Secretary of State John Husted – with help from the Columbus Dispatch — continues to repeat the Big Lie in this election, that voter fraud is an issue in Ohio. On Sunday, Husted and the Dispatch continued to try to stir the pot on election fraud. Fortunately, other media outlets in Ohio effectively called them out on this BS.
Regular Plunderbund readers know why this is important. The Republicans this election cycle have engaged in a national effort to restrict the ability of people to vote through voter ID laws and other restrictions. In Ohio – which already has a voter ID law – the efforts have focused on restricting early voting.
Sunday, the Dispatch ran a front page article titled, “Voter rolls in Ohio are bloated, experts say.” The article cites as evidence that Ohio’s voter rolls contain about 1.6 million inactive voters. Inactive voters are generally people who have not voted in recent elections or have moved.
So is this a big deal? No.
The primary reason that the voting rolls contain lots of inactive voters is simple: people move. Hard to believe, but when they move, people commonly don’t tell their OLD Board of Elections that they have moved to a new county. This is especially true of students.
Interestingly, despite the headline claiming that “experts” say the voting lists are “bloated” – no actual non-partisan expert is quoted in the article. Certainly nobody is quoted in the article to justify the loaded term, “bloated.”
Frankly, we are surprised that the number of inactive voters is so low. More importantly, we aren’t sure why this is a big deal – the only problem we can see is that a precinct list may take a couple more pages to print out.
John Husted – fresh off his loss on early voting in Federal Court – jumps into the fray. He says, “Common sense says that the odds of voter fraud increase the longer these ineligible voters are allowed to populate our rolls.” Husted seems, as the Dispatch suggests, to be taking his talking points from a right wing group called Judicial Watch, which has filed lawsuits in a number of states relating to inactive voters on the voting lists. So far, none of these lawsuits have been successful.
Husted is wrong and his efforts to suggest that voter fraud is a problem in Ohio is reckless.
A trial lawyer we know said over breakfast, “whenever someone refers to ‘common sense’ to support a claim, that means he has no evidence.”
We decided to see what a real expert on election law says about the evidence. Daniel P. Tokaji, a law professor at Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law, is the most knowledgeable person we know about election law. Last year, he wrote:
I’ve closely studied Ohio’s election system for the past eight years, and am not aware of a single proven incident of in-person voter impersonation fraud – that is, a voter going to the polls pretending to be someone he or she is not. If there are any incidents of in-person voter impersonation in Ohio, they are extremely rare. Yet that is the only type of fraud that a government-issued photo ID requirement can even hope to address.
Fortunately, someone in Ohio has the journalistic integrity to actually report on this issue. And by that we mean review the data to see if the hypothetical threat of voter fraud cited by Husted is true. The Cincinnati Enquirer – who we recall endorsed McCain in 2008 — reported on a study funded by the Carnegie Foundation performed by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. This study concluded that the rate of voter fraud is “infinitesimal.”
The actual rate of voter fraud is “about one out of about every 15 million prospective voters.” That means that in Ohio, where we have a bit less than 8 million registered voters (including inactives) we have about a 50% chance of having one case of voting fraud.
The Enquirer, unlike the Dispatch, quotes another actual voting rights expert, expert David Schultz, professor of public policy at Hamline University School of Business. He is quoted as saying, “Voter fraud at the polls is an insignificant aspect of American elections. There is absolutely no evidence that (voter impersonation fraud) has affected the outcome of any election in the United States . . .”
What about the widespread voter impersonation scheme Husted claims he is worried about? Yet another expert cited by the Cincinnati paper says that no data supports this claim: “Voter impersonation is practically nonexistent because it is difficult to do and it is difficult to pull people into conspiracies to do it,” said Lorraine Minnite, professor of public policy and administration at Rutgers University.
What does this say about the Dispatch? Perhaps the ember of journalistic integrity we highlighted last week has been extinguished. The next 60 days will be a big test whether the Dispatch is more interested in electing Republicans or reporting the news fairly and accurately. Using a loaded term like “bloated” in a headline that refers to non-existent experts is not a good start.
More importantly, what does it say about Ohio’s top election official when he continues to try to raise concerns about voter fraud, even when there is no evidence that this is an actual problem?
Answer: It says that that Husted is trying to undermine public confidence in the results of this coming election. The appearance of corruption in voting can be more powerful that the actual danger of corruption. For this reason, Husted should be telling the truth that voter fraud is not a big concern in order to maintain confidence in our political system.
This is important. The Tea Party and the Right Wing in this country have spent the last four years attacking the legitimacy of the Obama Presidency. Previously, it was “Birther” and related charges. Now, the leaders of the Republican Party, like Husted, are giving them a new narrative to the Paranoid Right in the event that Obama wins in a close election: Obama stole the election as a result of widespread voter fraud.
Enough of the Big Lie.
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