By Brad Friedman
The Republican Party is once again pretending that Democrats are committing “voter fraud”—meaning people, perhaps tens of thousands, are voting illegally for Democratic candidates. At the same time, ironically, the GOP’s own nominee for President—Mitt Romney—appears to have committed voter fraud. And he’s not the only high-profile Republican to defraud the very system the GOP claims Democrats are violating. I have evidence of Romney’s real voter-fraud crimes. Republicans, on the other hand, are just making shit up.
Democrats should have seen the “legalization” of voter suppression by the GOP coming long ago. During a 1980 speech to thousands of Baptist preachers in Dallas, right alongside Ronald Reagan and Jerry Falwell, one of the founding fathers of the modern conservative movement was caught on videotape revealing the entire point of today’s new polling-place photo ID restrictions instituted in state after state by Republicans over the past year.
“I don’t want everybody to vote,” Paul Weyrich admitted to the crowd of supposedly moral, Christian men. “Elections are not won by a majority of people. They never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now.”
Weyrich, a cofounder of the Moral Majority and neoconservative Heritage Foundation, continued: “As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Got that? For Republicans to win elections, they need to reduce voter turnout. And this year, they’ve legalized their plan to do it.
Here’s how: Weyrich also cofounded the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This right-wing, billionaire-funded nonprofit brings together corporate lobbyists, advocacy groups and state lawmakers to secretly draft “model legislation” that is then pushed through statehouses around the country. One such model is the vote-suppressing polling-place photo ID restriction bills passed by more than a dozen Republican-controlled state legislatures and signed by GOP governors in the wake of their party’s 2010 “wave election.”
The intent of the new restrictions on voting rights is clear. They are meant to keep African-Americans, Hispanics, urban dwellers, the elderly and students—all constituencies that vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, yet who disproportionately lack the type of state-issued photo ID now required under these new laws—from being able to cast their once-legal vote.
Republicans pretend the new laws are meant to curb a Democratic “voter fraud” epidemic, but they’re lying. To date, proponents of the laws have been unable to show any historic examples of polling-place voter impersonation—the only type of voter fraud that can possibly be deterred by photo ID requirements.
Advocates of the restrictions point instead to a handful of ACORN’s tens of thousands of low-level registration workers who committed voter-registration fraud. But mandatory photo IDs do nothing to stop that type of fraud. [For more on ACORN, see companion article.] Republicans also point to absentee-ballot fraud. But again, photo IDs do nothing to stop that kind of fraud.
Indiana was the first state in the Union where Republicans successfully instituted photo ID restrictions. During the first election under that new law, legally registered college students, elderly nuns and even World War II veterans were turned away from the polls without being allowed to vote. Recent surveys indicate that a majority of Americans are misinformed enough to support restrictive electoral laws. But that’s likely because they don’t realize some 21 million of their fellow, legally registered voters do not possess the type of ID now mandated under the new restrictions.
Proponents argue: “You need a photo ID to buy cigarettes or alcoholic beverages or to get on an airplane! So why not to vote?!” However, the truth is you don’t need a photo ID to buy cigs or booze. I’ve been doing both for years and can’t remember the last time I was carded. Neither is one needed to board a commercial airplane. Yes, it might make your life a bit easier, but airlines aren’t dumb enough to turn away some 21 million potential customers. They’ve found ways to accommodate those millions who do not have a photo ID.
More to the point, all of those things are privileges—unlike voting, which is a Constitutional right. Republicans, on the other hand, are hoping you’re dumb enough to fall for their anti-American, antidemocratic scam. They also hope you don’t hear about voters like 84-year-old Ruthelle Frank, an elected town official in Brokaw, Wisconsin. She was born at home and therefore never had a birth certificate, which is now required to receive a so-called free voter ID at Wisconsin’s Division of Motor Vehicles. Frank, disabled, has never had a driver’s license. She is listed in the state registry, however, so for $20 (an unconstitutional “poll tax”), she’s been told, she can have a birth certificate issued. That will, in turn, allow her to qualify for a “free” ID.
Sadly, Frank’s name is misspelled in the state registry. So it would take an additional $200 to have that correction made. Thus, for a mere $220, Frank—who voted without problem for 63 years—may receive her “free” ID required by Wisconsin’s new law…assuming she finds someone to drive her to the DMV.
It’s also impossible for Wisconsin resident Bettye Jones, who was born in Tennessee, to get her “free” ID. The 77-year-old African-American recently moved to Wisconsin from Ohio, where she had a valid driver’s license. But Wisconsin officials won’t accept an out-of-state driver’s license for voting, and despite a “thorough search,” Tennessee officials were unable to locate her birth certificate, according to the lawsuit Jones has filed. