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Thursday, October 19, 2006

How the GOP will Claim the Midterms were Stolen by Dems

What will Republicans do after the elections? The ones left standing, I mean. The rest will be asking, "Do you want fries with that?" or complying with the request, "Will the defendant please rise?" They could try to repair their crumbling base, refocus their efforts on 'limiting the damage' Democrats will be able to do, or -- the least likely -- work on fixing the problems of corruption within their party.

Or, they could do what I think they'll do -- whine.

What will they whine about? It's anyone's guess, really, but I'm guessing that they'll say the electoral system is 'broken.' Don't get too excited; they won't be complaining about either the voting machines or crooked political machines counting the votes.

No. The problem, they may say, is you. To get an idea of how this works, let's look at the state CNN Polling analysts say is the most typical state -- in terms of the electorate, anyway -- my own home state of Wisconsin.

The Capital Times:

Last year, at U.S. Rep. Mark Green's request, U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, convened a House Administration Committee hearing that was billed as an examination of concerns about voter fraud in Wisconsin.

That sounded serious, except that there was nothing to investigate and Ney showed up without the committee.

After spending the better part of a year trying to cook up evidence that voter fraud or wrongdoing somehow cost George Bush the state's electoral votes in 2004, Republicans had nothing to show for it - save their own embarrassment. The state party's former chairman, Rick Graber, held a press conference in August 2005 to claim he and his confederates had uncovered nine instances of illegal voting. But an investigation by U.S. Attorney Steven Biskupic - a Bush appointee - found no grounds for pursuing the matter.

In fact, to explain a loss by 11,000 votes, the GOP found a whopping nine instances of alleged voter fraud -- instances without enough evidence to prosecute. According to Spencer Overton, a professor at the George Washington University Law School, it was typical of GOP whining about a nonexistent problem. "Anecdotes about voter fraud are also misleading and fail to indicate the frequency of the alleged fraud," Overton testified to the Committee on House Administration, "...The Republicans announced that their research uncovered nine people who voted in Milwaukee in November 2004 and also cast ballots in Chicago, Minneapolis, or Madison." Those would be nine very busy fraudulent voters, casting well over 3,500 votes each.

The truth is that polls showed Wisconsin as a toss up with Kerry having a slight advantage. The final count was nearly identical to polling -- Kerry edged out Bush, just as he did in pre-election polling. The results shouldn't have surprised anyone -- Wisconsin hadn't gone to a Republican presidential candidate since the Reagan landslide.

A quick bit of inside baseball; Democrats concentrated their efforts on southeast Wisconsin, mainly Madison and Milwaukee. Bush, however, spent most of his time up north, mostly around Green Bay. He barely visited Milwaukee and never visited Madison. While Bush didn't have a lot of hope of winning the capital (in 2000, he came in third behind Nader in many Madison districts), he might've limited the damage. Historically, if you get Madison and Milwaukee -- the first and second largest cities -- you get the state. Milwaukee went to Kerry. Madison did likewise, overwhelmingly -- Kerry took 74%, if I remember correctly. It was ignoring Wisconsin's history that probably cost Bush the state, not any voter fraud.

Another factor that makes me think that voter fraud is going to be the republican rallying cry is that states aren't prepared for the elections. According to Raw Story:

Election officials are scrambling to prepare for difficulties expected on November 7, the New York Times will report Thursday in an article to appear on its front page.

"As dozens of states are enforcing new voter registration laws and switching to paperless electronic voting systems, officials across the country are bracing for a chaotic Election Day with long lines, heightened confusion and an increase in the number of contested results," writes Ian Urbina. "Talk about panic," said one top election official. "I've got gray-haired ladies as poll workers standing around looking stunned."

While the most reasonable complaint would be that these systems are faulty and should be addressed, Republicans are unlikely to complain about a system that's generally assumed to favor them -- electronic voting machines and suppressive voting laws.

Most likely, they'll point to the chaos and ask, "How many people took advantage of that to vote illegally?" And they'll try to use this unreasonable question to push for legislation. Cynthia Tucker of the Altanta Journal-Constitution wrote recently:

Republican leaders have strained mightily to convince the courts that they are just protecting the franchise from voter fraud. Consider the widespread threat of illegal immigrants sneaking into the polls to vote, just as they sneaked into our country to work. Or those Dumpster-diving impostors who steal someone's light bill out of the trash and then use it as ID to cast a fraudulent ballot. Come on. I've heard 7-year-olds spin more convincing yarns.

Lou Dobbs, who seems to bounce wildly between the poles of entirely reasonable and completely insane, has been pushing the idea that undocumented immigrants will vote illegally.

...a law that would have helped prevent illegal aliens from voting in this nation's elections has been blocked by a federal appellate court. Arizona's Proposition 200 would have required state residents to show proof of citizenship before being allowed to register to vote. Opponents called the law, as a result, discriminatory. Casey Wian reports.

You'd think that illegal aliens would want to limit their contact with government, but there ya go. And would a bunch of immigrants voting illegally actually turn out in the thousands it would take to turn an election? Like other voter fraud scenarios, this one is extremely unlikely -- so unlikely as to be fantastic. But Republicans are extremely likely to push for voting reforms like Voter ID, which thankfully seems to have died for this session.

To go back to Professor Overton's testimony:

No systematic, empirical study of the magnitude of voter fraud has been conducted at either the national level or in any state to date, but the best existing data suggests that a photo identification requirement would do more harm than good. An estimated 6 to 10 percent of voting-age Americans do not possess a state-issued photo identification card, and in states such as Wisconsin 78 percent of African-American men ages 18-24 lack a driver’s license. By comparison, a study of 2.8 million ballots cast in 2004 in Washington State showed only 0.0009 percent of the ballots involved double voting or voting in the name of deceased individuals. If further study confirms that photo identification requirements would deter over 6,700 legitimate votes for every single fraudulent vote prevented, a photo identification requirement would increase the likelihood of erroneous election outcomes.

In the end, it won't be about paranoid visions of illegal aliens voting and dumpster diving dems throwing elections. It'll be about keeping legit voters away from the polls -- a strategy that served the GOP very well in Florida in 2000.

The message, from a party drastically in need of reform, will be that the problem is you. The party is blameless, the corrupt political machinery is blameless, the easily hackable electronic voting machines are blameless -- voters are to blame.


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1 comment:

NewsBlog 5000 said...

I think the GOP like to keep a high level of paranoia amongst their constituents about voter fraud amongst Democrats. So much so that they think fiascos like what happened in Ohio are just “business as usual” and all part of an old dirty tricks game.

Not that the Democrats didn’t have problems in the past *cough* Daley *cough*, but the level of paranoia I see is quite beyond the “some ballot boxes were stuffed 30 years ago” level.

By the way, I still love what you are doing here. I always enjoy reading what you have to say.