Why is real voter fraud always on the GOP side?
In the June 24 runoff for the Mississippi Republican nominee for Senate, pitting incumbent Sen. Thad Cochran against Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel, there was lots of hot air about avoiding “voter fraud.”
Neither candidate reached the 50% plateau in the June 3 primary — there was a third candidate who received a tiny slice of the vote — so the two main contenders faced each other in a runoff election. Tea Party folks from out of state were vowing to be “election observers” to make sure no one voted who wasn’t supposed to. Cochran, in the political fight of his life, was openly courting black Democratic voters to cross over and vote for him, reminding them of all of the federal goodies he had procured for the state during his six terms in office. These Tea Party “observers” with the not-at-all ironic name of “True the Vote” promised to police polls to make sure Democratic voters weren’t voting where they weren’t supposed to or voting twice if they had cast a vote in the Democratic primary on June 3. The “observers” were planning to invoke an obscure and never-enforced Mississippi law stating that primaries are limited to people who “intend” to support the party in question in the general election.
Nothing intimidating about stopping people from voting, is there? In Mississippi? Where 50 years ago, three civil rights volunteers were shot and killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan for having the audacity to register African Americans to vote? In a state with a history of Jim Crow laws and poll taxes? Luckily, the state’s attorney general and secretary of state stepped in to make clear that Tea Party groups have no right under state law to send “election observers” to state polling places. UPDATE: Thad Cochran won in a close contest, 51 percent to 49 percent. Some of the margin of victory is reportedly due to black Democratic crossover votes.
No doubt you’ve heard the term “voter fraud” before. Republicans claim it’s rampant and that it has helped in electing Democrats. GOP state legislatures have used the excuse to pass voter suppression laws in several states, including passing voter ID laws, cutting the days of early voting, trimming registration times — in general, doing just about anything to make it harder for people to vote. People, that is, who tend to vote Democratic.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court basically gutted the Voting Rights Act, new voting restrictions passed in several states, mostly in the South, which would still have been under the Voting Rights Act if its enforcement mechanisms had been upheld. Twenty-four voting restrictions have passed in 17 states since 2011.
Now out of Wisconsin, we have a new real voter fraud case. According to the online version of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Robert D. Monroe, described as a supporter of Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling, was charged with more than a dozen counts of illegal voting, casting multiple ballots in four elections in 2011 and 2012, including five in the 2012 gubernatorial recall. He used addresses in Milwaukee, Shorewood (a Milwaukee suburb), and Indiana, and cast some votes in the names of his son and his girlfriend’s son. According to the complaint, Monroe cast two ballots in the April 11 Supreme Court election, two in the August 2011 recall election for state Sen. Darling, five in the Scott Walker-Tom Barrett recall, one illegal ballot in an August 2012 primary, and two ballots in the November 2012 presidential election. According to a John Doe voting records investigation, “Monroe was considered by investigators to be the most prolific multiple voter in memory.” Also, according to the John Doe records, Monroe claimed to have a form of temporary amnesia and did not recall the election day events when confronted by investigators.
So that’s the way to do it! Claim amnesia! That’s one enthusiastic voter you’ve got there.
In an investigation of potential voter fraud, students who were part of the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education called News21 reviewed thousands of public records, court documents, and media reports to uncover voter fraud. An analysis of 2,068 alleged election-fraud cases since 2000 shows that while fraud has occurred, “the rate is infinitesimal.” Out of hundreds of millions of ballots cast, they found 633 actual incidents.
In North Carolina, right-wing media outlets charged that there were 36,000 cases of voter fraud in the 2012 presidential election, of people voting in more than one state. An actual investigation has whittled that number to 765, and many of those are now said to be the result of clerical errors.
Let’s look at some other, real cases of voter fraud, outlined on the MaddowBlog for MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show:
“Remember the Nevada voter who cast multiple ballots in the same election because she wanted to test the integrity of the elections system? She was a Republican voter. Remember the Texas voter who cast absentee ballots on behalf of his girlfriend for the five years after she died? He was a Republican voter, too. Remember the Indiana secretary of state convicted of voter fraud? Yep, a Republican.”
Look, voting shenanigans can occur — on either side of the aisle — but such instances are rare. Elected officials need to establish honest systems to encourage more people to vote, not fewer. Congress needs to do its job and pass new extensions of the Voting Rights Act.