At a DC press conference this morning, the GOP trotted out two elder statesmen to do its dirty work – former senators John Danforth and Warren Rudman. Echoing accusations made by McCain and the RNC against the community organizing group ACORN, they falsely warned that voter fraud could throw the election into chaos.
With a straight face Danforth said that 2008 could be like 2000 if we don’t act now. But I’m sorry, wasn’t 2000 when his party strong-armed the recount and disenfranchised thousands of Floridians? But never mind that.
In fact, today’s press conference was just the latest effort by the GOP to justify voter suppression under the guise of so-called election integrity. As in the past, Republicans have latched onto a few colorful but insignificant examples – e.g. a man who was registered to vote 73 times and a 7-year-old child who was registered – to advocate for draconian enforcement measures that disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters, typically minority and low-income voters.
But there are already safeguards in place that prevent people who submit fraudulent voter registrations from actually voting. In fact, there is no evidence of significant voter fraud of any variety anywhere in the nation. At the urging of the GOP, the Justice Department sought evidence of fraud but came up empty-handed.
However, there is evidence for significant vote suppression and disenfranchisement. As the New York Times reported last week: “Tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law.” This is what Danforth and Rudman would have talked about today if they really cared about election integrity.
They also would have talked about the various barriers to voting that members of their party have erected, like rejecting voter registration forms not printed on 80-pound bond paper or requiring names on voter registration forms to exactly match records in existing databases (e.g. Mike R. Neuman would be rejected if listed elsewhere as Michael R. Neuman). Or how about the strict voter ID laws put in place by Republicans? They seem reasonable enough, until you consider that millions of voting-age Americans (perhaps as high as 10%) do not have driver’s licenses.
The logic behind the GOP’s efforts is as simple as it is undemocratic: the fewer people who vote, the better off Republicans candidates will be. When you hear Republicans talk about vote fraud, here’s what they really mean:
Kathryn Kolbert is President of People For the American Way.