Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Alec MacGillis has a piece up at The New Republic titled "Republicans Need to Call Off the Voting Wars -- for Their Own Good." Even the title is naive -- yes, Republicans should drop this effort, for the good of democracy, but that's not going to happen, and they're certainly not going to do it "for their own good" because the downsides MacGillis lists really aren't likely to be disturbing Republicans' sleep.

MacGillis's Reason #1:
1. The voting wars are a costly, bureaucratic nightmare.

Conservatives claim to disdain bureaucratic waste and costly litigation -- which is exactly what the voting wars have devolved into. Every few days, it seems, brings a new court ruling on a state's voting laws, often reversing another ruling of just a few days or weeks prior. This back and forth is not just hard to keep track of -- it is also causing no end of bureaucratic disarray, which comes at a price to the taxpayer....
Oh, please. Isn't this exactly the argument that's often made against the death penalty -- that Death Row inmates tie up the courts in endless litigation, which means they're more burdensome to taxpayers than prisoners serving life sentences? Guess what -- when money is spent this way, conservatives don't care; the desire for vengeance against The Other trumps any interest in fiscal prudence. (It's not just war that makes right-wingers forget en masse that they prefer small government.)

MacGillis's Reason #2:
2. The absence of voter fraud is becoming impossible to deny.
Why? Because federal judges have looked at empirical evidence and concluded that voter impersonation is all but nonexistent in America?

Silly Alec -- that's not how the public decides these matters. The public, or at least the white conservative/moderate public, decides these matters based on how often stories about voter fraud seem to be in the air -- and Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media (not to mention ambitious right-wing prosecutors and elected officials) make sure that the subject keeps coming up.

In the past month, Fox has worked three voter fraud stories. This one ("No ID? Maryland Gins Up Voters, and Potential Fraud") doesn't even allege any actual fraud -- it just says that Maryland's ID laws make fraud possible, with no evidence that anyone is exploiting the alleged weaknesses. This story is titled "Voter Registration Fraud Probe Looms Over Tight Georgia Senate Race"; it concerns an investigation by Georgia's Republican secretary of state of a voter registration drive conducted by associates of the pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church. So, is there fraud? Here's what a non-Fox source, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, says:
Investigators backed away Wednesday from allegations a Democratic-backed group may have organized voter registration fraud, saying they can confirm 25 applications of more than 85,000 submitted to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
Oh. So 0.03% of the applications were incorrect -- or, to put it another way, 25 voters in a state of 10 million people. Yeah, right -- that's going to fraudulently tip an election.

The third Fox story is "Dem Conn. State Rep Arrested For Allegedly Voting 19 Times." Actually, what seems to have happened is that a Connecticut assemblywoman was charged with voting eight times in a district other than her own; there are also "10 counts of primary or enrollment violations and one count of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence," according to the New Haven Register. The stories don't say that she voted multiple times, or that she pretended to be someone she wasn't. She allegedly voted where she didn't live, that's all. She was allegedly caught doing so in a state without strict voter ID laws. She faces jail time and fines. So where's the huge widespread, election-tipping threat to democracy?

But tell enough of these stories and heartland right and center think the problem is widespread. And how are they likely to respond? By voting Republican -- because the GOP is the party that makes a big deal about its opposition to this sort of thing.

MacGillis says the GOP should give up the voter fraud fight because "Rand Paul says so" -- meaning that Paul recognizes that this fight keeps non-white voters permanently alienated from the GOP. But the GOP has put all its chips on the opposite strategy: give up on non-whites, enrage as many whites as possible, and try to get whites voting GOP as monolithically nationwide as they do in the South.

And is it working? Well, Republicans have the House. They control the majority of state houses and state legislatures. They're favorites to take the Senate. Maybe they can't win the White House next time, but if they run the rest, why should they care?

MacGillis's other reason is "The GOP's voter suppression efforts are motivating Democrats." Well, if that turns out to be true in this year's midterms, not just in the last and next presidential cycles, then, perhaps, there'll be a rethink. Democrats would have to score many huge upset wins because black voters are angry about vote suppression. One or two upsets won't be enough.

Of course, those Democratic wins will then be blamed on fraud. Also, wonkier Republicans will say, "See? Voter ID laws don't really suppress non-white turnout." And so the cycle will continue, unless non-white turnout rises so high so consistently that even Republicans can't bear to keep up the fight.

No comments: