Monday, April 16, 2007

US vote fraud and Karl Rove

The Atlantic Monthly has a dispatch by Joshua Green about the Bush adminstration's focus on vote fraud, and how it seems likely that Karl Rove is the man behind that.

Karl Rove's Voter Fraud Fetish

Until Alberto Gonzalez testifies next week, the main area of interest in the ongoing attorney general scandal is the White House’s seemingly odd fixation with “voter fraud.” At least two of the U.S. attorneys at the heart of the scandal were removed for failing, in the estimation of Bush officials, to adequately pursue and prosecute voter fraud. The trouble is, there doesn’t seem to be much fraud to prosecute.


Allowing for the possibility that someone, somewhere in the White House genuinely believes voter fraud is a problem, I think a much likelier explanation is that administration officials—and one official in particular, Karl Rove—see the issue of voter fraud as a handy political weapon at election time. Voicing concerns about fraud often paves the way for intimidation tactics like poll watching that depress turnout, especially among minorities and less educated voters who tend to vote Democratic.

Rove never passes up an opportunity to seize an electoral advantage. But I have a better reason for suspecting his handiwork. The closest race of Rove’s career—the 1994 election for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in which Rove’s candidate actually trailed the morning after the election—hinged on the issue of voter fraud.

The dispatch links to a NY Times article about the number of vote frauds actually found by the Justice Department in the five years under the Bush adminstration.

Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year.

Most of those charged have been Democrats, voting records show. Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show.

120 people in five years? Doesn't sound like a widespread problem, and it seems that the the Election Assistance Commission study of the subject agrees, even if the findings were downtoned. Of course, there are still some cases pending, but I doubt it's many more.

There is no doubt that there are serious issues with the US voting process. Up towards 2 million votes are not counted, and they disproportionally belongs to minorities. Large numbers of voters are kept from voting, even if they are elible, due to bad data used for scrubbing voting lists. Florida, of course, being the worst example. And then there is the simple fact that felons get disfranchised in some states, even after having served their time. However, vote fraud is not one of them, and any focus on that issue is either an attempt to distract from the other issues, or an attempt to intimidate voters.

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