. However:
While both sides always used such tactics, in this century it is the GOP that's done most to rig the vote (with little outcry from the Democrats). In 2000, thousands of Floridians were purged illegally from the voter rolls before Election Day, according to the sworn testimony of George Bruder, a vice president of Database Technologies, before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. The vote count in Miami-Dade County was shut down by a disturbance variously referred to as a "Brooks Brothers riot" or "bourgeois riot," where several people were pushed and shoved by staffers working for congressional Republicans.
Four years later, in Ohio, ballots were altered or destroyed on a massive scale, making Mr. Bush's win there questionable, says researcher Richard Hayes Phillips. (Officially, Bush won the state by some 118,000 votes.) The damage came to light through a three-year audit led by Mr. Phillips of ballots from selected precincts in 18 Ohio counties (the research is available in his book, "Witness to a Crime").
This kind of thing is simply incredible. While we can admit that some people may always try to commit voter registration fraud, such fraud is far less important or successful than the tactics committed by the Republicans in the last two Presidential elections. It must be ended! If there is one activity that stinks of being un-American, it would be trying to take away another's right or ability to vote.
On a related note, Bruce Sherbet says he sees no signs of the massive voter registration fraud reported by Texas Watch.