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“Voter Fraud Is Rampant”: This Week In Republican Political Lies

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas — last seen threatening the president of the United States with armed revolt — has turned his attention back to suppressing the vote in his home state.

On Monday, the governor took exception to comments President Obama made last week during an interview at the SXSW festival, to the effect that that Texas’s voter turnout is so abysmal in part because the state’s officials “aren’t interested in having more people participate” in elections. As an example, Mr. Obama pointed to Texas’s extremely strict voter-identification law, which lawmakers passed in 2011, but which was invalidated by a federal district judge in 2014.

Governor Abbott rejected Mr. Obama’s premise. “What I find is that leaders of the other party are against efforts to crack down on voter fraud,” he responded. “The fact is that voter fraud is rampant. In Texas, unlike some other states and unlike some other leaders, we are committed to cracking down on voter fraud.”

“Voter fraud is rampant” — it’s the hoariest claim of proponents of voter-ID laws, and the most untrue. As the evidence has shown over and over and over and over and over, there is no voter-impersonation fraud — the only type of fraud that such laws purport to combat.

In 2014, Justin Levitt, an election-law scholar at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, catalogued every instance of voter-impersonation fraud he could find in any election since 2000 — not just prosecutions, but even vaguely credible allegations. He found 31 — over a period in which Americans cast about 1 billion votes in federal, state and local elections.

Meanwhile, tens or hundreds of thousands of otherwise-eligible voters are either blocked from voting or deterred from trying because of these laws.

Back in 2007, a federal appeals court judge named Terence Evans saw this discrepancy plainly, calling voter-ID laws “a not-too-thinly-veiled attempt to discourage election-day turnout by certain folks believed to skew Democratic.” Noting the discrepancy between the alleged harm and the proposed solution, he asked, “Is it wise to use a sledgehammer to hit either a real or imaginary fly on a glass coffee table?”

Nine years later, the hammer still swings. On March 9, the full United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit voted to reconsider the district court’s decision striking down Texas’s voter-ID law.

Republican politicians, who appear more afraid every day of losing their tenuous grip on a changing electorate, could adjust their message to appeal to a broader swath of voters. Instead they are taking the path of least resistance and trying to silence those they’ve already written off.

 

By: Jesse Wegman, Editorial Pages, Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, March 17, 2016

March 21, 2016 Posted by | Greg Abbott, Voter Fraud, Voter Suppression | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Myth Of Voter Fraud”: Persists Because It Is A Racialized Weapon In A Power Struggle Over The Soul Of American Democracy

When there has been election fraud in American elections, it has usually been committed by politicians, party operatives and election officials who have something at stake in electoral outcomes. Voters rarely commit fraud because for them, it is a motiveless crime, the individual benefits to the fraudulent voter are immaterial, while the costs are prohibitive.

The most important illustration of outright corruption of elections is the century-long success of white supremacists in the American South stripping African-Americans of their right to vote. Elites and party bosses in the urban North followed the Southern example, using some of the same tricks to manipulate electoral outcomes and to disfranchise immigrants and the poor.

From this perspective, the impact of election fraud on American elections has been massive. It was only with the rise of the Black Freedom Movement and passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, that the tricks and political chicanery were halted. In fact, according to the political historian J. Morgan Kousser, the Voting Rights Act is the most important fraud-prevention legislation ever passed.

In response to these victories, a reactionary movement arose to push back against progress in civil rights and to counter the thrust toward a more equal society. Over the last 40 years, that movement has made important gains, especially in the courts, where a conservative Supreme Court, in a 2013 case called Shelby County v. Holder, gutted one of the most effective features of the Voting Rights Act – the “preclearance” formula which forced states and localities with the most egregious histories of vote denial to obtain permission from the Justice Department before putting new election rules in place.

Prior to the contested 2000 presidential election, only 14 states either requested or required that voters show some form of identification at the polls. Since then, the number of states requiring ID to vote has doubled and the forms of acceptable identification have narrowed. In what is likely no coincidence, the rate at which states have adopted tougher photo identification requirements accelerated with the election of the nation’s first black president and the demise of legally-mandated federal oversight in the Shelby case.

