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Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008

Republican Vote Fraud

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Based on the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, we know that vote fraud has been a very successful issue for the Republican Party: The more vote fraud they commit, the more successful they are.

That’s why it was no surprise when Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, co-chairman of the John McCain campaign in Wisconsin, filed a lawsuit to try to prevent thousands of state voters from casting their ballots.

Republicans used similar tactics in Florida in 2000 and in Ohio in 2004 to remove thousands of voters from the rolls based on confusion over names, addresses and clerical records.

The cover story this time is that Van Hollen claims to be concerned because the names or addresses of many new voters who have registered since 2006 don’t match state driver’s license records or other bureaucratic sources.

There are many innocent explanations for such discrepancies. Sometimes numbers are transposed by clerical error or names are recorded differently because of nicknames or middle initials. Differences in addresses are particularly common among low income voters who move frequently.

Republicans have made exaggerated claims in recent years about vote fraud to try to justify requiring photo IDs for voting, a roadblock that disproportionately affects low-income, minority and elderly voters who are less likely to have driver’s licenses and more likely to vote Democratic.

The good news for anyone truly concerned about vote fraud as a result of the Republicans’ repeated claims is that every time legitimate law enforcement investigates, it finds almost no vote fraud. In Milwaukee, that was confirmed by a joint investigation by the Milwaukee County district attorney, a Democrat, and the U.S. attorney, a Republican.

Common sense tells you why. Anyone convicted of vote fraud goes to federal prison. Risking incarceration to cast an illegal vote that would make an infinitesimal difference in the outcome of an election is senseless. In the 2004 election, I waited in line for more than three hours in Milwaukee to cast my vote. Fiendish illegal voters would have to be out of their minds to get back in line to wait three more hours to vote again.

Where’s the Incentive?

Republican claims of vote fraud were recently revived after reports that employees hired to register voters for community groups in Milwaukee had submitted fraudulent registrations. The community groups themselves discovered the fraudulent registrations and reported them to the Milwaukee Election Commission. The commission referred them to the district attorney for possible prosecution.

The results of the district attorney’s investigation should be very interesting. To prevent the submission of fraudulent registrations, vote drives no longer pay employees by the number of registrations they turn in. Employees are paid an hourly rate, regard less of how many voters they register. There is absolutely no incentive for employees to turn in fraudulent registrations.

In fact, one of the few groups with any incentive to put phony voters on the rolls is the Republican Party. That could then be used to justify all of the obstacles they are eager to put in the way of likely Democratic voters.

Investigate away, Mr. District Attorney. It would be wrong to prejudge the investigation, but if the Republican Party turns out to be involved in any way, hang ’em high.

One of the false claims Van Hollen makes is that his lawsuit is not intended to prevent anyone from voting. Anyone with a clerical discrepancy on voter registration records would be allowed to cast a provisional ballot, he said. Casting a provisional ballot is not the same as being allowed to vote. Provisional ballots are set aside.

Provisional voters are required to return by the next day with additional paperwork. Then, if the ballots are necessary to determine who wins an election, someone might actually count them.

Those who cast provisional ballots essentially have to show up twice to have their votes counted—maybe. Other voters only have to show up once on Election Day.

Republicans want to make voters jump through more and more hoops so that many of them will become discouraged and fall away. That is especially true of low-income voters who lack transportation and have other difficulties in their lives to distract them from voting.

By attempting to remove thousands of registered voters from the voting rolls, Republicans are making Election Day more difficult for all of us, especially those of us who live in urban areas.

By forcing thousands of legitimate voters to re-register at their polling places or to go through additional paperwork to cast provisional ballots, Republicans hope to create even more delays at urban polling places.

Those of us who waited three hours to vote in 2004 may have to wait four hours or more this time. Stay mad the entire time and stay more determined than ever to triumph over Republican vote fraud.

What’s your take? Write: editor@shepex.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com