Colorlines reporter Brentin Mock recently attended a tea-party-sponsored conference on alleged voter fraud. According to Mock, the conference, titled “True the Vote,” was long on denunciations and conspiracy theories, but with no real facts.
Too bad, because if the tea party was really concerned about voter fraud, it seems they would have mentioned the only recent conviction in the country: Indiana’s former secretary of state, who is a Republican. Perhaps that’s too factual for them.
Instead, Mock reports, they lauded the Republican voter ID laws that could disenfranchise 5 million voters – according to New York University School of Law Brennan Center.
Mock writes, “It’s like the Koch-funded propaganda campaigns to block climate change truths by declaring it a hoax. Except here they use an actual hoax – voter fraud – to block voting rights. In this arena, contrary to True the Vote’s speakers, these campaigns appear to be winning, if only in the sense that democracy loses every time a state passes a photo voter ID law.”
Back to the only recent case of proven voter fraud: A jury convicted Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White on six felony charges, including voter fraud, which is something he was supposed to prevent. It’s in the job description.
Alas, the Republican official lied about his home address on voter registration forms. Why? So he could get money for a town council gig.
Like all the other Republicans, White supported Indiana’s voter ID law, which is supposed to prevent the felony he committed.
The Republican’s crime aside, voter fraud is so rare you have a better chance of being hit by lightning than finding a case of individual voter fraud. But the myth persists. So much so, that according to a recent Rasmussen poll, 64 percent of Americans believe voter fraud exists.
Tell a lie over and over for a long enough time, it becomes the misinformed truth.
In a 2007 Washington Post oped, Michael Waldman and Justin Levitt of the Brennan Center wrote:
“Allegations of voter fraud – someone sneaking into the polls to cast an illicit vote – have been pushed in recent years by partisans seeking to justify proof-of-citizenship and other restrictive ID requirements as a condition of voting. Scare stories abound on the Internet and on editorial pages, and they quickly become accepted wisdom.
“But the notion of widespread voter fraud, as these prosecutors found out, is itself a fraud. Firing a prosecutor for failing to find wide voter fraud is like firing a park ranger for failing to find Sasquatch. Where fraud exists, of course, it should be prosecuted and punished. (And politicians have been stuffing ballot boxes and buying votes since senators wore togas; Lyndon Johnson won a 1948 Senate race after his partisans famously ‘found’ a box of votes well after the election.) Yet evidence of actual fraud by individual voters is painfully skimpy.”
What there is ample evidence of is voter disenfranchisement and suppression. Our country’s history is littered with examples.
At a hearing by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said that, while voting is the most basic right in a democracy, it was denied to a majority of Americans for most of the nation’s history and has only been generally established after six constitutional amendments won “through long and difficult struggle, including much bloodshed.”
Besides complicit Republican lawmakers, the notorious American Legislative Exchange Council, funded by oil billionaires and political extremists Charles and David Koch, is behind many of these voter ID laws now passed or pending in 30 states.
Paul Weyrich, the extremist founder of ALEC, once stated, “I don’t want everybody to vote … our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” So they target minorities, students, disabled, elderly, homeless, and low-income people in their vote suppression schemes.
It’s no accident that so many of these state laws are being passed. After the Republican victories in 2010, they and their corporate 1% buddies had their eyes on 2012. These voter suppression laws are part of their plan.
But pro-democracy forces have plans too, namely, voter registration and mobilization. The NAACP launched its This Is My Vote campaign designed to “register hundreds of thousands of Americans to vote and equip vulnerable communities with the resources to fight back against attacks on fundamental voting rights.”
The labor movement promised to organize 400,000-plus volunteers to register and protect the vote.
Legal challenges to these lawas, including investigations by the Department of Justice, are also proceeding. In Ohio, its voter suppression law faces a repeal referendum in November.
Photo: Young people in Colorado participate in a voter registration action weekend, April 28. (CC)