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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/13/08

The False Narrative of "Voter Fraud"

Author 163
Message Kenneth Anderson
A false election narrative of "voter fraud" is currently under construction in various swing states and being built by the Republican party and their media organ, Fox News.  The narrative, that the Democratic party and, more specifically, Barack Obama, will steal the election through fraudulent voter registration, is being fleshed out by various state Republican party organisations, Republican Attorneys General and the McCain campaign.  A false equivalence is being made between fraudulent voter registration and voter fraud.

Mere weeks before the crucial presidential election, the Republican party and their various agencies have uncorked a wide spread effort to save the failing campaign of John McCain.  Critical swing states that are now seen drifting toward Obama have been targeted with outright and likely illegal voter roll purges, or, in states where the GOP is not completely in command of the election apparatus, specious lawsuits have been filed that demand voter registration verification against unreliable databases in order to exact large-scale purges of voter rolls.  Despite federal law prohibiting voter roll purges within 90 days of election day, tens of thousands of voters in swing states have been recently stricken from voter rolls.

This now happening in Ohio, where a Reagan-appointed US District Court judge declared that Secretary of State Brunner is violating federal law by refusing to purge registration forms when mismatches occur between the state Motor Vehicles Administration database or the federal Social Security database, databases known to be fraught with errors.  Ohio's Greene County sheriff, Republican Gene Fischer, has demanded the voter registration files of all voters who took advantage of an early voting window.  Greene county is heavily populated by college students.  Prior to this move, the state GOP filed a lawsuit to prevent early voting from happening at all.

In Michigan, the state GOP there proudly announced their intention to challenge voters in heavily Democratic precincts based on recent home foreclosures by claiming future discrepancies with voter registration addresses.  It was a clear if nuanced signal that the GOP still believes only property owners ought to be able to vote.

In Wisconsin, Republican state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen filed a similar lawsuit as that in Ohio, demanding verification of all voter registrations completed since January, 2006.  He lied through his teeth and claimed he had no communication with the state GOP in the matter.  Van Hollen is the co-chair of the Wisconsin McCain campaign.

In Missouri, Republican election director Charlene Davis made the extraordinary claim that her board is "bogged down" in Kansas City by new registrations, and implied that these mountains of new voter registrations were coming in from ACORN. The process was being swamped, ACORN was surely up to no good.  And what this vast problem supposedly being cause by ACORN?  Three weeks ago, Missouri's election board found 135 "questionable cards."  This led to the local FBI office promising to investigate the matter, as "officials in Missouri" were dispatched to seize documents from the ACORN office there.  The problem: ACORN has done no registrations in Kansas City since August.

On it goes.  El Paso county's Republican county clerk, Robert Blanik, spread misinformation in an effort todisenfranchise student voters in Colorado, where almost 20% of all the state's voters have been disappeared from voter rolls.  Threatening "vote-scam" fliers were distributed in black neighborhoods in Philadelphia. Illegal voter challenges were planned by the GOP in Missouri.  Ballots with "Barack Osama" as the Democratic candidate were sent to voters in New York. 

The statistical target of these multi-state purges and the various other shenanigans is the heavily Democratic "new voters."  Democrats now have 11 million more voters than the GOP, as that party has only watched its own number of registered voters decline every year since 2005.

The GOP are in trouble and they know it.  With the McCain campaign looking in tatters and poll numbers darkening for them everyday, prospects for Senator McCain in an honest election grow dimmer by the day.  Desperation has now set in.  The strategy is set: purge voters, sew confusion, and stomp up and down about "voter fraud" emanating from a grass roots community organization most Americans have never heard of.  Until now.

Purposing the False Narrative of 'Voter Fraud'

 GOP-led vilification of the grass roots community organization, ACORN, is now in full swing, after state police in Nevada raided the office of ACORN in Las Vegas in a desperate attempt to paint the organisation as rife with voter fraud intent.  The only evidence that voter registrations gathered by ACORN were problematic were actually provided by ACORN itself, which flags potentially invalid voter registrations and submits those registrations to state election authorities.  The raid has been describe as a "stunt," a stunt designed to do bolster the voter fraud narrative.  More raids in other critical swing states are expected.  And let's be clear about one thing: ACORN actively canvases low income -- usually inner city -- neighborhoods throughout the country in an effort to get more low income citizens involved in the electoral process.  This is exactly not the demographic Republicans want to see enfranchised in elections.

