From the July 12 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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Right-wing media have attacked the Department of Justice's decision to send personnel to Milwaukee to monitor the Wisconsin recall election for violations of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But Congress authorized DOJ to monitor elections for violations of citizens' voting rights, and the Bush administration DOJ often exercised this power.
For the past few months, just as many states across the country are passing voter ID laws, the Wall Street Journal has steadily denied that these laws disproportionally affect minority, as well as elderly, voters. Never mind that according to New York University's Brennan Center for Justice, upwards of 5 million voters -- mainly racial minorities, students, and seniors -- would be impacted by these laws.
But the Journal, along with other conservative media, continue to champion them. In articles and editorials, the Journal has made a habit of attacking Attorney General Eric Holder and his Justice Department for blocking these laws from being implemented in several states, claiming that Holder is "scaremongering" and playing "identity politics." In yet another editorial, the Journal wrote of Holder: "It would take a distinctive kind of naivete to believe there is no voter fraud in America." It also accused DOJ's civil rights division of "massag[ing] the data" so "it can charge bias" in blocking Texas' voter ID law.
Today, the conservative paper continued the trend, alleging that Holder and President Obama are using their "political power" to scare African-American voters. According to the Journal, Holder and Obama's voting rights concerns are nothing more than "racial incitement" and part of a "strategy" to re-elect Obama, adding: "And liberals think Donald Trump's birther fantasies are offensive?" The editorial continued:
For all of Mr. Obama's attempts to portray Mitt Romney as out of touch, no one has suffered more in the Obama economy than minorities.
Which explains Mr. Holder's racial incitement strategy. If Mr. Obama is going to win those swing states again, he needs another burst of minority turnout. If hope won't get them to vote for Mr. Obama again, then how about fear?
The editorial went on to assert that a speech to black leaders at a summit of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Conference of National Black Churches about the importance of voting and the significance of new voter ID laws was Holder "using his considerable power to inflame racial antagonism":
Fox News continued its relentless advocacy of disenfranchising voter ID laws this morning, as Fox & Friends' Gretchen Carlson hosted Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of the Tea Party-affiliated organization True the Vote, to trump up voter fraud claims and tout voter ID laws.
During the segment, Engelbrecht said that "we absolutely agree that photo voter ID would help improve the overall integrity and accuracy of the process" and suggested that voter fraud was a rampant problem undermining "free and fair elections." And Carlson even prompted Engelbrecht to tell viewers how they could get involved, leading Engelbrecht to tell potential volunteers to check out the group's website. Watch:
But contrary to the claim that voter ID laws would "improve the overall integrity" of the voting process, NYU's Brennan Center for Justice has found that more than 3 million voters across the country do not possess photo IDs required by newly passed voter ID laws.
For example, as the Los Angeles Times reported in May 2008, elderly nuns and college students "were turned away from polls" after Indiana's voter ID law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. In January 2008, The New York Times reported that more than 30 eligible voters in a single Indiana county had their votes thrown out because of the law.
The conservative hosts of Fox News' The Five acted horrified at House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's statement that she wants to "amend the Constitution" to reverse the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. FEC, a decision that Pelosi said "flies in the face of our founders' vision." The Fox hosts acted as if this was a radical idea, but Fox hosts and congressional Republicans have repeatedly proposed amending the Constitution.
Fox News and Fox Business have leaped to the defense of Texas' voter ID law after the Justice Department moved to prevent its implementation, saying that the legislation violated the Voting Rights Act. Fox's coverage has been filled with false and misleading claims.
Apparently, this is now a point that must be made: You have a constitutional right not to be denied from voting on the basis of race. You do not have a constitutional right to go to R-rated movies, buy alcohol, or purchase Sudafed.
Some of the slower members of the right-wing media have been having trouble with this distinction as it pertains to laws requiring Americans to provide photo identification at the polling place in order to vote. The Justice Department recently struck down such statutes in South Carolina and Texas, saying that the jurisdictions had failed to demonstrate that the laws would not discriminate against and disenfranchise minority voters.