In rapid succession, partisan lawmakers in state after state have pushed through the new rules, claiming tougher identity checks are necessary to staunch or prevent voter fraud. And yet, in no state adopting a photo ID requirement has any lawmaker or anyone else, for that matter, presented a credible showing of a problem with voters corrupting the electoral process. In other words, if the claimed reason of preventing voter fraud is taken at face value, there is no rational basis for the policy intervention. So what is actually going on?

I think the phony claims and renewed political chicanery are a reflection of the fact that a century-and-a-half after the Civil War, and 50 years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act, a deeper struggle for democracy, equality and inclusion continues. Beneath the skirmish over arcane voting rules is a fraught tension between our ideals and our fears, between what we profess to believe about the “sanctity” of the ballot, and racialized and class-based notions of worthiness embedded in the question of who is to be a citizen in the United States.

The myth of voter fraud persists because it is a racialized weapon in a power struggle over the soul of American democracy. To see this, we must set our current politics in a historical context. Long-standing fears about unworthy citizens polluting and distorting electoral outcomes are the underside of the usual celebratory story we like to tell ourselves of a progressive struggle for voting rights. In fact, the struggle has not unfolded in a linear fashion. Each successive advance has generated counter-movements rooted in alternative and reactionary histories aimed at “taking back” at least a part of what has been lost. In our own time, from the moment blacks began exercising their newly (re-)won right to vote, that right was undermined in ways that constrained its power to deliver social justice. The question of who is to be a citizen in our racially divided and injured society remains unresolved.

 

By: Lorraine C. Minnite, Director of the Urban Studies Program at Rutgers University–Camden: Bill Moyers Blog, Moyers and Company, March 9, 2015

March 12, 2015 Posted by | African Americans, Democracy, Voter Fraud, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Keeping Its Viewers In The Dark”: Fox News Causes America To Fixate On The Wrong Things

A grisly beheading at a food plant in Moore, Oklahoma last week reinforced some Americans’ greatest current fear: that the Islamic State terrorist group has infiltrated the U.S. Murder suspect Alton Nolen severed the head of his victim, just as an ISIS killer severed the heads of two American journalists and a British aid worker, among many other victims of the Islamist group. Coupled with Nolen’s reported ties to Islam, that was enough to warrant FBI involvement. Although the agency hasn’t yet determined Nolen’s motive, it doesn’t believe that he represents a further threat to us by ISIS or Islamists. But Fox News sees things differently.

“Sounding the jihadist alarms, Fox News and the right-wing media are eager to label the ghastly crime an act of Islamic terror,” writes Eric Boehlert on the liberal watchdog website Media Matters. “Law enforcement officials, however, aren’t in the same rush, noting that the attack came immediately after Nolen was fired and stating that they’ve yet to find a link to terrorism.”

Boehlert goes on to contrast Fox News’s coverage of the Oklahoma beheading with its coverage of an actual terrorist attack. On Sept. 16, marksman and anti-government extremist Eric Frein allegedly murdered one cop and attempted to kill another two. Hiding out in the Pocono Mountains, officials say Frein is “extremely dangerous” and perhaps in possession of an AK-47.

“We have a well-trained sniper who hates authority, hates society, hates government, and hates cops enough to plug them from ambush. He’s so lethal, so locked and loaded, that communities in the Pocono Mountains feel terrorized,” said Philadelphia columnist Dick Polman. According to the criminal complaint, Frein also collected “various information concerning foreign embassies.”

According to Boehlert’s research, Fox News only mentioned Frein and his killing spree six times in the two weeks since the shooting, and in none of those reports were the assassin’s anti-government sentiments even noted.

Ever since 2008, when Barack Obama began his first term in the White House, Fox News has been building a narrative to destroy him and his legacy. The president is routinely portrayed as having an alarmingly lax stance toward terrorism. Some conservative pundits even stoop so low as to emphasize his middle name, Hussein, to rile up Islamophobic viewers. If details of a story — or the story itself — don’t align with Fox’s ulterior purpose, they’re omitted.

