GOP war on voting: the GOP myth of rampant voter fraud

Oh, what a tangled web we weave. When first we practise to deceive!”

The Republican Party has for years perpetuated the myth of rampant voter fraud for two purposes: (1) to suppress voter turnout, and (2) to delegitimize Democratic voters.

This GOP mythology has been so pernicious that Greg Sargent at the Washington Post writes today, Trump will claim the election was stolen. This new poll shows GOP voters may believe him.

There’s a simple reason Donald Trump keeps claiming that rampant voter fraud ensures a rigged election whose outcome will be illegitimate, if he loses: Republican voters, and Trump supporters, are inclined to believe him.

Screenshot from 2016-01-26 06:42:51The Public Religion Research Institute released a remarkable new poll this morning that confirms the point. It finds that a huge majority of Republican respondents say voter fraud is a bigger problem than restricted access to voting is. And there is a striking racial divide on this question as well — more on that in a moment.

The poll finds that among Americans overall, only 43 percent have a great deal of confidence that their votes will be counted accurately. That’s unfortunate, to be sure. Meanwhile, the partisan divide is notable: 55 percent of Democrats have a great deal of confidence in the vote counting, while 44 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Trump supporters feel the same way.

Here’s where it gets worse. Only 37 percent of Americans believe that “people casting votes who are not eligible to vote” is a bigger problem than “eligible voters being denied the right to vote,” which is seen as a bigger problem by 41 percent. But a huge majority of Republicans sees the former as the bigger problem:

Roughly two-thirds (66%) of Republicans believe voter fraud is a bigger problem than voter disenfranchisement, compared to only 19% of Democrats. More than six in ten (62%) Democrats say eligible voters being denied access is the bigger problem facing the election system.

The racial divide is also striking. According to numbers provided to me by PRRI, African Americans say that denial of access to eligible voting is the bigger problem by 66-21, while whites say that voter fraud is the bigger problem by 42-35. But as Ari Berman recently demonstrated, voter suppression is a far more extensive problem than is voter fraud, which is virtually nonexistent:

The real danger to American democracy stems from GOP efforts to make it harder to vote. New voting restrictions — like voter-ID laws, cuts to early voting and barriers to voter registration — that are in place in 14 states for the first time in 2016 will make it harder for millions of eligible voters to cast a ballot. And voters are lacking crucial protections because this is the first presidential election in 50 years without the full provisions of the Voting Rights Act…. It’s incredibly unlikely there will be widespread voter fraud on Election Day. But there will be eligible voters who show up to vote and are turned away from the polls. That’s the real threat to election integrity we should be focusing on.

Yet the public is closely divided on this question, and Republican voters overwhelmingly think voter fraud is the bigger problem.

This may be the result of the fact that the “voter fraud” canard is hardly a Trumpian innovation. Republican leaders have been hyping allegations of voter fraud for many years amid efforts to restrict voting. But now that Trump has taken that hype to truly insane lengths — by alleging a “rigged election” conspiracy against him that includes everything from election officials (in Republican states) to media companies to immigration officials allowing illegals in to vote — it has put Republicans in an awkward position. So they have responded by playing a little game in which they carefully distance themselves from the craziest aspects of Trump’s conspiracy-mongering, while simultaneously feeding other, relatively-less-crazy-sounding aspects of it.

* * *

As Brian Beutler writes, years of over-the-top GOP rhetoric — mostly concerning efforts to hype Barack Obama’s presidency into an existential threat to everything that makes this country recognizably American — have laid the groundwork for Trump to make arguments that are even more garishly divorced from reality than the more carefully coded and modulated GOP arguments have been. Voter fraud is a good example of this. Many Republican voters will be primed to believe that voter fraud was rampant on Election Day. The question is whether that will leave them even more susceptible to Trump’s claims that the outcome itself was “rigged” to its core, and thus entirely illegitimate — and whether that threatens further damage to the country’s civic health long after the election is behind us.

The LA Times today has a report debunking the GOP myth of rampant voter fraud. No, there is no evidence that thousands of noncitizens are illegally voting and swinging elections:

As Donald Trump maintains his incendiary attacks on the legitimacy of the election, one of his favorite themes has been the claim that the results will be tainted by the votes of millions of people in the U.S. illegally.

