Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OPINION -

AT­LANTA — For years, Repub­li­cans have warned about wide­spread vot­ing-fraud al­legedly sway­ing elec­tion out­comes. The claim has be­come a con­ser­va­tive ob­ses­sion, with Pres­i­dent Trump even al­leg­ing that up to 5 mil­lion il­le­gal im­mi­grants voted in the 2016 elec­tions, just enough to ac­count for his loss in the pop­u­lar vote.

“Peo­ple get in line that have ab­so­lutely no right to vote and they go around in cir­cles,” he said last month. “Some­times they go to their car, put on a dif­fer­ent hat, put on a dif­fer­ent shirt, come in and vote again. It’s re­ally a dis­grace what’s go­ing on.”

Trump’s base be­lieves such sto­ries not be­cause they have ev­i­dence to sup­port them — de­spite years of des­per­ate search­ing, zero ev­i­dence has ever been found — but be­cause they need to be­lieve them. They need to be­lieve such sto­ries be­cause that false be­lief jus­ti­fies a whole range of voter-sup­pres­sion laws by which they at­tempt to dis­cour­age vot­ing by mi­nori­ties, stu­dents, young peo­ple and nat­u­ral­ized cit­i­zens who they fear would vote Demo­cratic.

We’ve seen those “elec­tion in­tegrity” laws pop up all over the coun­try, in­clud­ing here in Ge­or­gia. In many cases, also in­clud­ing Ge­or­gia, fed­eral courts have been forced to over­turn those laws to en­sure that the right to vote is pro­tected. The worst such case may have come out of North Carolina, where a fed­eral ap­peals court in 2013 threw out a new law be­cause it tar­geted African-Amer­i­can vot­ers “with al­most sur­gi­cal pre­ci­sion.”

In that case, white leg­is­la­tors in North Carolina had re­quested break­downs by race of how and when peo­ple voted. The data showed black vot­ers fa­vored early vot­ing; early vot­ing was cur­tailed. It showed black vot­ers took greater ad­van­tage of same-day reg­is­tra­tion; same-day reg­is­tra­tion was elim­i­nated. As the ap­peals court noted, data also showed that white vot­ers used ab­sen­tee bal­lot­ing more of­ten than black vot­ers, so leg­is­la­tors made sure to ex­empt ab­sen­tee vot­ing from a photo ID re­quire­ment.

Un­like spu­ri­ous claims of vot­ing fraud, these ex­am­ples of­fer mul­ti­ple, well-doc­u­mented, legally con­firmed cases of un­con­sti­tu­tional at­tempts to block U.S. cit­i­zens from par­tic­i­pat­ing in their own gov­ern­ment; they are the mod­ern-day, more so­phis­ti­cated equiv­a­lents to voter-sup­pres­sion tac­tics such as poll taxes and lit­er­acy tests.

This year, how­ever, con­ser­va­tives seem to have fi­nally found the ev­i­dence of vot­ing fraud that they’ve long sought, and they’ve found it in North Carolina of all places.

A Repub­li­can po­lit­i­cal oper­a­tive, hired by a Repub­li­can con­gres­sional can­di­date, has been ac­cused of run­ning a large-scale op­er­a­tion to sub­mit fraud­u­lent ab­sen­tee bal­lots in fa­vor of the GOP and to col­lect and de­stroy large num­bers of ab­sen­tee bal­lots in fa­vor of the Demo­cratic can­di­date.

In a race de­cided for the GOP by barely 900 votes, statis­ti­cians and elec­tion ex­perts say it is quite plau­si­ble that fraud af­fected the out­come. The North Carolina elec­tions board has voted unan­i­mously and across party lines not to cer­tify that race, and mul­ti­ple felony charges are likely.

This did not hap­pen by ac­ci­dent. The po­lit­i­cal oper­a­tive in ques­tion has long been ru­mored to en­gage in such tac­tics, and may have been hired be­cause of, not de­spite, those ru­mors. And when North Carolina Repub­li­cans con­sciously chose not to im­ple­ment “elec­tion in­tegrity” mea­sures re­gard­ing ab­sen­tee bal­lot­ing, they left the door wide open to just this type of scan­dal.

And Trump, who be­fore the elec­tion promised “max­i­mum penal­ties” for vot­ing fraud, hasn’t said a word about it.

Jay Book­man

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.