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Voter Suppression Industry Gears Up For Long Hot Summer

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Cross-posted at Project Vote's blog, Voting Matters

Weekly Voting Rights News Update

Last week, we wrote about how some reporters have stopped playing into the hands of voter suppression operatives and suddenly acted like journalists by actually investigating partisan claims of voter fraud in relation to voter registration drives. Until the Virginia press corps showed how it should be done, this kind of every-day feat of journalism had been as rare as voter fraud itself.  But, if this is August of an election year, then this must be voter suppression season.

And the favorite target of cynical and desperate attacks on voter participation are the large scale voter registration drives carried out among traditionally underrepresented populations like African-Americans, Latinos, low-income populations, and young people. True to form, August has been delivering voter suppression shenanigans in spades and with Election Day just 82 days away, we suspect there will be much, much more to come.

Case in point: This week, the Wall Street Journal reports how the large and sustained efforts to get eligible citizens onto the voter rolls in time for Election Day has become "the new battleground" between those that want to create access to voting and those who want to inhibit it.

According to the Journal, "Republicans are moving to examine surges in voter registration in some states," particularly in Pennsylvania and Virginia, despite the fact that election officials in "Virginia and other states say there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud so far."

In a recent training session held by the National Republican Lawyers Association, Foley & Lardner lawyer Cleta Mitchel "warned about what she regards as a long pattern of abuses in registration by groups such as [Project Vote's partner in the largest non-partisan voter registration effort in U.S. history – ed.] Acorn and their Democratic allies." Both ACORN and Project Vote are non-partisan organizations.

"'We're all for getting people involved in the process...and getting them to the polls,'she said in an interview later. 'What we're not for is registering fake people at fake addresses, and creating barriers to trying to identify voter fraud where it exists, which is everywhere. It's a growing problem, because of the professional vote-fraud denier industry.'" (Note to the Journal, if AttorneyGate showed us anything, it was that this type of scurrilous and hyperbolic attack from partisan operatives is far from being a "new" battleground).

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The shift in tactics by voter suppression operatives like Ms. Mitchel to include attacks on the carefully-researched studies by respected academics and on the voting rights organizations who disseminate their results as part of a "professional voter-fraud denier industry" is notable. It shows that groups like the NRLA aren’t so much concerned with the integrity of the electoral system as they are in creating an atmosphere conducive to the suppression of currently eligible voters and amenable to the adoption of public policies (such as voter identification, proof of citizenship, strict regulation of voter registration drives, and voter caging) that disenfranchise large segments of the voting population.

Bob Bauer explains it on his blog More Soft Money Hard Law:

"This is a fresh rhetorical tactic in Republican 'anti-fraud' politics.  The attack on 'fraud' has always suffered from a severe shortage of evidence.  Mitchell solves this problem, after a fashion, by turning the inquiry from the assertion of fraud 'everywhere,' sorely wanting in factual support, to its 'denial.'  If widespread fraud is being "denied," by a professional industry that has formed for this purpose, then it is in the nature of "denial" that what is being denied must be true—indisputably true.  And 'denial,' after all, is neither intellectually nor morally respectable, devoted as it is to the mendacious assault on a known truth.

Denial, Mitchell says quite explicitly, is no innocent thing, not mere foolishness.  It is complicity in the perpetuation of an evil.  For if vote fraud is 'a growing problem,'  it is so because it has been denied: 'because of the professional vote-fraud denier industry.'

So there it is:

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   1.   We have scant evidence of fraud.

   2.   We know, however, that it is "everywhere."

   3.   We know it because it is being "denied," by a professional
        industry committed to denial.

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Project Vote is the leading technical assistance and direct service provider to the civic participation community. Since its founding in 1982, Project Vote has provided professional training, management, evaluation (more...)

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