Just as the most important news of the day receives front-page coverage in newspapers, it tends to be allotted the most time in newscasts, signaling its relative importance. Fox News has dedicated hours upon hours to covering the Oklahoma beheading. With such headlines as “Terror in the Heartland,” Boehlert argues, Fox politicized a tragic killing, which investigators reckon was nothing more than a disgruntled ex-employee gone berserk.

“In other words,” notes Boehlert, “on Fox News a Muslim who killed a co-worker in Oklahoma and who remains in police custody represents a much bigger story than a suspected anti-government assassin who killed a cop and remains on the run, eluding hundreds of law enforcement officials while terrorizing a Pennsylvania community.”

The Fox coverage of Nolen’s crime was only the latest in a long history of journalistic misconduct (if the word “journalistic” even applies). To tarnish Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state as well as her reputation before the next presidential election, the network aired almost 1,100 segments on Benghazi across five programs between the date the attack occurred and the formation of a select committee last May to investigate it, according to another Media Matters report. Even though no evidence of a cover-up was found over the course of 13 hearings and 50 briefings, 41 percent of Republicans continue to call Benghazi the biggest scandal in U.S. history, according to the results of a PPP poll.

Fox News had been equally powerful in convincing its viewers of the voter fraud “problem” in America, a problem “more rare than death by lightning,” a study by New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice finds. Nevertheless, Fox spearheaded the crusade for the enactment of voter ID laws – motivated, one can reasonably assume, to suppress Democratic votes.

The results of a 2013 Gallup poll showed Fox News to be the nation’s leading news source, while a 2012 survey by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind revealed viewers of Fox News to be worse informed than even those who watch no news at all.

In April, CNN’s Peter Bergen observed that since 9/11, “extremists affiliated with a variety of far-right wing ideologies … have killed more people in the United States than have extremists motivated by al Qaeda’s ideology.” But because the top dogs at America’s No. 1 right-wing news channel are better served touting the improbable threat that ISIS poses to the homeland, the network elects to keep its viewers in the dark, distracting them from actual threats: the millions of unlicensed guns, unabated climate change, armed anti-government fanatics, and, of course, all the irrational fixations of Fox News.

 

By: Aimee Kuvadia, an editor and freelance journalist; The National Memo, October 2, 2014

October 4, 2014 Posted by | Fox News, Terrorism, Voter Fraud | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Plainly Visible Reality”: Proof That Voter Impersonation Almost Never Happens

An enduring Republican fantasy is that there are armies of fraudulent voters lurking in the baseboards of American life, waiting for the opportunity to crash the polls and undermine the electoral system. It’s never really been clear who these voters are or how their schemes work; perhaps they are illegal immigrants casting votes for amnesty, or poor people seeking handouts.  Most Republican politicians know these criminals don’t actually exist, but they have found it useful to take advantage of the party base’s pervasive fear of outsiders, just as when they shot down immigration reform. In this case, they persuaded the base of the need for voter ID laws to ensure “ballot integrity,” knowing the real effect would be to reduce Democratic turnout.

Now a researcher has tried to quantify this supposed threat by documenting every known case of voter fraud since 2000 — specifically, the kind of impersonation that would be stopped by an ID requirement. (Note that this does not include ballot-box stuffing by officials, vote-buying or coercion: the kinds of fraud that would not be affected by an ID law.)

There have been more than 1 billion votes cast in local, state and federal elections over the last 14 years. Out of all of them, the researcher, Justin Levitt, a voting expert at the Loyola University Law School, found 31 cases of impersonation fraud. It’s hardly a surprise that the number is so low; as he writes in the Washington Post today, casting individual fake ballots “is a slow, clunky way to steal an election. Which is why it rarely happens.”

A look at some of the 31 cases shows how pathetic the fraudulent-voter threat really is. In May, Ben Hodzic was accused of voting in his brother’s name in the Catskill, N.Y., School District Board of Education election. In June 2011, Hazel Brionne Woodard of Tarrant County, Tex., allegedly arranged for her son to vote in the municipal runoff elections in the name of his father. In 2004, an unknown person signed the pollbook line as Rose-Mary McGee, of Albuquerque, N.M.

