The GOP War on (Democrats) Voting

May 18, 2008 10:11 p.m.

Since its inception, TPM has been chronicling the Republican party’s efforts to push bogus or wildly exaggerated claims of vote fraud to suppress voting among predominantly Democratic constituencies like the old, the poor and the non-white. And here we have another installment from the GOP vote fraud bamboozlement file.

Two years ago Texas’ Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott declared war on what he claimed was rampant vote fraud in Texas. He set up a special vote fraud unit and got a $1.4 million grant from the feds for the work.

Now, two years on, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News, we have a run-down of what Abbot came up with — 26 cases.

The details tell the story: All 26 cases involved Democrats, and almost all were either blacks or Hispanics.

Of the 26, 8 appear to have been genuine cases of fraud, two of which were cases of people actually casting fraudulent ballots, as opposed to bogus registrations.

The remaining 18 cases all involved eligible voters casting legitimate mail-in ballots. The ‘fraud’ was that others collected the ballots and deposited them in mailboxes without putting their own name and address on the envelope in which the mail-in ballot was sent. These latter instances were almost all cases involving elderly or disabled voters who could not easily mail their own mail-in ballots. In other words, the great majority of the cases in his meager haul were technical violations that non-politicized prosecutor’s offices most likely never would have pursued.

The final verdict is one that will be familiar to anyone who’s followed this on-going scam. Claims of widespread vote fraud justify big investigations, which more or less transparently target minorities, and find at most a handful of actual cases of wrongdoing.

No one denies there are isolated cases of vote fraud. The question is how organized and widespread it is, whether it’s affecting the outcomes of any actual elections, and whether (depending on the answers to those questions) whether the extent of the problem justifies measures which also have the effect of making it either more difficult or more perilous for eligible voters to exercise their rights at the ballot box. The fact that these politicized and morally corrupt prosecutors offices can’t come up with more than a trivial number of actual cases makes the answer to the question pretty straightforward.

Remember the larger context too. In the case of the US Attorney firings, most of the dismissals targeted prosecutors who refused to use the power of their office to advance the interests of the Republican party by engaging in these kinds of witch hunts.

Not surprisingly, Abbot is also pushing for a new law in Texas to require photo IDs to be allowed to vote — the latest gambit to try to shave a few percentage points off voter participation among the targeted groups.

Nor should we forget that President Bush just spent five months in a stand-off with the senate over his efforts to put the country’s top voter-suppression guru, Hans von Spakovsky, on the FEC.

Late Update: TPM Reader GS points out that the Texas Observer had a really good piece on Abbott’s shenanigans back in April. Give it a look.

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