This morning on Fox & Friends, while disparaging DOJ's decision to block Texas' voter I.D. law, co-host Gretchen Carlson said:
[L]et's just take a look at a simple list of what we're required to show I.D. for in general society. To buy cigarettes and alcohol. To purchase an R-rated movie ticket. To even buy Sudafed now. To rent a car, to get a hotel room, and I could go on and on, Mr. Adams, even to get a beach pass in my community, you have to show several forms of I.D.
During the segment, Fox aired this graphic:
Likewise, the James O'Keefe clown show apparently went to Vermont recently, where they attempted to demonstrate why the state should have a voter I.D. law by haranguing bartenders and hotel employees over their "racist" demands that the conservative activists present identification before obtaining drinks or hotel rooms.
But don't take my word that this is a "silly," "flimsy," and "constitutionally incorrect" comparison. Just ask noted GOP hack and New Black Panther fabulist J. Christian Adams.
Over the last two weeks, Fox has repeatedly promoted the claim that voter fraud is indicated by records showing that more than 900 South Carolina residents were recorded as casting a vote after their reported death date. Lou Dobbs, Bill Hemmer, and Neil Cavuto all gave state Attorney General Alan Wilson a platform to offer up this assertion, and on Monday Bret Baier reported that Wilson had notified the Justice Department of this "potential voter fraud."
These claims were always shaky, and have now completely dissolved.
On January 11, state Department of Motor Vehicles director Kevin Schwedo testified before the state legislature that his analysts had compared state Election Commission records with data from the Department of Vital Statistics and the Social Security Administration and found 957 people who could have voted after they had died. He subsequently turned the data over to law enforcement.
But the Columbia Free-Times' Corey Hutchins reports that the Election Commission has examined six names from the list -- the only six names Wilson's office had turned over. At a hearing this morning, the agency revealed that none of those cases involved a ballot actually being cast in a deceased person's name:
In a news release election agency spokesman Chris Whitmire handed out prior to the hearing, the agency disputed the claim that dead people had voted. One allegedly dead voter on the DMV's list cast an absentee ballot before dying; another was the result of a poll worker mistakenly marking the voter as his deceased father; two were clerical errors resulting from stray marks on voter registration lists detected by a scanner; two others resulted from poll managers incorrectly marking the name of the voter in question instead of the voter above or below on the list.
The attorney general's office had only given the State Election Commission six names off its list of 957 names to examine. The agency found every one of them to be alive and otherwise eligible to vote, except for the one who had voted before dying.
This was entirely predictable.
From the January 21 Fox News special Your Money is "Primary":
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Fox News has repeatedly promoted South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson's claim that voter fraud is indicated by records showing that more than 900 state residents were recorded as casting a vote after their reported death date. But the official who first publicized that figure reportedly said that the discrepancy could be explained by voters casting absentee ballots before their deaths or by data errors.
In 2010, conservative videographer James O'Keefe and three associates pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of entering federal property under false pretenses in connection with an attempted video sting at the office of Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Now election officials and election law experts are suggesting that he may be implicated in another illegal scheme. They say that in attempting to create an undercover video showing how easy it is to commit voter fraud, James O'Keefe's associates may have run afoul of those laws themselves.
Those experts and officials are questioning whether the conservative videographers may have violated laws banning individuals from falsely identifying themselves at the polling place and requiring both parties to consent to be videotaped.
In their investigation, the conservative videographers entered polling places, gave the name of recently deceased New Hampshire residents, and were offered ballots by poll workers. In one case, the videographer fled the scene after a poll worker became aware that he was not the deceased voter.
While the videographers were largely careful not to directly assert that they were the deceased voters whose names they were stating, Think Progress noted that in at least one instance, when a poll worker asked a O'Keefe confederate for his name, he gave the name of deceased person.
In addition to potentially putting his accomplices in legal jeapardy, O'Keefe's video largely shows the logical incoherence of the right's voter fraud paranoia and the difficulty of pulling off a large-scale fraud conspiracy.
