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Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Trouble with a capital T

by Tom Sullivan

Still from The Music Man.

That rhymes with V. Guess what that stands for?

You'd think the Heritage Foundation's Hans von Spakovsky would be in Iowa selling boys bands. But no. The godfather of the voter fraud myth was in New Hampshire yesterday as part of Kris Kobach's crack Presidential Advisory Commission On Election Integrity selling voter ID. The commission's true goal is, as Mother Jones reports, "focused on building up a narrative about widespread voter fraud—and potentially laying the groundwork to impose new restrictions on voting in order to combat it."

This has been the holy grail for Republicans at least since since Heritage Foundation co-founder Paul Weyrich publicly declared in 1980, "I don't want everybody to vote," adding "our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down." Reducing that populace has probably been a goal since the Voting Rights Act became law in 1965.

Kobach brought the commission to New Hampshire to investigate alleged voter fraud. Alleged by him in a Breitbart News column last week. Kobach claimed that Democrat Maggie Hassan's U.S. Senate seat was "stolen through voter fraud" last fall. See (Aha!), of the 6,540 same-day registrants who voted using out-of-state driver's licenses for ID, only 1,014 had filed for a New Hampshire license 10 months later. The fact that the bulk were college students voting where they attend school, as provided by law, went unmentioned. The only college Kobach is interested in is the electoral college.

Lobbing fraud smoke bombs has a long tradition. By the time the smoke clears and we discover once again there was never a fire, all the public remembers is they saw smoke and heard someone yelling, "Fire!" It's all about the publicity.

Von Spakovsky was there to present evidence in the form of a Heritage Foundation database of voter fraud assembled from cases of election irregularities of any variety going back decades. The bulk involve absentee ballot fraud, but they pad out the case for erecting barriers to people voting in person, which of course is the point. Heritage earlier in the year urged the administration to keep Democrats and mainstream Republicans off the panel.

Former Secretary of State Jason Kander told CNN:

“I have seen the GOP voter suppression playbook up close,” Kander explained. “It has three steps. Step one, undermine faith in democracy. Step two, create obstacles to voting. Step three, create obstacles to the obstacles.”

“The commission is step one, it is convincing the American people that American democracy doesn’t work, so that they can then take laws that make it harder to vote and spread them all around the country,” Kander predicted. “It’s the core of Trump’s re-election strategy.”
Promoters of the erecting higher barriers to voting argue that people don't vote because the system is rigged. Polls say otherwise, says University of New Hampshire political scientist Andrew Smith:
"The major reason that they see that people don't vote ... is that they just didn't bother, they weren't interested, they forgot," Smith said. "Basically, issues of convenience and noninterest were the major reasons."

Still, several members of the commission — including Kobach — have argued that voter fraud is a serious problem that undermines public confidence.
Except undermining public confidence to build support for erecting voting barriers is Kobach's goal (von Spakovsky's as well). Providing rubes with a solution to a problem they didn't know they had before the traveling salesman conjured it was Harold Hill's business model, as it has been Spakovsky's for decades.

This is where Kander is mistaken. The commission isn't step one. It's the eleventy-leventh edition of step one.

The Brennan Center for Justice maintains an archive of documents relating to GOP attempts to suppress minority voting that dates back to 1982:

DNC v. RNC Consent Decree

November 5, 2016

In 1982, after caging in predominantly African-American and Latino neighborhoods, the Republican National Committee and New Jersey Republican State Committee entered into a consent decree with their Democratic party counterparts. Under that decree and its 1987 successor, the Republican party organizations agreed to allow a federal court to review proposed “ballot security” programs, including any proposed voter caging.

The consent decree has been invoked several times, by the parties to the decree and by others. In late 2008, the Democratic National Committee and Obama for America sought to enforce the consent decree, claiming that the RNC had not submitted alleged ballot security operations for review. After the election, the RNC asked the federal court to vacate or substantially modify the decree. The court denied the RNC's motion to vacate the consent decree and ordered the decree remain in effect until December 2017. The RNC then appealed to the Third Circuit, which unanimously rejected the appeal and affirmed the District Court's decision. A subsequent petition for rehearing en banc by the full Third Circuit, and a certiorari petition to U.S. Supreme Court, were denied.

On October 26, 2016, the DNC filed a motion asking that the court find the RNC had violated the decree. On November 5, after abbreviated discovery, the district court denied the DNC’s request, ruling that the DNC had not provided sufficient evidence of coordination between the Trump campaign and the RNC on ballot-security operations, but will allow the DNC to offer further evidence after the election.
The reason the GOP's "voter fraud" promotion didn't enjoy more press earlier is because in the 1980s conservatives did not have Fox News, talk radio, and social media to promote it. But the fraud fraud is nothing new. Suppressing the vote has been a GOP project for decades.

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Request a copy of For The Win, my county-level election mechanics primer, at tom.bluecentury at gmail.