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Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Vote Fraud Myth: The media wakes; will Wisconsin's conservatives?

I thought I was clever when I called vote fraud the Republicans' Freddy Krueger, and started putting the pieces together that the whole thing was just people getting punk'd by Karl Rove. The traditional media has finally been picking up on the theme, too.

Yesterday's Washington Post, for example, has Harold Meyerson:
With the home office in Washington breathing down their necks, why did these experienced prosecutors fail to bring voter fraud indictments? The crime, after all, had become a major Justice Department concern. Starting in 2002, Justice required every U.S. attorney to designate a district election officer, whose job it would be to end this epidemic of electoral fraud. These officers' attendance was required at annual training seminars, where they were taught how to investigate, prosecute and convict fraudulent voters. The statutes were adequate; the investigators were primed, well funded and raring to go.

And nothing happened. For the simple reason that when it comes to voter fraud in America, there's no there there. Voter fraud is a myth -- not an urban or rural myth, as such, but a Republican one.
McClatchy newspapers has been doing a bang-up job on the vote fraud myth so far, and they had this last week, reinforcing the local angle:
Only weeks before last year's pivotal midterm elections, the White House urged the Justice Department to pursue voter-fraud allegations against Democrats in three battleground states, a high-ranking Justice official has told congressional investigators.

In two instances in October 2006, President Bush's political adviser, Karl Rove, or his deputies passed the allegations on to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' then-chief of staff, Kyle Sampson.

Sampson tapped Gonzales aide Matthew Friedrich, who'd just left his post as chief of staff of the criminal division. In the first case, Friedrich agreed to find out whether Justice officials knew of "rampant" voter fraud or "lax" enforcement in parts of New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and report back.

But Friedrich declined to pursue a related matter from Wisconsin, he told congressional investigators, because an inquiry so close to an election could inappropriately sway voting results. Friedrich decided not to pass the matter on to the criminal division for investigation, even though Sampson gave him a 30-page report prepared by Republican activists that made claims of voting fraud.
Read the whole thing; it looks like perhaps it wasn't Steve Biskupic's specious prosecution of Georgia Thompson that saved him from the rath of Rove, but rather Rove's fear of Jim Sensenbrenner.

Anyway, we now have the "30-page report" (the last 30 pages of this .pdf) that Republicans here prepared about vote fraud in Milwaukee. As Paul Kiel points out,
it was nothing but a collection of news clippings related to voter fraud allegations in Milwaukee... in the 2004 election.

Two things about that. First, it appears that Rove wanted the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation of two-year old allegations right before the 2006 election. But second, these allegations had already been investigated -- as part of the most comprehensive effort by a U.S. attorney's office to investigate voter fraud in the entire country. The U.S. attorney there, Steven Biskupic, launched a joint task force with local prosecutors to probe allegations of fraud in the 2004 election. Finally, more than a year after the election, Biskupic announced that the task force hadn't in fact found evidence of a conspiracy to steal the election. But prosecutors nevertheless prosecuted nearly twenty individual cases for a variety of voting-related offenses (Biskupic's office handled 14). No U.S. attorney office in the country can touch those numbers.

But that apparently wasn't good enough for Rove, who thought that Biskupic had been "lax" in his approach to voter fraud.
The most-commented-upon posts I've written lately have been the ones on this vote fraud myth. Many of those comments are from conservatives who can't seem to stomach the notion that they've been punk'd, that Rove has pulled one over on them, that the state's Republicans are using and abusing their trust. I don't know how much more needs to come out, how many more times we have to go over the story, how much clearer it needs to be. How much longer until, as those running from Freddy Krueger should, Wisconsin's conservative's will wake up already?

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