Is the GOP Trying to Gaslight Americans on Voter Fraud?

voter fraud
Republican Strategy: blocking voters since 1971. Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution below.
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Being afraid of huge numbers of noncitizens voting in US elections is a bit like worrying about a zombie invasion. It sounds like a major problem in theory but it’s not something to be overly concerned about in real life.

We know this. The data is very clear on the occurrence of in-person voter fraud. It is a crime that is extraordinarily rare. We have explained why: The risk is enormous and the reward is negligible. There is also no anecdotal evidence, i.e. successful prosecutions of Americans who voted illegally.

The notion that noncitizens, a group of people intent on flying below the radar, are registering and voting in huge numbers is equally ridiculous.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few people who try to cast fraudulent votes or that noncitizens, either intentionally or through ignorance, don’t occasionally register to vote. But there is simply no evidence that suggests this is happening on a large scale. We’re talking about a handful of people among millions.

Yet, somehow, Republican officials in Texas came up with a list of nearly 100,000 names of registered voters whom they suspected of not being citizens. Furthermore, these officials claimed that 58,000 cast a ballot at least once between 1996 and 2018.

While that would constitute a very low percentage of Texas voters within that 22-year span — and far below the millions of noncitizens President Donald Trump believes to have voted in 2016 — it would still be a massive problem.

Not surprisingly, however, the numbers didn’t hold up, and any assertions of tens of thousands of noncitizens having voted in the Lone Star State unraveled almost immediately (but not quickly enough to prevent Trump from tweeting about it).

Since the list was released, tens of thousands of names have already been cleared. In one county, for example, all 366 of the names that had been flagged have been determined to be citizens.

That begs the question why high-ranking Texas officials would roll out this sham of a list with great fanfare only to open themselves up to ridicule and lawsuits.

There are a couple of reasons: For one, actions like this intimidate new voters — in this case people who became naturalized citizens but are worried that maybe they are not eligible at all and don’t want to take the risk of running afoul of the law.

Perhaps more importantly, by sowing distrust in elections, Republican officials from Trump on down are laying the groundwork for writing new election laws that disenfranchise eligible voters.

That is certainly consistent with something we have tried to alert the public to in the past. Instead of trying to adjust their politics to an increasingly diverse country, the GOP has been on a crusade to tailor the electorate (and congressional districts) to people who support their old ideology.

But the more young people and minorities vote, the more difficult that task gets and the more extreme the disenfranchisement of these voters has to be.

That is one explanation for why Trump has been trying to gaslight America on this issue since shortly after he was elected.

The fake issues of noncitizens voting or in-person voter fraud also distract people from the very real problems of voter suppression, poll closures, non-verifiable elections, and gerrymandering.

But don’t expect those to get addressed in Texas, a state whose election laws seem to be designed to send as many Republicans as possible to Washington and not to ensure that eligible voters get to participate in elections.

As Democrats in Congress and in state governments across the country are trying to fix the broken election system, and as activists seek to get democracy-restoring measures onto state ballots in 2020, expect Republicans to do what they do best: obfuscate the issue, disregard science, and invent non-existent dangers in an effort to cling to power.

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The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Factory (Andreas Praefcke / Wikimedia – CC BY 3.0) and tanks (Ryan Lackey / Flickr – CC BY 2.0).


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from thief (joealfaraby / Pixabay).

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One response to “Is the GOP Trying to Gaslight Americans on Voter Fraud?”

  1. David Harrell says:

    Democratic & civil rights activist decries election fraud and calls for voter ID:

    Dorothy Tillman, former Southern Christian Leadership Conference organizer who worked closely with Martin Luther King, helped elect Chicago’s first black mayor, and served 22 years as a Democratic alderman in Chicago, now hosts a radio show on WVON.
    On a recent show, a black caller expressed disgust with the “CityKey” city ID that Chicago has been handing out to illegal immigrants with the thinly veiled intent of allowing them to vote – thumbing its nose at federal law.
    Tillman called it a “disgrace.”
    Also,Tillman said:
    “Some fraud is going on here. I think you should have an ID when you vote, and on the Census they need to say are you a citizen. There’s nothing wrong with that. Black folks are fighting the wrong fight.”
    (Dorothy Tillman, Coffee, Tea & A Conversation on Blog Talk Radio, 9/29/18, time 57:32)

    “Several African-American aldermen on Tuesday again questioned the need for a city ID program aimed primarily at helping Latino immigrants who entered the country illegally… Emanuel has been courting Latino voters ahead of a 2019 re-election bid.

    (“African-American aldermen bash $1.1 million for municipal ID program aimed at immigrants” — Chicago Tribune, 10/24/17)

    “Municipal ID cards that Mayor Rahm Emanuel is launching for undocumented immigrants and others will be a valid form of identification for people both registering to vote and voting in Chicago, according to a letter aldermen received Friday.
    Clerk Anna Valencia, who’s heading up the CityKey program, cited state election rules to explain why the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners will accept the card. …
    the city is not planning to keep any of the background information applicants provide to establish their home addresses, so undocumented immigrants aren’t afraid federal immigration agents can use the data to track them down …”

    Ald. Anthony Sposato: “Voter fraud would be my biggest concern.”

    [NOTE THE COUNTERARGUMENT]
    “City Council Latino Caucus Chairman Ald. Gilbert Villegas said he doesn’t foresee the municipal ID leading to widespread fraud.
    “It’s not changing the state law, AND THERE’S NOTHING STOPPING SOMEONE FROM GETTING A FAKE ID NOW AND GOING TO TRY TO VOTE,” said Villegas, 36th.
    Valencia’s letter notes that voters currently AREN’T REQUIRED TO PROVE they are American citizens under state law. They simply must attest to their citizenship. [i.e., they can lie with virtually no detection or enforcement efforts]

    “The list of the documents the city will accept from people to establish their identities and residency is long, and includes … expired foreign passports, foreign driver’s licenses,… and dozens of other forms”

    Of course, with a huge wink, the city clerk said: “We want to underscore that if you are undocumented, it is illegal to vote even with any of the documents accepted as proof of identity or residency under the Illinois Election Code — everything from a debit card, utility bill or union card,” LeFurgy said [SPELLING IT OUT IN CASE TheY NEEDED HELP FIGURING OUT HOW TO ILLEGALY VOTE]
    (“Chicago ID card would be valid voter identification” – Chicago Tribune, 2/16/18)