“They are letting people pour into the country so they can go ahead and vote,” he said this month, in a meeting with the head of the union representing border patrol agents.

“And believe me, there’s a lot going on,” Trump said at a rally. “People that have died 10 years ago are still voting. Illegal immigrants are voting.”

Part of the Republican-led crackdown on supposed voter fraud, battles over measures to guard against noncitizen voters have percolated for years in election offices, state legislatures and federal courtrooms.

Records in these fights show that small numbers of noncitizens do end up registered, and a few have cast votes. However, no one has uncovered evidence of thousands of noncitizen voters — and no evidence has emerged to support Trump’s theory of a coordinated effort to throw an election by stuffing the voting rolls with ineligible immigrants.

“What we have seen are errors,” said Dale Ho, director of the voting rights project of the American Civil Liberties Union. “There’s not a horde of people trying to break into this country so they can vote.”

The rule on voting eligibility is simple: Except for a handful of cities that permit noncitizens to vote in local elections, everyone who casts a vote in America is supposed to be a citizen, either by birth or by naturalization. And although the distinction is sometimes lost in the loud debates over undocumented immigration, even green-card holders, who are legal permanent residents, also are ineligible to vote until they become citizens.

In most places in the U.S., the question is handled solely on the honor system. When people register to vote, they check a box attesting that they are U.S. citizens. Election administrators verify identity by looking at driver’s license or Social Security numbers, for example, but under federal guidelines, they may not ask for proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate or passport.

Four states — Arizona, Kansas, Georgia and Alabama — have passed their own citizenship verification rules, but those requirements have been tangled up for years in lawsuits by progressive and voting rights groups, who argue that they present an unfair burden on minority voters. Thus far, they have prevailed, although the battles continue.

NoVoteGeorgia and Alabama haven’t been enforcing their requirements, but in the other two states, the fights over proving citizenship have led to unusual results. Arizona now recognizes a second class of voters — 6,328 for this election — who can vote for federal offices, like president, but not for the governor or other state offices, because they haven’t provided proof of citizenship.

This month, a federal appeals court forced Kansas to accept the registrations of people who had signed up to vote at motor vehicle offices, without providing proof of citizenship. Emergency notices were mailed to these voters, telling them in all capitals to “PLEASE DISREGARD” prior warnings that they weren’t eligible to vote.

But nearly 9,000 others, because they signed up using Kansas’ own form, still are considered ineligible to vote in this election by state officials unless they come up with citizenship proof by election day, Nov. 8. County election officials have scrambled to keep up.

* * *

Past claims that large numbers of ineligible noncitizens are lurking on the voting rolls have fizzled. In 2012, Florida’s Republican governor, Rick Scott, pushed for a purge of noncitizen voters. An initial list of 180,000 names was whittled to 2,600, then sent to county election supervisors to check. But the smaller list also turned out to be filled with errors, and in the end, only 85 people were removed from the rolls.

Trump has cited one study by three Virginia academics that estimated that more than 6% of noncitizens illegally voted in 2008 — enough to sway a close election, like the Senate race in Minnesota that year in which Al Franken was elected by a 312-vote margin.

The study arrived at the result by considering responses from a survey of voters, some of whom said they were not citizens. But the findings have been attacked by other researchers, who say they found evidence that many people gave wrong answers to the citizenship question — and that therefore the correct number of noncitizens who voted was probably zero.

In any case, experts say, it’s unlikely that anyone could find enough noncitizens on the voter rolls to challenge the results in a typical presidential election. In 2012, President Obama won Pennsylvania by 310,000 votes and Virginia by 149,000. The closest margin was in Florida, where Obama won by 74,000 votes.

Illegal voting is rarely prosecuted, but it can have severe consequences. Someone in the country illegally who is caught voting would be declared ineligible to become a citizen and could even be deported.

Lori Edwards, elections supervisor in Polk County, Fla., said she rarely encountered such cases in the 16 years she’s held the job.

“If you were here as an undocumented person, or even someone who has a green card,” she asked, “why would you risk that status for what would be a minimal benefit?”

15 responses to “GOP war on voting: the GOP myth of rampant voter fraud

  1. For Sure Not Tom

    I knew your posts had the stench of WND on them.

    Steve, if you’re going to copy/paste from Bill Federer, you should make a note of the original source.

