Those who whined most

October 12, 2002 7:55 p.m.

Those who whined most heartily about the Montana Democratic Party’s ad targeting state Senator Mike Taylor are now hyping a story about alleged absentee voting irregularities in neighboring South Dakota.

Don’t get snookered by this one.

The story first got picked up by local TV news reporter Jill Westbrook
as a case of “massive voter registration fraud.” That was followed by a
piece in the Rapid City Journal which again ran with the “massive” voter fraud

That was, predictably, picked up by Fox News. And finally there was a
pretty decent story written about it in the Argus Leader. David Kranz of the
Argus Leader is sort of the Jack Germond or Dan Balz of South Dakota
politics, from what I can tell.

Read the actual stories and you’ll see the alleged fraud falls quite a
bit short of ‘massive’. The alleged fraud apparently involves a single
contract employee working in a Democratic party voter registration drive.
The woman in question registered a slew of voters and virtually all of those
registrations checked out when later examined. The exact number of ones
with problems is unclear from the articles but it seems to be a handful out
of many at best. Perhaps as few as two. The Democratic party fired her.

Look at the article and you’ll also notice virtually all the quotes are
from the Republican state Attorney General Mark Barnett who called a press
conference to discuss the matter, was apparently the source of the
original “massive” voter fraud claim, and apparently can’t stop talking to
every reporter in the state about it. Though the investigation only involves
this one woman, Barnett is quick to tell virtually everyone that “that could
change at any time.”

Clearly something like this should be investigated. And lawbreakers
should be prosecuted. And I don’t mean that as a throwaway line. They
should. But the story here is that there are two very hotly contested races in the
state — one being the Senate race between Tim Johnson and John Thune.
Democrats have been making a big push to register the Indian population in
the state which tends to vote heavily Democratic but is under-registered and
tends to vote in very low percentages. Those votes could prove crucial. The fraud
claims are about the voter registration push on the Indian reservations.

Republicans frequently charge that voter registration drives are hotbeds
of voter-fraud — almost never with any real evidence. Absent more evidence
of anything really widespread, this looks to me like a Republican effort to
snuff out or throw a wet blanket over the Democrats’ effort to register
a lot of new voters. They have a long history of this.

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