Monday, March 19, 2007

The voter fraud fraud

You've read a lot about the claims from various Republicans about how the DoJ and the White House were keen on pursuing "voter fraud" -- not to be confused with election fraud, which is rampant -- and wanted US Attorneys to attack the "problem" vigorously. While designed to sound noble, something sounding this virtuous coming from this GOP probably has to have a slimy underbelly. Of course, this expectation would be entirely correct. These are the same people, after all, who produce a "Clear Skies Initiative" that befouls the air, a "Clean Water Initiative" that relaxes regulation on mercury contamination, a "Healthy Forests Initiative" that paves the way for increased logging. Like all such Republican actions in the last few years, the pursuit of "voter fraud" is designed from a purely partisan political perspective and really has nothing to do with the non-problem of voter fraud, a fiction of a completely Republican manufacture.

But what is the back story? What is this "voter fraud" that led Republicans to become unhappy with David Iglesias in New Mexico and John McKay in Washington? You've probably only heard about the fact that Republicans claimed that "voter fraud" was a serious problem and ... nothing else, that these indolent US Attorneys were not taking this serious problem seriously. Such is our media today.

Nonetheless, the story can be had. Bradblog published an excellent description by John Boyd of Freedman, Boyd, Daniels, Hollander, Goldberg & Ives PA, a lawyer involved in the case in New Mexico prior to the 2004 election. It is so good, in fact, that I feel compelled to reproduce it here (apologies to Brad). It is clear, concise and will further illustrate just how much the GOP hates the fact that Americans actually get to vote and will stop at nothing trying to prevent it.

In order to blunt the scandal arising from the Republican efforts to persuade U.S. Attorney David Iglesias (New Mexico) to indict some Democrats just before the last election, Senator Pete Domenici and other Republicans have explained that, really, they’ve been “disappointed” with Iglesias for some time. Why? Because, according to Domenici et al., Iglesias failed to aggressively pursue the problem of “voter fraud” in New Mexico. These Republicans are undoubtedly telling the truth about this. The problem for them is that this explanation doesn’t make things better for them, it makes things far, far worse. Read on.

In the run-up to the 2004 election, there were intense efforts at voter registration going on in New Mexico. The result was the enfranchisement of many minorities and poor. The Republicans were apoplectic, of course. The registration campaigns added about 65,000 voters to the rolls in Bernalillo County alone, about a 10% increase.

The Republicans’ response (and it has since been surfacing in Congress as well as in other states) was to demand strict “voter i.d.” laws. Strict voter i.d. laws have the effect of disenfranchising many students (who may not have in-state licenses, or other forms of i.d. showing an address), old people, minorities and poor who for many reasons may not possess the type of identification such a law would require.

The Republicans have been trying to sell these laws for the last two or three years, but they have needed a “hook”. The hook is what they refer to as “voter fraud.” If they can persuade the public that people are voting twice, or that people who shouldn’t be permitted to vote are voting, or that other kinds of “fraud” are occurring, they can sell “voter i.d.” as the solution. The problem for the Republicans is that voter fraud is not even a tiny problem. There are not a lot of people who are prepared to risk a felony conviction by finagling a way to vote twice, and there are not a lot of illegal aliens trying to figure out how to vote in American elections. As I learned from a Harvard professor who has studied the history of voting in America, the banner of “voter fraud” has a long and ugly history because it has been repeatedly used to justify impediments to voting, from poll taxes and literacy tests to the present day push for strict “voter i.d.” laws.

So in New Mexico, in the late summer of 2004, a group of Republicans marched into the county clerk’s office and asked if there were any “problem” registrations associated with the voter registration drives. The clerk said “yes” and told them that there were some 6000 defectively completed registration forms (missing ss#’s, po box addresses, no signature, that sort of thing). The problem for the Republicans, however, was that these didn’t represent fraud, they were just typical and expected screw-ups by the registrants or the people registering them.

The Republicans nevertheless held a press conference, and grabbed headlines, announcing how terribly shocked they were to report that there were over 6000 “fraudulent registrations” submitted by these nefarious voter registration groups, and New Mexico’s voter rolls were being grossly corrupted. This had the predictable effect on the public, whose response was that they could now understand why a strict voter i.d. law would be a good idea.

The Republicans filed suit to try to get a state district court declaration that New Mexico’s very narrow voter i.d. statute (which applied only to first-time voters who had mailed in their voter registration applications) should have a much broader interpretation, under which most new voters would have to present i.d. at the polls. I represented the Democratic Party as an intervenor in the suit.

The Republicans attached to their complaint a few examples of what they alleged to be “clearly fraudulent” registration applications. This was to show how dire the situation was and how badly the state needed a more expansive interpretation of its voter i.d. law. Suffice it to say that we investigated the ostensibly fraudulent registrations and it turned out that they were clearly not fraudulent.

For example, one woman had signed two different registration applications, both of which were accurate. She signed one on a desk and one on her hand as she was walking across campus, with the result that her two signatures appeared different.

Another involved a couple who had registered at a voter registration drive table but had not received their registration cards. Worried that their applications has been lost, the husband returned alone to a registration table and filled out two new forms and, with his wife’s permission, signed her name.

These were “Exhibits A and B” to the Republicans’ allegations of rampant voter fraud. Only one of all the supposed examples was actually fraudulent. It was a registration application that a teenager had filled out as a prank. The testimony was clear that his name would never have appeared on the rolls because of the cross-checking that occurs with respect to every new registration, nor was there any indication that he would even have dreamed of trying to vote.

