Midterm election update from the Department of Irony:
Republicans have been warning us about the danger of voter fraud for ages. And now it does appear that a major congressional race was impacted by that very type of evil-doing. Feel free to chortle/snort/howl at the moon when I tell you the accused fraudsters are Republicans.
The fictional version of voter fraud involves sinister characters — possibly illegal immigrants! — showing up at the polls repeatedly, perhaps disguising their nefarious intent by wearing different hats or an occasional false mustache.
“In many places, like California, the same person votes many times … Millions and millions of people,” said Donald Trump. He’s been running on this theme since he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. We will not even bother to envision what Election Day would look like if millions and millions of extra voters were standing in line.
There’s also Trump’s more recent argument that voters should have to have special IDs because “if you go out and you want to buy groceries you need a picture on a card. You need an ID.”
People, where do you think this came from?
A) Traumatic childhood experience in which he treated his class to ice cream at the ballpark and told the vendor to “just send the bill to my Dad.”
B) Atlantic City incident when he tried to buy a bag of Doritos with a promissory note.
C) A bad dream in which he had to shop on his own in a store full of badly dressed people.
Beats me. Anyway, Trump appears to believe the only reason he has ever lost an election was phony voters. Remember his theory that the New Hampshire primary was flooded by thousands of people “brought in busses” from Massachusetts? In the real world, this sort of thing is approximately as common as the Asian Crested Ibis.
“We don’t see voter impersonation fraud anywhere in the country because it would be such a dumb way to steal an election,” said Richard Hasen, the author of “The Voting Wars.” When he was researching his book, Hasen said, he looked for a good example of multiple-voting and never found one.
Really, candidates of the future, if you want to steal an election just find ways to keep the other side from participating. You could try tweeting threats. (“Cheat at your own peril.”) Or simply using the whole voter fraud issue to make it more difficult for people to register, and more self-conscious about how they’ll be treated if they show up at the polls
For Republicans, all this has the convenient effect of discouraging people who are young, poor or minority from taking part in the system. Democrats are not really into the game. We would like to believe this is because of a firm belief in an open political process. But it’s probably also because, short of putting all the polls in fifth-floor walk-ups, there’s no easy way to keep elderly white men from voting.
As the midterms approached, Trump tweeted a warning that “Law enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any ILLEGAL VOTING.” And what do you know? There really did seem to be a case of possible election-stealing in a congressional race in North Carolina.
It involved a couple of counties with large African-American and rural populations, and the victim was the Democrat. Dan McCready, the Democratic candidate, is the party’s new dream red-district combo: Ivy League college graduate/Marine, who found faith while fighting in Iraq and was baptized in water from the Euphrates River. People thought he had a chance, and on election night things were close, very close. But the Republican candidate, Mark Harris, a conservative former pastor, seemed to be about 900 votes ahead. McCready conceded.
Then — whoops — it appeared those counties had been the site of some extensive “ballot harvesting.” This happens when supporters of one candidate go out and encourage people to request absentee ballots, which they then reap like so many rows of soybeans. Sometimes they help a voter fill out a ballot. Sometimes, if a voter doesn’t seem to be following the preferred line, they lose said ballot on the way to the mailbox.
Suffice it to say that investigations are underway. North Carolina actually has a very open election system and chances are pretty good that the authorities will figure this all out. “In most states if this was going on you wouldn’t be able to see it,” said Jason Roberts, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina.
This is one of the many moments when we give thanks that there are so few close elections in New York.
Several morals to this story, people. One is that Donald Trump is wrong about everything. (“All you have to do is go around, take a look at what’s happened over the years, and you’ll see. There are a lot of people — a lot of people — my opinion, and based on proof — that try and get in illegally and actually vote illegally.”)
O.K., not a shock. But feel free to notice that Trump has never bothered to mention any concern about absentee ballots. “It’s the absentee ballots that are most ripe for fraud,” said Roberts. “People have been saying that for years.”
Meanwhile in North Carolina, the Republican State Legislature is hard at work on a constitutional amendment to require voter IDs.