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The Voter Fraud Narrative in the Wall Street Journal

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To the paper's credit, two editorials appeared in the Wall Street Journal, arguing various facets of fraud in America's electoral system. New York University media professor, Mark Crispin Miller, delivers an intellectually honest and fact-based indictment of Republican vote suppression effort in our current epoch. Hans von Spakovsky, a politically tainted GOP operative accused by senior Justice Department colleagues of blocking investigations of voting rights violations, delivers a fatuous and rigorously dishonest presentation of "voter fraud," employing innuendo, irrelevant historical artifact and logical fallacy.

While Spakovsky's article wends a tale of voting fraud through the ages, his argument for restrictive voting laws is based both on known voter fraud cases from decades or centuries ago, and current, almost entirely bogus problems. Even though many or most of his "facts" are specious or completely false -- suggesting that Republican allegations are de facto proof that there are 200,000 problematic registration in Ohio -- most readers surely won't know that. Which is exactly why he can and does use them.

Spakovsky pounds away on events, recent and not so, using conflation, unsupported extrapolation, and ludicrous interpolation to "prove" how bad things are. With this broad brush, he paints a dire, though non-existent, picture of the electoral scene in America.

For instance, examine this bit of logical nonsense:

In 1996, Loretta Sanchez won her congressional race in California against incumbent Bob Dornan by only 979 votes. An investigation found that more than 600 noncitizens voted, not quite enough to overturn the election. But that number of votes was more than the margin of victory in the 2000 presidential race in Florida, a state where the Department of Justice has convicted noncitizens for registering and voting.
Got that? Loretta Sanchez won an election in 1996 in California when 600 non-citizens voted, therefore, the Florida 2000 election could have gone to Gore because of voter fraud. This comprises several logical fallacies, especially fallacies of presumption, weak analogy and bandwagon fallacy. But Spakovksy does not care to argue from fact -- there were no known instances of fraudulent voting in the 2000 Florida election -- but from false implication. Readers, primed by weeks of "voter fraud" howling, probably won't care either. Ah, but it sounds reasonable!

That Spakovsky is even able to cite Florida 2000 in his specious argument is the result of the Republican orchestrated illegal purge the tens of thousands of legitimate voters from voter rolls in that election, something he expectedly fails to note. Rather, he is able to recite the false, media-accepted narrative that Bush "won" Florida when, in fact, a comprehensive recount showed without doubt that Gore had more votes, even without the purge. Without the purge, Gore would likely have won by several thousand or more votes. Presumably, Spakovsky believes it was in America's best interest to deny voting rights to tens of thousands of citizens in Florida, in order to combat a case of voter fraud in Colorado four years prior.

Unfortunately, both articles neglected coverage of the US Attorney scandal and what that Justice Department effort was all about. But we know that sworn congressional testimony by some of those fired revealed that certain Republicans in Congress, the White House and the Justice Department expected US Attorney's in key states to press false charges of voter fraud immediately prior to the election in 2006, in direct violation of the Department's own policy. The US Attorney's who resisted this effort were summarily dismissed. The DoJ's own five year study found a nationwide total of 24 convictions for "casting a false ballot." Despite John McCain's insipid assertion, this is hardly what one would describe as a menace to the fabric of democracy.

But Spakovsky does not hesitate to use a mere seven Kentucky indictments in 2003 to claim nationwide voting system ills, when, in fact, such low numbers suggest the obverse, especially in light of the DoJ report. He also claims that "voter fraud" was a "low priority" for prosecutors when we know exactly the opposite was true, that the Justice Department under George Bush made voter fraud a top priority.

On its surface, however, Spakovsky's article was a strong presentation of the the usual and false GOP talking points. Therein lies its danger.

So long as voter suppression agents like Spakovsky are able to make fallacious arguments in the pages of the Wall Street Journal, the GOP's ongoing voter fraud narrative will never go away. Grim testimony of this appeared in another recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal and, in the most matter of fact manner, implied that the obvious politicization of the Justice Department was a dubious partisan claim, unsubstantiated by known fact and testimony.

We've all read a lot about the "politicization" of the Justice Department in recent years,…

The scare quotes are theirs, as though the whole notion was mad. It is similar in kind to John McCain's derision of womens' "health." This is the kind of "thinking" being presented in the pages of Murdoch's new toy.

Indeed, it is rather astonishing that Mark Crispin Miller's article was published in the paper at all.  Perhaps there is still hope for fact and truth. We are about to find out in the days following November 4.


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Kenneth Anderson Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

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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