What’s New? Lacking Evidence, Conservatives Again Stoke Voter Fraud Fears

November 3, 2009 6:12 a.m.

Another election, another boatload of evidence-free Republican claims of voter fraud…

In part because it’s the closest of the major races, the New Jersey governor’s race has been the focus of the GOP’s dire warnings. Here’s how the campaign to stoke fears over voter fraud in the Garden State has ramped up in recent days:• First, Jim Geraghty of National Review sounded the alarm last Thursday: State Democrats, he fretted, had asked that absentee voters whose signatures on their ballot request form didn’t match that on their registration form — 2300 people in all — be given provisional ballots, rather than have their votes thrown out if they couldn’t be contacted by local election officials [see Late Update below]. Geraghty warned: “Suspicious minds see the [Democrats’ request] as an attempt to create a pool of emergency votes to be used if Christie holds a small lead on Election Night.”

• Geraghty followed that up with a post a few hours later, noting that “just about everybody shows a close race, and concerns about voter fraud make Republicans unable to feel optimistic about a close race. Norm Coleman can explain how winning a race on election night doesn’t always mean you get to take the oath of office.” One of the most rigorous vote counting processes in recent history found no credible evidence of voter fraud in Coleman’s Senate loss to Al Franken.

• Then yesterday, Fox picked up the torch, with a lengthy segment on the threat of voter fraud not just in New Jersey but around the country, entitled: “How easy is it to steal an election with absentee ballots?” The only tangible new piece of evidence that Fox came up with was this: a former Denver Elections Commissioner, who now runs a website devoted to stoking fears about corrupt elections, told viewers that some people shoveling her driveway said they’d heard that “six or seven absentee ballots were sent to dead people.”

• Then, the centerpiece: A Wall Street Journal column by John Fund, the GOP’s perennial voter fraud watchdog, asserting that “plenty of reasons exist for suspecting absentee fraud may play a significant role in tomorrow’s Garden State contests.” For instance? “Groups associated with Acorn in neighboring Pennsylvania and New York appear to have moved into the state.” It goes on in that vein, with Fund echoing Geraghty in latching onto the Democrats’ provisional ballot request as potential evidence of rampant fraud.

• Fund followed that up with an appearance on Glenn Beck, where, among other things, he laid out one specific voter fraud strategy:

People are going door to door in parts of Camden [New Jersey] with Hispanics that don’t have very much knowledge of English, and they’re saying, “We have a new way for you to vote, la nueva forma de votar; just fill out these papers.

But as Media Matters notes, Fund’s Wall Street Journal column, published just a few hours earlier, conceded that this scheme actually occurred in Philadelphia, not New Jersey … in 1993.

• No matter. This morning, Fund was back on Fox, which during his appearance ran a chyron that read: “Surge In Absentee Ballots Raises Fears Of Voter Fraud.”

• Meanwhile, out in the field, a website named Election Journal — the “online community dedicated to raising public awareness of vote fraud” that shot that video of the New Black Panthers last fall — posted this shocking video: A New Jersey woman tells how convicted criminals were going door-to-door in her neighborhood for the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote operation.

So there you have it, folks … As usual, a lot of huffing and puffing, but precious little evidence of any actual vote fraud.

We’ll have more on this later today…

Late Update: Geraghty is now accusing me of lying. I think he’s misunderstanding the wording of my post, so let me try to clarify.

I wrote:

State Democrats, [Geraghty] fretted, had asked that absentee voters whose signatures on their ballot request form didn’t match that on their registration form — 2300 people in all — be given provisional ballots, rather than have their votes thrown out if they couldn’t be contacted by local election officials.

By this, I didn’t mean that the Dems’ letter asked that provisional ballots be given to applicants only if the local election officials can’t reach them, which is how Geraghty seems to have read it. Rather, I was trying to explain to readers what would happen to these voters if the request for provisional ballots wasn’t granted: that is, their votes would be thrown out unless they could be contacted by election officials. That’s accurate.

And it’s a key point, because it makes clear that the Dems had a legitimate need to protect against that possibility by asking for provisional ballots. Geraghty, by contrast, sees this as a nefarious scheme by Democrats to create a bank of fraudulent “emergency votes” — which is obviously his right. But there’s no lying going on here.

Late Late Update: Now a story by the conservative site NewsMax picks up on the absentee-ballot/voter-fraud claims.

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