These GOP driven state-level efforts have attracted the attention of Fox News, which is now in full propaganda mode, breathlessly pronouncing the phrase "voter fraud" and "ACORN" at every possible opportunity.  During one broadcast, a Fox News host pondered recent events:
"Barack Obama is ahead right now in many of the battleground states -- the same states where investigations are under way for voter fraud. Is this a coincidence?"
Clearly, this is not a coincidence.  These "investigations" are being triggered by local Republican agents.  They represent a direct response to the looming electoral defeat of John McCain and are occurring in conjunction with GOP-orchestrated challenges to new voter registration.  But the Fox News implication is exactly reversed from reality, ridiculously claiming that pre-election polls of an Obama surge in swing states must be somehow be the result of fraudulent voter registrations.

This is senseless in the extreme.  That doesn't matter to Fox News viewers, though, and it does serve the primary purpose: to inject "ACORN" into the national debate and to further the narrative that a program of massive Democratic "voter fraud" is in the works.  This narrative has now moved up the chain, as John McCain and his "female Sancho Panza" are now routinely denouncing ACORN and "voter fraud" in front of their rabid fans, who respond in kind with a variety of threats and accusations against Barack Obama.

Even today and during the midst of a global financial meltdown, Treasury Secretary Paulson held a news conference to outline the latest plans to stanch the stock market bleeding. Fox News refused to acknowledge the event in favour of continuing a segment on ACORN, uninterrupted by trivialities like world-wide calamity.
Fox News, in the middle of their Brit Hume panel discussion (Brit wasn't there), didn't "bat a TV eye," nor mentioned a word about the news conference, but–after a commercial break–continued with an "ACORN" report (and alleged ties to Obama) throughout the entire time that Paulson was speaking to the nation, and to the world, about one of the worst financial crises we have ever faced.
The purpose of the narrative cannot be too lightly stated.  In the event that GOP election rigging, voter disenfranchisement and the expected waves of confusion, failing machines and voter challenges at the polls on election night fail to deliver John McCain a win in November, "voter fraud" will the first thing to ring out from Republicans across the country.  The narrative now being trucked out on the campaign trail and bellowed by the likes of Sean Hannity will serve in the event of an electoral loss to cast enormous doubt on the legitimacy of an Obama win.  Lawsuits will be likely.

At this point, the purpose of the McCain-Palin tactic of inciting their hopelessly ignorant yet perfervid fan-base becomes understandable.  Should Obama actually take the election, these people can be counted to to perform the heated street show of protest, fully invested as they now are that "voter fraud" will be the way Obama will have won the election.  Facts don't and won't matter to these people, who are already displaying the characteristics of a mob.  And that is exactly what the McCain campaign wants, a horde of unruly minions screaming in the streets that they have been robbed.  And unlike the Brooks Brothers riot in Florida, the GOP won't even have to pay the stooges for their impassioned, possibly violent demonstrations.


As dreadful as it is, one can only marvel at Republicans' ability to force a false narrative into the public sphere.  The country has experienced this repeatedly in the Bush era; 9/11 was a "failure of intelligence," Iraq is a threat with weapons of mass destruction, Iran has "nuclear weapons," Afghanistan was a success (prior to its looming failure), the economy is strong, Bush "won" the election in 2004.  Some of these narratives have openly unraveled.  Others, like the 2004 election, have been crucially buried by a complicit corporate media.

We are witnessing another one spooling out before us.  Despite evidence of a politicized Justice Department expending enormous energy and expense hunting for voter fraud were none could be found, and punishing those who refused to engage in false prosecutions, and in spite of the DoJ's own report that vote fraud was virtually non-existent, the narrative of "voter fraud" has now been fully launched by the GOP in the weeks prior to the presidential election.

It does not matter that voter fraud is not real.  What matters is delegitimizing the potential electoral win by Obama.  It is an effort to create sufficient outrage within the GOP base that legal challenges to the electoral results can and will be not only justified but demanded.  Even if the corporate media refuses to openly admit that, in a truly honest election, Obama would win by a wide margin, that the race really has been over for months now, they will not engage in any meaningful way to counter this latest Republican narrative.  Fox News, the Weekly Standard, theNational Review, and the fevered realms of right wing blogs will force the nominal media into accommodation.

After years of known electoral fraud, of Republican-linked corporations and their daft voting machines, after numerous, anomalous election results, suddenly and in a matter of days, the Republican machine has pressed the issue of "voter fraud" to the front and center of this election.  It is a case that demonstrates the power centers of American politics, where GOP-connected corporations rig elections and are rewarded for their efforts, while humble, community organizations that encourage the poor and the dispossessed to vote are lambasted on the national political stage.  This is a disgrace beyond measure, and it must be stopped.


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An astronomer who has worked on a number of NASA projects, Ken lives in Baltimore, where he devotes his scientific training to observations and inferences about current affairs, politics and the media. He authors Shockfront and The Bonehead (more...)
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