FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

What Voter Fraud?

This year the Republicans are rolling out one of their oldest and most misleading charges: that Democrats and their supporters are planning to flood the polls with illegal voters. Although the GOP first raised a hue and cry against Democratic voter fraud more than 40 years ago they have failed to turn up any credible evidence to support their allegations. The purpose of such charges has been to discredit their Democratic opponents and discourage minorities and poor people from voting.

In the 1964 presidential contest between Democrat Lyndon Johnson and Republican Barry Goldwater, Republicans launched “Operation Eagle Eye,” ostensibly to guard against illegal voters. The party planned to station 100,000 “eagle eyes” at polling places across America to spot fraudulent voters. In fact, this “ballot security” operation was targeted at minority neighborhoods in 36 cities and circulated handbills which warned that authorities could arrest voters who had an outstanding parking ticket or a traffic violation. Operation Eagle Eye turned up not a single fraudulent voter and had little impact Johnson’s landslide victory.

During the next twenty years similar ballot security operations failed to uncover voter fraud, but continued efforts to discourage voting by Democratic-leaning groups. This practice of “voter suppression” became so notorious that in response to a 1986 lawsuit file by Democrats the National Republican Party agreed to a consent decree in federal court that prohibited the party from engaging in anti-fraud activities that targeted minority voters. Of course, they could still level charges of voter fraud against Democrats and liberal groups.

In 1998, I had the opportunity to examine first-hand charges of voter fraud, when Republican gubernatorial candidate for governor of Maryland Ellen Sauerbrey alleged that fraudulent votes cast by dead people, prison inmates, and unregistered persons accounted for the 5,993 vote victory of Democrat Parris Glendening. As the state of Maryland’s consultant on voting rights I was asked by Attorney General Joseph Curran to determine whether there was any truth to Sauerbrey’s claims.

My own work uncovered some unintentional errors by election officials, but not a single fraudulent vote among the 1.4 million ballots cast in the election. Likewise several weeks of judicial discovery and a trial in State District Court failed to uncover any illegal voters. The trial judge Raymond G. Thieme, who said in open court that he voted for Sauerbrey, tossed out her lawsuit. The case reached comic opera proportions when several allegedly dead voters began talking, including some who said they voted for Ms. Sauerbrey.

The administration of George W. Bush has made the discovery and prosecution of voter fraud a top priority.  But its labors uncovered a molehill not a mountain of fraud. From 2002 to 2007 the federal government has charged only 120 persons nationwide with voter fraud. These were all isolated cases against single individuals or small groups involved with local contests. Not single case implicated the Democratic or Republican parties or affiliated groups in efforts to influence the outcome of statewide, congressional, senatorial, or presidential elections.

In the current campaign Republicans have charged that ACORN, a liberal community organizing group, has committed fraud in its efforts to register new voters nationwide. In an extraordinary fit of hyperbole, John McCain said in the third presidential debate that ACORN “is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”

ACORN has been registering voters for many years. This year alone it registered some 1.3 million voters. Inevitably some forms will be false or inaccurate. But the submission of such forms only becomes voter fraud if efforts are made to cast votes based on fraudulent registrations.

Critics have derided ACORN for submitting registration forms in the names of Disney characters or Dallas Cowboy players. But does anyone seriously believe that the organization is planning to sneak voters into the polls under the name of Mickey Mouse or Tony Romo? A bipartisan report prepared for President Bush’s Election Assistance Commission in 2007 examined the alleged link between voter registration and electoral fraud. It concluded that “false registration forms have not resulted in polling place fraud.”

In a properly functioning democracy all votes must be fully and fairly counted. But the last thing that the American people need in the final days of this crucial presidential election is another debate over phony charges of voter fraud.

ALLAN J. LICHTMAN, a professor of history at American University, has been an expert witness in more than 75 voting rights cases and was an advisor to the Commission on Federal Election Reform, co-chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III. He is the author of White Protestant Nation.

 

Your Ad Here
 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Weekend Edition
March 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
The Ghost of Fascism in the Post-Truth Era
Gabriel Rockhill
Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests
H. Bruce Franklin
Trump vs. McCain: an American Horror Story
Paul Street
A Pox on the Houses of Trump and McCain, Huxleyan Media, and the Myth of “The Vietnam War”
Andrew Levine
Why Not Impeach?
Bruce E. Levine
Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream
Charles Pierson
Rick Perry, the Saudis and a Dangerous Nuclear Deal
Moshe Adler
American Workers Should Want to Transfer Technology to China
David Rosen
Trafficking or Commercial Sex? What Recent Exposés Reveal
Nick Pemberton
The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell
Binoy Kampmark
Reading Manifestos: Restricting Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement
Brian Cloughley
NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries
Ron Jacobs
Donald Cox: Tale of a Panther
Joseph Grosso
New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On
REZA FIYOUZAT
Is It Really So Shocking?
Bob Lord
There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t
Christy Rodgers
Achieving Escape Velocity
Monika Zgustova
Jessicah Pierre
The Real College Admissions Scandal
Peter Mayo
US Higher Education Influence Takes a Different Turn
Martha Rosenberg
New Study Confirms That Eggs are a Stroke in a Shell
Ted Rall
The Greatest Projects I Never Mad
George Wuerthner
Saving the Big Wild: Why Aren’t More Conservationists Supporting NREPA?
Norman Solomon
Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President
Ralph Nader
Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs
Tracey L. Rogers
White Supremacy is a Global Threat
Nyla Ali Khan
Intersectionalities of Gender and Politics in Indian-Administered Kashmir
Karen J. Greenberg
Citizenship in the Age of Trump: Death by a Thousand Cuts
Jill Richardson
Getting It Right on What Stuff Costs
stclair
Pacific Odyssey: Puddle Jumping in New Britain
Matt Johnson
The Rich Are No Smarter Than You
Julian Vigo
College Scams and the Ills of Capitalist-Driven Education
Brian Wakamo
It’s March Madness, Unionize the NCAA!
Beth Porter
Paper Receipts Could be the Next Plastic Straws
Christopher Brauchli
Eric the Heartbroken
Louis Proyect
Rebuilding a Revolutionary Left in the USA
Sarah Piepenburg
Small Businesses Like Mine Need Paid Family and Medical Leave
Robert Koehler
Putting Our Better Angels to Work
Peter A. Coclanis
The Gray Lady is Increasingly Tone-Deaf
David Yearsley
Bach-A-Doodle-Doo
March 21, 2019
Daniel Warner
And Now Algeria
Renee Parsons
The Supreme Court and Dual Citizenship
Eric Draitser
On Ilhan Omar, Assad Fetishism, and the Danger of Red-Brown “Anti-Imperialism”
Elizabeth Keyes
Broadway’s “Hamilton” and the Willing Suspension of Reality-Based Moral Consciousness
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail