Want to steal an elec­tion? Watch the GOP

San Antonio Express-News - - OTHER VIEWS - By Gail Collins

Midterm elec­tion up­date from the Depart­ment of Irony:

Repub­li­cans have been warn­ing us about the dan­ger of voter fraud for ages. And now it does ap­pear that a ma­jor con­gres­sional race was im­pacted by that very type of evil-do­ing. Feel free to chor­tle/ snort/howl at the moon when I tell you the ac­cused fraud­sters are Repub­li­cans.

The fic­tional ver­sion of voter fraud in­volves sin­is­ter char­ac­ters — pos­si­bly il­le­gal im­mi­grants! — show­ing up at the polls re­peat­edly, per­haps dis­guis­ing their ne­far­i­ous in­tent by wear­ing dif­fer­ent hats or an oc­ca­sional false mus­tache.

“In many places, like Cal­i­for­nia, the same per­son votes many times ... Mil­lions and mil­lions of peo­ple,” said Don­ald Trump. He’s been run­ning on this theme since he lost the pop­u­lar vote to Hil­lary Clin­ton.

There’s also Trump’s more re­cent ar­gu­ment that vot­ers should have to have spe­cial IDs be­cause “if you go out and you want to buy gro­ceries you need a pic­ture on a card. You need an ID.”

Peo­ple, where do you think this came from?

A) Trau­matic child­hood ex­pe­ri­ence in which he treated his class to ice cream at the ball­park and told the ven­dor to “just send the bill to my dad.”

B) At­lantic City in­ci­dent when he tried to buy a bag of Dori­tos with a prom­is­sory note.

C) A bad dream in which he had to shop on his own in a store full of badly dressed peo­ple.

Beats me. Any­way, Trump ap­pears to be­lieve the only rea­son he has ever lost an elec­tion was phony vot­ers.

Re­ally, can­di­dates of the fu­ture, if you want to steal an elec­tion just find ways to keep the other side from par­tic­i­pat­ing. You could try tweet­ing threats. (“Cheat at your own peril.”) Or sim­ply us­ing the whole voter fraud is­sue to make it more dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to regis­ter, and more self-con­scious about how they’ll be treated if they show up at the polls

For Repub­li­cans, all this has the con­ve­nient ef­fect of dis­cour­ag­ing peo­ple who are young, poor or mi­nor­ity from tak­ing part in the sys­tem. Democrats are not re­ally into the game. We would like to be­lieve this is be­cause of a firm be­lief in an open po­lit­i­cal process. But it’s prob­a­bly also be­cause, short of putting all the polls in fifth-floor walk-ups, there’s no easy way to keep el­derly white men from vot­ing.

As the midterms ap­proached, Trump tweeted a warn­ing that “Law en­force­ment has been strongly no­ti­fied to watch closely for any IL­LE­GAL VOT­ING.” And what do you know? There re­ally did seem to be a case of pos­si­ble elec­tion-steal­ing in a con­gres­sional race in North Carolina.

It in­volved a cou­ple of coun­ties with large African-Amer­i­can and ru­ral pop­u­la­tions, and the vic­tim was the Demo­crat. Dan McCready, the Demo­cratic can­di­date, is the party’s new dream red-district combo: Ivy League col­lege grad­u­ate/Ma­rine, who found faith while fight­ing in Iraq and was bap­tized in wa­ter from the Euphrates River. Peo­ple thought he had a chance, and on elec­tion night things were close, very close. But the Repub­li­can can­di­date, Mark Har­ris, a con­ser­va­tive for­mer pas­tor, seemed to be about 900 votes ahead. McCready con­ceded.

Then — whoops — it ap­peared those coun­ties had been the site of some ex­ten­sive “bal­lot har­vest­ing.” This hap­pens when sup­port­ers of one can­di­date go out and en­cour­age peo­ple to re­quest ab­sen­tee bal­lots, which they then reap like so many rows of soy­beans. Some­times they help a voter fill out a bal­lot. Some­times, if a voter doesn’t seem to be

fol­low­ing the pre­ferred line, they lose said bal­lot on the way to the mail­box.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions are un­der­way. McCready now has taken back his con­ces­sion. North Carolina ac­tu­ally has a very open elec­tion sys­tem and chances are pretty good that the author­i­ties will fig­ure this all out.

“In most states if this was go­ing on you wouldn’t be able to see it,” said Ja­son Roberts, a pro­fes­sor of po­lit­i­cal sci­ence at the Univer­sity of North Carolina.

Sev­eral morals to this story, peo­ple. One is that Don­ald Trump is wrong about ev­ery­thing. (“All you have to do is go around, take a look at what’s hap­pened over the years, and you’ll see. There are a lot of peo­ple — a lot of peo­ple — my opin­ion, and based on proof — that try and get in il­le­gally and ac­tu­ally vote il­le­gally.”)

OK, not a shock. But feel free to no­tice that Trump has never both­ered to men­tion any con­cern about ab­sen­tee bal­lots. “It’s the ab­sen­tee bal­lots that are most ripe for fraud,” Roberts said. “Peo­ple have been say­ing that for years.”

Mean­while in North Carolina, the Repub­li­can state Leg­is­la­ture is at work on a con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment to re­quire voter IDs.

Har­ris

McCready

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