Will the Real Voter Fraud Please Stand Up?
This blog originally appeared on Huffington Post.
Over the past two years, a rash of laws were proposed and passed in many states making it harder for Americans to register and to vote. The rationale for infringing on this right, so we were told, was rampant voter fraud. Building on the Fox News narrative about the alleged fraud committed by ACORN, a group that registered millions of poor citizens to vote, Republican-controlled legislatures moved quickly to fix the "problem."
They told us all kinds of scary stories about theft of our democracy. They said dead people vote, non-citizens vote, citizens vote more than once, people stripped of their right to vote due to felony convictions vote. Prior to this election, with no specifics about place or date, they claimed that busloads of non-citizens have been voting in several places across the country. This year they gave specifics, asserting that buses of non-English speaking Somalis in Ohio committed voter fraud. Then there were the "dozens" of blacks who cast votes in Maine this year. (They couldn't imagine that these people could possibly be entitled to vote.) In their parallel universe, fraud is everywhere.
They also had a solution to this alleged problem -- state-issued photo identification. In 2011, 34 state legislatures proposed this new requirement for voters. In a couple of states, Republican legislatures went farther, requiring proof of citizenship to vote. Supporters of these laws told voters not to worry -- everyone has one. They claimed you need state issued photo ID to get on a plane, cash a check, and get a library card, so it's no big deal.
They also restricted voter registration drives and cut back early voting to stop fraud. Republican politicians who supported these restrictions claimed they would restore integrity to elections, ensuring that legitimate votes are not discounted by ballots cast fraudulently.
Okay. That's what they said. Throwing facts to the wind, the right wing pursued state-issued photo ID laws at every turn. In North Carolina, for example, the Republican legislators attempted to override the Democratic governor's veto of a strict ID law more than once. Their boogeyman stories and a strong propaganda machine were all they needed to commit all-out fraud themselves.
The truth is, they didn't have evidence of the rampant voter fraud they claimed. When pressed, some of them weakened to say they were "preventing" fraud. They just couldn't stop duping the American public.
All along, supporters of restrictions on voting were committing exactly what they claimed they were fighting: fraud. They pushed fraudulent reasons for needing these laws in order to get support of the innocent. While many of us knew the motivations, recent admissions make it crystal clear. Efforts to make it harder to vote were all about winning. Months back, Mike Turzai, the Republican House leader in Pennsylvania admitted it. Last week, more admissions came from the former chair of the Florida Republican Party, as well as former Florida Governor Charlie Crist, that cutbacks to early voting weren't about fraud or costs, but a Republican electoral strategy. Oops.
The very people who claim they wanted election integrity were engaging in a nefarious effort to deprive Americans of the right to vote for partisan gain. Their efforts targeted black and Latino voters in hopes of reducing Democratic votes. It's a shame. Voting is sacred; it's the only way we ensure we have a government that represents our interests. Of course, we've learned there are some who don't want all Americans to participate and have a say. The jig is up. And finally, the real voter fraud has been exposed.