It was this evidence – if it can be called evidence - that the Republicans presented to David Iglesias when they demanded that he appoint a federal task force to get to the bottom of the “serious voter fraud problem” facing New Mexico. Iglesias understandably blew it off. What the Republicans wanted from him, of course, was not convictions (there was no evidence of any crimes, other than the teenager’s prank), but HEADLINES! The Republicans’ theory, probably correct, is that if they can get enough headlines about voter fraud, they will be able to sell their disenfranchising voter i.d. laws to the public. Iglesias, understandably, had better things to do with his time and with our money.

What this means, of course, is that the U.S. Attorney scandal is far worse than it now appears. The Republicans are telling the truth when they say they have been “disappointed” with Iglesias for a long time. What is not understood, however, is that the reason they’ve been disappointed with him is that before the last Presidential election Iglesias failed to obey the Republican politicians who asked him to devote his resources to publicly pursuing non-existent fraud. As we on the other side of the litigation referred to it, it was “the voter fraud fraud.” Senator Domenici and Representative Wilson should hardly be able to find any political cover in their excuse that they had been disappointed by Iglesias’ supposed failure to aggressively pursue voter fraud.

So this is a three-pronged scandal. First, there is the scandal of the “voter fraud” fraud which the Republicans have been trying to use to help promote restrictive, disenfranchising voter i.d. legislation. Second, there is the scandal of the Republicans attempting to enlist the US Atty’s office in their voter fraud fraud by getting him, at taxpayer expense and contrary to the most elemental ethics, to use his office to generate headlines about “voter fraud” when none was occurring, for the sole purpose of shaving Democratic party margins. Third, there is the scandal of firing Iglesias for refusing to go along with this fraudulent manipulation. In other words, it’s not BETTER because the Republicans have been “disappointed” in Iglesias for some time. It’s WORSE.

John Boyd


Anonymous PeteyR said...

Is it me, or does this brand of creepiness only come with Republicans?

7:04 PM  
Blogger theBhc said...

No and not sure. No doubt the Dems have had their moments in the corruption sun. But one of things that keeps arising out of all these Republican "programs, as directed by Rove and his forces, is the word "unprecedented."

7:09 PM  
Anonymous hotpotatomash said...

and to think that no one, other than kristof in jest, has uttered a word about what this is really all about. even Boyd who rightly states the scandal is far bigger than most believe comes up way short. b/c ultimately it is about treason. granted people are unlikely to like the word considering the current feeling on impeachment. but it could not be clearer from their actions.

from day 1 they have taken action, that when considered as a whole, was to overthrow the government. perhaps they get a technical out b/c they are the government. but if you ask if the intent was to do away with democracy and bring in 1 party rule, it's quite obvious. here is just some of the evidence:

1. firing DAs

2. K street

3. the election apparatus from e-voting to tom delay redistricting and everything inbetween

4. Judges - blatant partisans. same as they were trying to do with US Attorneys. and lets not forget how all of this got started. next time it won't take a month to work things out.

5. bureaucracy - they have replaced formally career officials throughout the gov't. even in places like the patent office. also, bush recently rerouted all things in the bureaucracy to flow back through the WH.

6. Whistleblowers - now have less protections and
they have made clear in just about every case that they will ruin your life. from beating you up to outing your CIA spy wife.

7. press. challenge them and go to prison. hell, don't challenge them and go to prison a la a SF blogger.

8. spying on americans - phone conversations, email, etc.

9. spying on journalists.

10. Full power of govt. like the us attorney scandal, like the fbi abuses, like shifting the focus of enforcement of income taxes to lower income levels - they will use the full power of the gov't to do whatever they please and the law is obviously no boundary.

11. blackwater in new orleans after katrina. so they have their own little private army ready should they need them.

12. faith based initiatives - funneling money to right wing organizations for many reasons from getting out the vote to funding the propaganda campaign

13. if need be, there is the enemy combatant option.

14. if really need be there is the extraordinary rendition option.

15. education. dumbing down society. the narrow focus of NCLB precludes much civics education.

now these are not just random scandals. they all attack our democracy. there are plenty more scandals involving greed and incompetence not related to the overthrow of our current form of government. i'm not even sure how one could make an argument to the contrary.

so whatta you say we skip impeachment and go straight for treason. i'd almost be willing to change my stance on the death penalty. nah, it would be far better to watch them live behind bars as a reminder to their followers.

5:49 AM  
Blogger theBhc said...


Oh, I agree. Life behind bars and being told what to do 24/7 would be a living hell for these pricks. That, unfortunately, is a nothing but a dream as we can continue to expect that the Dems will pretend that nothing like this is actually going on.

The Republicans have stated quite publicly that a permanent Republican majority is their ultimate goal. Why does no one take them seriously when they say this? Given the laundry list -- and so much more -- you provide here, it should be pretty obvious that normative government is not their concern. Government exists to serve the interests of the GOP. This is what they believe and this is why they comfortably and publicly talk about a permanent majority.

This past November was a surprise to them. They didn't account for all the voters they needed to suppress. They still dumped 3 million votes -- about the same as they dispatched in 2004 -- but voters themselves undid these efforts. I don't think we can count on the happening again unless there is massive turnout and massive dissatisfaction with the GOP. There already was, and the Dems should rightly have won about 50 seats in November, as polls predicted. I think vigilance will wane with a Dem majority, because the Dems themselves don't really want to believe that the GOP could be this craven and anti-democratic. But they are. And all of this evidence points that out more than sufficiently.

10:55 AM  

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