Voter Fraud: Real Menace or Rove Meme?

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The US attorneys scandal turns on politicization of justice — specifically on the question of whether Bush administration US attorneys were fired for failing to prosecute enough Democrats for voter fraud.

Interestingly enough, it turns out that voter fraud — stacking the deck by voting, say, in the name of a deceased person — isn’t actually a big problem. So says a report commissioned by the federal Election Assistance Commission. Funny thing, though: instead of distributing that report, the EAC released one claiming that the jury’s still out. Yesterday a House committee made the original report public.

The EAC also dragged its heels for months before finally releasing (at Congress’s urging) a separate report on voter identification: a report saying that voter ID requirements — rationalized to combat voter fraud — can inhibit voter turnout, especially for minorities.

What do you think? Is this another snub by the Bush administration of professional expertise in favor of politics? Or is it a series of awkard mistakes with very unfortunate timing?

Maurice Hinchey

U.S. Representative, D-NY

Justin Levitt

Counsel, Democracy Program, Brennan Center for Justice, NYU School of Law

Frances Fox Piven

Professor of sociology, City University of New York

Co-author, Why Americans Still Don’t Vote: And Why Politicians Want It That Way

Extra Credit Reading

Ian Urbina, Panel Said to Alter Finding on Voter Fraud, The New York Times, April 11, 2007: “‘Though the original report said that among experts “there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud,’ the final version of the report released to the public concluded in its executive summary that ‘there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.'”

Josh Marshall, Voter Fraud, Talking Points Memo, April 12, 2007: “Who’s running all this? Who’s put it all in motion. Look at the documents that have already been released. It’s been run out of Karl Rove’s office at the White House.”

Spencer Overton, Dissenting Statement, Carter Baker Dissent, 2005: “The [Commission on Federal Election Reform’s voter ID] proposal is so excessive that it would prevent eligible voters from proving their identity with even a valid U.S. passport or a U.S. military photo ID card.”

Jim Miller, Does David Postman Actually Believe This?, Sound Politics, April 4, 2005: ” . . . Many Republicans would start this discussion not in 2000, but in 1993, when the “Motor Voter” Act was passed. Let me remind him of the nickname many Republicans gave it then: the “Motor Cheater” Act. Republicans believed that the law would make vote fraud easier and that the fraud would usually benefit Democrats. There has been enough evidence since then so that we can not dismiss or ignore those concerns. I believe, along with many other Republicans, that vote fraud is becoming more common and that it nearly always benefits Democrats (often against other Democrats).”

Stefan Sharkansky, No Evidence of Election Crimes?, Sound Politics, March 13, 2007: “But we were all tipped off that something wasn’t right when King County counted more votes than voters and admitted to fabricating the reconciliation reports.”

David Schraub, I’ll Show You A Fraud, The Debate Link, April 11, 2007: “We simply cannot discuss this issue blind to the history behind these sorts of policies, and the manner in which formally neutral voting laws were a key pillar in America’s racist hierarchy. The willful blindness exhibited on this issue is simply unbecoming of genuine deliberative dialogue, and ought to be called out more often.”

Jeff Kogen, Swords at dawn, Rove, for you have insulted the honor of Multnomah!, BlueOregon, April 11, 2007: “You have attacked our community’s honor, claiming that our vote by mail system (admired from sea to shining sea) encourages fraud – a subject about which you are admittedly an expert. You implied that if your lawyers had been able to “monitor” the 2004 elections in Portland, you might have won in our fair State of Oregon. If by “monitor” you mean get rid of vote by mail and move all but one polling place to Klamath Falls, we suspect you’d be right.”

hilzoy, Voter Fraud, Obsidian Wings, April 11, 2007: “An actual individual has to cast each and every fraudulent vote. Even if you have people going around voting all day long (without election workers catching on?), you’d need a fair number of them to alter the course of most elections. And every person you involve makes your plan more vulnerable to discovery. Again, much simpler just to disappear the odd ballot box.”

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