    I suspect you’re ashamed to have us discover that you get your “facts” from conspiracy websites and noted bigots like Federer.

    WND. OMG. (Shakes head….)

    • I am IMPRESSED, Not Tom!! You actually DO read conservative sites! I am genuinely impressed!

      I actually haven’t done that before, but this was so pithy and pointed I couldn’t resist. I have quoted conservative sites before and attributed them, but the messages don’t get published here. I understand why. This is a liberal site so why give voice to a competitor, but it’s frustrating when someone else expresses it so well and you can’t quote them. Anyway, rest assured, I won’t do that again…especially not with a watch dog like you on staff. ;o)

      • For Sure Not Tom

        Your problem isn’t that THIS is a liberal site, your problem is that WND is a birther/conspiracy theory website, they regularly make up “facts”, and it’s all to pander to the now famous alt-right.

        It’s a white nationalist website that often claims the end times are here. And Bill Federer is a religious bigot.

        You’re basing your opinions on what is the conservative version of the Weekly World News. This does not reflect well on you unless you make your living hunting Bigfoots.

        At least quote a faux-scholarly source like the National Review.

        WND is a punchline.

        • Do you feel better having vented? The truth is I didn’t read it on WND. It was a stand alone alone message I received. I don’t read WND, nor do I visit any sites, liberal or conservative. I have a pretty full life and I just come on here a few minutes each day to catch up with old friends and others. That is probably one of the reasons why you are so much better read than I on these subjects…you spend more time at it than I do.

          Which brings me to ask: If WND is such a waste of time, why are you reading it?

          • For Sure Not Tom

            Vented. Weak. I’ve called you out on that tactic before. Be less obvious.

            Of course I search out opposing views, I don’t blindly follow anything or anyone, Steve, I try to consider all sides of an issue.

            Which leads me to a warning for you, and I say this as a recovering libertarian… the way to convert a conservative to a progressive is to teach him how to fact check.

            If you’d start questioning more, especially emails (OMG, you use email as source material! That’s even worse!) your worldview would change.

            In this case, however, your post was too well planned out to be a Steve original, you were clearly stealing, so I googled some of your text.

            I do find it ironic that you missed the real message of the real writer of your post.

            Spin, as he’s claiming the left uses it, isn’t a tool to win arguments, it doesn’t work that way. He’s giving cover to the right.

            Here’s an example, from your party’s leader, in a debate with HRC, after she called him a Putin puppet:

            “Not a puppet! Not a puppet! You’re the puppet! You’re the puppet!”

            Clumsy, but did spinning Clinton’s claim that Trump’s a puppet change anyone’s mind on Hillary?

            No, but it gave his supporters a reason to cheer. Take that, Hillary!

            Bill Federer is conning you into thinking he’s exposing the left, when he’s actually giving cover to racists/liars/con men in his own party.

            Get it? You need to start thinking things through. There are people paid well to manipulate you. Take a marketing or advertising class sometime.

  2. Frances Perkins

    I guess to Steve those decades of keeping Black citizens from voting via the poll tax and literacy tests don’t count for voter suppression. In those days it WAS conservative white, Southern Democrats keeping Blacks from voting. But that was 60 years AG and further back. FDR needed conservative Southern white Senators for his coalition and they constantly filibustered Federal laws against lynching and poll taxes and literacy tests. But the script has now flipped. All the conservative Southern Democratic Senators are now conservative Southern Republican senators, and suppressing the wrong voters is still their goal. Namely black and Democratic voters preferably. If anything good has come out of Scalia’s death, it is the courage lower Federal courts have now displayed to stop the patent nonsense of “anti-fraud” voter suppression laws. So I suggest you don’t selectively read history, there Steve.

    • It took REPUBLICANS to push through the Civil Rights Act. Democrats have been trying desperately to rewrite history on this almost since it happened. Your reference to “conservative white, Southern Democrats” is a good example of what I am talking about. It wasn’t democrats who did this nasty thing, it was conservatives. WRONG!!! It WAS democrats who did it who then scrambled to be on the winning side of history by switching parties, bringing with them their racism and general nastiness that was born of southern DEMOCRATS. You can try and rewrite that as much as you want, but that is the truth.