These conspiracies were the pretext for the voter ID laws that have now been passed in 34 states. And the arguments in many of those states have reached an absurdly high pitch. In Virginia, for example, Republicans are saying that the ID card required in their law has to be current; if you happen to let your driver’s license expire, you can’t vote, even though the photo on the card clearly demonstrates your identity. The state’s Democratic attorney general, Mark Herring, says that’s unconstitutional.

But neither the Constitution nor plainly visible reality is likely to halt the Republican crusade to keep certain people from participating in democracy. As the National Commission on Voting Rights documented in a new report, voting discrimination remains “a frequent and ongoing problem,” particularly in the South and Southwest, in part because of new barriers to voting thrown up by state legislators.

“It is difficult not to view these voting changes with a jaundiced eye,” the report says, “given the practical impediments they create and the minimal, if any, measurable legitimate benefit they offer.”

 

By: David Firestone, Taking Note, Editorial Page Editors Blog, The New York Times, August 6, 2014

August 8, 2014 Posted by | Voter Fraud, Voter ID, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s Not That Mythical Democrat”: Republicans Finally Have A Poster Boy For Voter Fraud, But Scott Walker Won’t Like It

For years, Wisconsin Republicans have warned that voter fraud is a scourge that threatens the very survival of democracy in their state.

“I’ve always thought in this state, close elections, presidential elections, it means you probably have to win with at least 53 percent of the vote to account for fraud. One or two points, potentially,” Governor Scott Walker has said.

“I’m always concerned about voter fraud, you know, being from Kenosha, and quite frankly having lived through seeing some of it happen,” Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus insisted. “Certainly in Milwaukee we have seen some of it, and I think it’s been documented. Any notion that’s not the case, it certainly is in Wisconsin. I’m always concerned about it, which is why I think we need to do a point or two better than where we think we need to be, to overcome it.”

Voting rights advocates have always responded that there is no actual evidence of widespread voter fraud in the Badger State. In April, a U.S. district judge agreed, ruling that the state’s voter ID law was unconstitutional after “the evidence at trial established that virtually no voter impersonation occurs in Wisconsin,” and the state “could not point to a single instance of known voter impersonation occurring in Wisconsin at any time in the recent past”.

That all changed on Friday, when Robert Monroe was charged with 13 felonies related to his having voted 12 times in five elections between 2011 and 2012. Monroe, an insurance executive from Shorewood, Wisconsin, allegedly voted repeatedly using his own name, as well as his son’s name, and that of his girlfriend’s son.

WisPolitics.com reports:

“During 2011 and 2012, the defendant, Robert Monroe, became especially focused upon political issues and causes, including especially the recall elections,” the complaint asserts in its introduction.

WisPolitics.com reported the investigation into Monroe’s multiple voting last week after Milwaukee County Judge J.D. Watts ordered the records related to a secret John Doe investigation be made public after the investigation was closed.

According to those records, Monroe was considered by investigators to be the most prolific multiple voter in memory. He was a supporter of Gov. Scott Walker and state Sen. Alberta Darling, both Republicans, and allegedly cast five ballots in the June 2012 election in which Walker survived a recall challenge.

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.

That’s right: Wisconsin Republicans like Scott Walker found a perfect poster boy for the in-person voter fraud against which they’ve always warned. But it isn’t the mythical Milwaukee Democrat trading “smokes-for-votes,” to use Priebus’ colorful description. It’s a self-diagnosed amnesiac who broke the law to repeatedly vote for Scott Walker.

And to add insult to injury, the case only went public as a result of Walker’s career-threatening John Doe scandal.

To be clear, Monroe’s apparent fraud is not a valid pretext for enacting the GOP’s nearly nationwide campaign to make it harder to vote. Even taking this one supposed amnesiac’s alleged crimes into account, voter fraud is still practically nonexistent (for example, a typical American is about 34 times more likely to be killed by a lightning strike than to be caught committing in-person voter fraud). But, if Wisconsin Republicans have any shame, it should at least cause them to pipe down about Democrats stealing elections for a little while.

In other words, Reince Priebus is probably coming soon to a cable news show near you.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, June 24, 2014

June 25, 2014 Posted by | Scott Walker, Voter Fraud, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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