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Monday, October 22, 2012

Voter ID fraud: The Al Franken example

I think that we should employ the phrase "voter ID fraud"  -- rather than "voter fraud" -- when we talk about the right-wing myth that large numbers of ineligible Democrats misrepresent themselves at the polls. You've probably already read a great deal about these allegations, but The New Yorker just published what may be the very best single piece on the topic. The investigation centers on the chief author of this mythos, the nerdy Republican lawyer Hans von Spakovsky.

The one instance of voter ID fraud that right-wingers love to point to occurred during the hotly contested vote that brought Al Franken into office. Writer Jane Mayer dispatches the legend handily:
Von Spakovsky said, “The idea that there’s some deep conspiracy is just laughable.” His own work, however, has suggested that liberals engage in conspiracies. “Who’s Counting?” opens with an insinuating account of how Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat, was elected to the Senate in 2008. According to the book, there is “compelling” evidence, compiled by a citizens’ watchdog group, that “1,099 ineligible felons voted illegally” in the contest—“more than three times” Franken’s victory margin. The subhead of the chapter is “Would Obamacare have passed without voter fraud?”

Fox News and other conservative media outlets have promoted this argument. However, Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County Attorney, who oversees Minneapolis, told me, “Those numbers are fraudulent. We investigated, and at the end of the day, out of over four hundred allegations in the county, we charged thirty-eight people. Their research was bad, sloppy, incredible. They are just liars.” Some of the targeted voters weren’t actually felons; others were on probation and hadn’t realized that they remained ineligible to vote. To be convicted of voter fraud, a suspect needs to have criminal intent.
I've always wondered why all the Fox news-watchers presume that a felon would necessarily vote for Al Franken. The United States Senate is not a place where issues involving state-level crime and punishment are usually decided. Franken's voting record on crime-related issues has been indistinguishable from that of most Republicans. (Did you know that he voted to extend the Patriot Act? Disturbing.) Franken supported the stimulus, which gave Minnesota an extra billion dollars to hire more cops.

Besides, who says former crooks trend Democratic? I know Fox News says so, but I don't trust Fox.


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