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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Garrett Epps: the GOP Election Fraud Scam

Scott Lemieux had a fine post at Tapped the other day referring to Garrett Epps's excellent piece in Salon outlining the GOP election fraud scam revolving around Bradley Schlozman in Missouri:

One is reminded of Bush v. Gore, in which the Court (as Ginsburg initially pointed out, although Scalia bullied her into removing the footnote) held that the fact that some people would have their votes "diluted" by other votes being counted was more important than the actual disenfranchisement of poor and African-American voters throughout the process. [...] [W]e should never forget that illegal disenfranchisement by the GOP put Bush in the White House. That Republicans have managed to conceal this while creating a mythical crisis of "vote fraud" is a remarkable and appalling achievement in Orwellian discourse.

The Garrett Epps article, Karl Rove's Big Election-fraud Hoax, makes a compelling case for new legislation protecting the right to vote and making voter registration and voting easier for all citizens in light the Bush Department of Justice's attempt to use baseless allegations of voter fraud to wreak havoc with the voter rolls in the lead up the 2006 election:

We need laws protecting the right to vote from the kind of phony, partisan prosecutors that Gonzales, Rove and Co. were trying to put in place, and from the punitive, restrictive voter-ID laws that are a prominent part of the far-right political agenda.

Republicans do cherish their little practical jokes -- the leaflets in African-American neighborhoods warning that voters must pay outstanding traffic tickets before voting; the calls in Virginia in 2006 from the mythical "Virginia Election Commission" warning voters they would be arrested if they showed up at the polls. The best way to steal an election is the old-fashioned way: control who shows up. It's widely known that Republicans do better when the turnout is lighter, whiter, older and richer; minorities, young people and the poor are easy game for hoaxes and intimidation.

The latest and most elaborate of these jokes is the urban legend that American elections are rife with voter fraud, particularly in the kinds of poor and minority neighborhoods inhabited by Democrats.

Epps, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Oregon, offers a timely reminder to the new Democratic majority in Congress that there is nothing in the Constitution guaranteeing a right to vote or protecting unsuspecting voters from pre-election voter roll tampering by politically motivated government insiders. This point of view echoes Alexander Keyssar who wrote in his essay The Right to Vote and Election 2000:

A constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to vote in federal elections (a favorite of this author) would, at best, take years to enact. Ideas for making the process of registation and voting easier are countered by the (usually Republican) cry that they would encourage fraud. Although there has been more activity on the state level, the powers-that-be in Washington have generally stifled, rather than ridden, the reform energies unleashed by the election crisis. The men and women who have flourished in the current system have little desire to change it.

As the nation gears up for the contentious and consequential election year ahead, it's no surprise that the right to vote and the ghosts of 2000 loom. Our nation has never settled the question of that founding scam of the Bush Presidency. The US Attorney scandal has turned the nation's attention once again to the GOP tactic of using dubious claims of election fraud to wreak havoc with the voter rolls in key states and districts before elections. As Scott Lemieux points out, the sheer brazeness of this con-game is galling.

The question is, what's Congress going to do about it, and who's going to make them.

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