Discredited fraud James O'Keefe's latest video attempts to prove how easy it is to steal an election without voter ID laws on the books, but actually demonstrates just how difficult it would be to pull off such a plot.
The video presents a compilation of clips from Tuesday's New Hampshire primary elections in which either O'Keefe or a confederate gives a poll worker the name of a recently deceased voter and is offered a ballot. The public policy issue the video actually shows is the need for voting records to be kept up to date in the months before an election. The deceased should not be on the rolls and election officials need to do a better job of keeping those lists clean. But since conservative elites (and donors) are far more interested in voter ID laws that have the effect of keeping Democratic voters from the polls, that's the tack that O'Keefe takes.
What O'Keefe instead suggests is that, because the state does not require voters to present photo identification at the polls, it is simple for individuals to pose as deceased voters, cast ballots in their names, and swing elections. As we've noted, there is little evidence that such schemes actually exist in the real world.
An actual attempt to carry out such a plot would run into the problem shared by all such schemes to steal elections through in-person voters, rather than in the vote counting phase: without knowing how many votes they need to steal to win, conspirators must engage in a very large effort.
As election experts noted when contacted about O'Keefe's video by TPM, actually pulling off a scheme to swing an election through these methods would be extremely complex, a massive undertaking whose size could quickly lead to its discovery:
Election law expert Rick Hasen, who writes the Election Law Blog, joked in an email to TPM that O'Keefe's team should "next show how easy it is to rob a bank with a plastic gun."
"Who in their right mind would risk a felony conviction for this? And who would be able to do this in large enough numbers to (1) affect the outcome of the election and (2) remain undetected?" Hasen wrote.
Other election experts agreed that the video doesn't change the substance of the debate over whether the minimal threat of in-person voter fraud is worth the impact that such laws can have on minority and poor voters.
"The fact that activists can engage in a stunt is not a reason for reform," Samuel Issacharoff, a professor of constitutional law at New York University Law School, told TPM. "It means nothing. Why would anybody want to do this? It proves that they don't update their dead voter information as quickly as they might, but so what? To pull this off on a large scale, you'd need coordination, and presumably somebody would have heard about it."
The bigger the election, the more precincts and deceased voters would be involved and the more conspirators would be needed. Smaller elections mean fewer votes would need to be stolen, but they also mean that there are fewer recently deceased individuals to pose as.
In an election involving a larger number of voters, numerous conspirators would be needed, all willing to risk facing election fraud charges. And indeed, even operating a two-person operation that only seems to have targeted a dozen polling locations, O'Keefe or his associate was caught in the act. The video includes eleven clips in which a conservative videographer is offered a ballot. In one other case, the right-wing operative in question was halted by a poll worker who knew the deceased. Those odds don't bode well for the sort of wide-scale operation such an effort would require if the purpose had been to actually steal the New Hampshire primary.
Moreover, voter ID requirements might present a hindrance to such an effort, but they would in no way stop it altogether. The conspirators would need to obtain fake identification, but if they were willing to devote this level of time and resources to stealing an election and take on such a high level of risk, there is no reason to believe they wouldn't they take that step.
James O'Keefe, a discredited liar with a history of releasing deceptively edited videos that ultimately fail to back up his claims, has released his latest video. This one purports to demonstrate how "Dead People Vote" in New Hampshire, but instead largely shows the logical incoherence of the right wing's voter fraud paranoia.
For years, conservatives have fearmongered about the perils of voter fraud; nearly every election brings with it new claims from the right that Democrats and their ACORN allies are on the verge of stealing elections. While actual examples of such fraud are extremely rare, conservatives have used this hysteria to push through laws in several states requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls in order to vote. Such laws have not yet spread to New Hampshire, where Gov. John Lynch vetoed a voter ID bill last year.
With his last set of videos largely seen as meaningless and pathetic, his fundraising in shambles, and his allies leaving him in disgust, O'Keefe clearly hopes to press this non-issue to revive his standing in the conservative movement. As always, the Daily Caller is happy to help out, already trumpeting the "bombshell video" that they received "exclusively" from O'Keefe.
