And so it continues: Republicans have yet to identify any evidence anywhere in the country of attempts to alter election outcomes through in-person voting fraud.
Yet in the alternative universe that too many of them occupy — the same universe in which Mitt Romney is up 10 points in “unskewed” polling — they are somehow absolutely certain that it occurs, and these supposed “small-government” types are equally certain that new regulations and state bureaucracies all across the country are necessary to prevent it.
This completely imaginary “problem” has acquired great credence on the right because it is so useful. First, it appears to confirm their vague fear that they must be victims of some nefarious plot — somehow involving poor people who are being manipulated against them — to steal elections and thus power. That sense of emotional confirmation is all the evidence that they need, and conservative media are eager to provide it.
Second — whether by intention or happy circumstance — the story offers GOP politicians an excuse to create new and completely unnecessary obstacles to voting by those who do not possess government identification. In Pennsylvania, for example, the state officially estimated that some 759,000 perfectly eligible voters did not possess and identification of the type required by a new state law.
And in Ohio, Republicans are in court insisting that provisional ballots that were cast in the wrong precinct because of mistakes by polling workers must be tossed out and not counted. in other words, through no fault of their own, legally registered voters who did everything by the book would be stripped of their constitutional right to vote. Only a cynic would suggest that the GOP position is driven by the fact that such mistakes occur far more often in more Democratic urban areas, where precincts are much smaller and tightly drawn, making confusion more likely. It’s not an insignificant problem — in 2008, the state tossed 14,355 such ballots, Bloomburg reports.
In fact, the closest we have to evidence of attempted large-scale vote fraud in the current election cycle is a scandal involving a Republican company hired by the Republican National Committee to conduct voter-registration drives in four swing states, including Florida and Colorada.
In at least 10 counties in Florida, numerous voter registration forms submitted by Strategic Alliance Consulting have been found to be fraudulent. The company — founded by Nathan Sproul, a former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party — has since been fired by the RNC because of those problems. In Florida alone, Sproul’s company was paid $1.3 million for its voter-registration efforts.
Even in this specific case, however, there is no evidence that false registrations were generated in an attempt to alter election outcomes. The fraudulent registrations appear to have been submitted by Strategic Alliance workers who were attempting to increase the number of voters they claimed to register. The phantom voters thus created were not going to turn up at the polls attempting to vote.
However, other aspects of the Strategic Alliance effort might be more troubling. Voter registration is supposed to be nonpartisan, with voters of all inclinations allowed to register. In the past, however, registration drives led by Sproul have been accused of collecting and then tossing out registration forms signed by would-be Democratic voters.
Those voters would believe themselves properly registered, only to show up at the voting booth with no record that they had done so. A recent videotape of a Strategic Alliance registration worker outside a Colorado grocery store suggests there may be some basis to those fears:
– Jay Bookman