      “All the conservative Southern Democratic Senators are now conservative Southern Republican senators…”

      Wrong again, my democrat friend. They are all dead now. I am sure you remember Robert Byrd, don’t you? A KKK member who became one of the longest serving democrat Senators in Congress. Even in his last years he was still using the N-word to describe people and still getting elected. He was also a very powerful member of the democrat power structure. It just goes to show that as long as you call yourself a democrat and will vote reliably with democrats, you can be anything you want.

      “So I suggest you don’t selectively read history, there Steve.

      I was thinking the same about you, Frances.

      • Frances Perkins

        Sorry I do accept that southern Democrats in the south after reconstruction were doing anything to obstruct minority voting rights. The Old Republicans were the party of Lincoln. And the Old southern Democrats opposed the Lincoln style Republicans. But that changed with the Strom Thurmond era. He left the Democratic Party became a Dixiecrat, and his people flip flopped to the Republicans with the delusions of the Reagan era. Jeff Sessions and his ilk are not Democrats now but they are the successors in philosophy to the Dixiecrats. And there were northeastern Republicans like the Rockefellers who supported the Voting Rights Act, but any moderate let alone liberal northern Republican has been purged out of the Republican Party by the religious right or the tea party whack jobs. There is litmus test for Republicans, and no moderates are allowed. This idea the Republicans are for voting rights is a nice myth. Why not vote for nationwide election standards or overturn the SC decision on Section 3. And why are only Republican state legislators and AGs defending voter surpression laws. No Democrats.

        • “And why are only Republican state legislators and AGs defending voter surpression laws.”

          That is an easy one to answer: What you call “voter suppression laws” are nothing more than laws to ensure fraud is not introduced into the system. The looser the laws, the easier fraud is introduced. The easier fraud is introduced, the better for the democrats who have no qualms about cheating if it will get them in office.

  3. It isn’t hard to understand why Republican believe democrats will engage in voter fraud…democrats have a long and storied history of cheating at the polls. from Taminy Hall to Chicago, fraud on a massive scale became the watch word for democrats. I believe it was democrat Charles Daley of Chicago who said, “Vote early and vote often”. It was passed off as a joke, but it was a peek into the mentality of the Chicago political machine headed by Daley. Even now, they are finding discerpancies in the Chicago are that hint at fraud.

    You only have to do a Google search to find instances of democrat voter fraud being discovered right now. I am often reminded that Karl Marx is attributed with saying “Accuse the victim of what you do.”

    In the political context, be the first to accuse your opponent of what you are guilty of:

    If you are lying, accuse your opponent of it.
    If you are racist, accuse your opponent of it.
    If you are intolerant, accuse your opponent of it.
    If you have something to hide, accuse your opponent of it.
    If you are organizing voter fraud, discredit those exposing it.
    If you or your spouse are sexually immoral, accuse your opponent of it.
    If you are receiving millions from globalist & Hollywood elites, accuse your opponent of it.

    Democrat Political advisor David Axelrod verbalized this Machiavellian tactic in an NPR interview, April 19, 2010:

    “In Chicago, there was an old tradition of throwing a brick through your own campaign office window, and then calling a press conference to say that you’ve been attacked.”

    Naive individuals who join these disruptive groups were referred to by Lenin as “useful idiots.”

    Sounds like the democrat playbook, doesn’t it?

    • Frances Perkins

      The Fox News playbook. Fair and balanced discussion. Will Obama destroy our country will fire or debt? Our panelists will discuss this fair question in a minute.

      • For Sure Not Tom

        The Fox News playbook continues…

        Is it possible that Obama….

        Could it be that Clinton…..

        Do you think Pelosi…..

        Some people are saying….

        We’re hearing…..

        They’ve mastered the art of asking hypothetical questions and using them as “news”.

        And the people who scream the loudest that they are not sheeple eat it up.

      • I never cease to be amazed at how frightened you liberals are of Fox News. One conservative TV Network among dozens of liberal ones and you would think it is the end of the world. I think liberals NEED Fox News just to have some measure of balance in their lives.

        • Frances Perkins

          World net daily and Alex Jones will discuss whether Obama is either Lucifer or just a common demon.

          • You seem to know far more about World Net Daily than I do. Are you like Not Tom and frequently go there to read up on whats happening? And what is wrong with Obama? Overall, he hasn’t been that bad. Not my favorite President, but certainly not my least favorite.