In the service of this aim, O'Keefe and associate Spencer Meads visited a number of polling locations during the January 10 New Hampshire primaries armed with hidden cameras. At each polling location, the videographer in question would approach a poll worker who was checking in voters and ask the poll worker if a recently deceased voter's name is on the rolls. When the poll worker, assuming that the right-wing operative is presenting themselves as that person, attempts to give them a ballot, the videographer says that they don't have their ID and leaves. O'Keefe provided the Daily Caller the following explanation for the purpose of the video:
In an interview with TheDC on Wednesday, O'Keefe said the exposé shows how voter fraud can be easier to perpetrate when identification isn't required.
"There is fraud going on and our goal is to visualize it for people," he said.
But O'Keefe's claim aside, there is simply no evidence that such fraud occurs more often then, say, community organizations are asked to help set up child sex rings. In a 2007 report, the Brennan Center for Justice reported that there are a "handful" of cases when votes have actually cast in the names of the deceased, compared to thousands of such allegations that ultimately proved fruitless:
Allegations of "dead voters" are also popular, not least for the entertaining pop culture references to be found in the headlines: "Among Voters in New Jersey, G.O.P. Sees Dead People," for example, or "Dead Man Voting." After further investigation, however, these allegedly dead voters often turn up perfectly healthy.
There are a handful of known cases in which documentation shows that votes have been cast in the names of voters who have died before the vote was submitted.
It is far more common, however, to see unfounded allegations of epidemic voting from beyond the grave, with a chuckle and a reference to Gov. Earl Long's quip ("When I die -- if I die -- I want to be buried in Louisiana, so I can stay active in politics.") or Rep. Charlie Rangel's update (same idea, but takes place in Chicago). [Footnotes excised]
Indeed, as John Samples of Cato told TPM, "The big question for policy always was what was the extent of it, and this doesn't solve that question."
While there is no evidence that O'Keefe-style schemes have actually been in use, there is significant evidence that voter ID laws have prevented eligible voters from casting ballots.
Let me begin by being perfectly clear: I have absolutely no reason to think any election fraud occurred in the GOP's Iowa caucuses on Tuesday. But if Democrats had been in any way involved, you can bet that Republicans would be screaming to the heavens about a possibly stolen election.
Before, during, and after virtually every competitive election, the right-wing media wail about how Democrats are on the verge of stealing elections through fraud. This has been going on for years, despite significant evidence that actual voter fraud is extremely rare. Conservatives have used this voter fraud myth to push for a variety of draconian restrictions on voting, which have the effect of disenfranchising traditionally Democratic voters such as young people, the poor, and minorities.
When Democrat-backed JoAnne Kloppenburg emerged from Wisconsin's Supreme Court election with a small lead last year, conservatives were quick to claim the election was within the "margin of fraud" and cite baseless allegations. The same thing happened when close elections favored Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) in 2008 and Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire (D). And then there's their endless allegations that Democrats or ACORN were about to steal an election.
Which brings us to Tuesday, when Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucus by a mere eight votes out of 60,022 cast, a margin so slim that even a handful of fraudulent votes could have tipped the balance. There will be no recount. And the Iowa GOP requires no photo ID from would-be caucusers; indeed, you could participate with no documentation if you and a registered voter from the precinct would both sign an oath swearing you are qualified.
Given past performance, you would expect a groundswell on the right questioning whether ineligible voters may have been able to change the results of the election. None of that seems to have happened. With no Democrats or ACORN involved, there have been no complaints from the right-wing media. J. Christian Adams is silent. Hans Von Spakovsky is nowhere to be found.
It's almost like this whole voter fraud thing is one big right-wing scam.
The Wall Street Journal's editorial board attacked the Justice Department's decision to block South Carolina's voter ID law, claiming it was the first such denial since 1994 and that the action "contradict[s] both the Supreme Court and the Department's own precedent." In fact, DOJ regularly blocks such "'pre-clearance' voting rights request[s]" and the "precedent[s]" cited by the Journal are inapt.