This afternoon’s RNC chairmanship debate saw the candidates being asked what they would do about a perennial issue that is near and dear to GOP hearts: The threat of alleged Democratic voter fraud.
As you probably know, voter fraud is a frequent complaint among Republicans, motivating their efforts to enact laws such as voter-identification, and to dispatch poll-watchers to precincts in (heavily Democratic) urban areas. At the other end of the spectrum, Democrats are quick to point out that very few voter-fraud prosecutions ever actually take place, and that the GOP’s efforts would have a great impact of making it harder for lower-class and minority demographics to vote.
Reince Priebus was first. “Well that’s a good question for me, because I was chairman when we sued our Government Accountability Board in the state of Wisconsin over our non-compliance with an eight-year-old HAVA [Help America Vote Act] law,” said Priebus, who then criticized the very open voting system in his state. “We are one of the few states in the entire country, in Wisconsin, where you can actually vote on Election Day without registering. And you can also vote without any picture identification at all. So our challenges in Wisconsin are astronomical.”
He also added: “I think we need to win more races in the legislature so we can pass photo ID in all states, and make sure that we either have photo ID or real ID, or some method of protecting our constitutional right to vote in this country. And I think it has to be a top priority of the next chairman.”Second, Ann Wagner said, in part: “Voter fraud is a real issue out there, and it’s important that every state party, and at the national party, that we provide the resources and the legal basis and the resources in order to stop voter fraud out there, and to initiate what we’ll call ballot integrity programs across the country. Poll watchers are very, very important to have out there to keep vigilant, and we had an army of those in this last election cycle at many precincts around the state of Missouri.”
Third, Saul Anuzis said that voter fraud is a big issue in his home state of Michigan — and even described a very drastic example that he said the party had encountered. “I think voter fraud is a very serious issue for all of us obviously. If you take a look at what’s happened. Michigan as an example is a blue state that can go red under the right circumstances, and one of our challenges traditionally has been voter fraud in many of the urban areas.
“In the last cycle we found tens of thousands of absentee ballots that were actually signed and never filled out, and apparently were for sale. And luckily we were able to get ahold of those ballots, we called in the attorney general’s office, we called in the state police, and ultimately the FBI took control of them. And part of it was because we set up a program that worked.”
Maria Cino: “I too have been involved with a lot of ballot integrity and ballot security programs, and I think they’re extremely important. I’ll just remind you in 1981 – some of you probably weren’t even born — in the state of New Jersey we won our governor, Tom Kean, by 1,776 votes. In the state of Florida in 2000, we won by 500 votes. Ballot integrity programs are important, and as chairman that would be one of the things I would most certainly fund.”
Finally, it was Steele’s turn. “The issue of ballot integrity is one that is clearly on the fore-mind of everyone, in terms of whether or not ballots are secure and people can trust that the process is going to work,” said Steele, going on to tout the RNC’s work in the past cycle with Priebus in Wisconsin, and with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s campaign team in New Jersey.
“And coming from a state like Maryland, we know what it’s like to lose a governor’s race because of cheating,” said Steele — an apparent reference to the widespread belief among Maryland Republicans that the 1994 gubernatorial election was stolen from them.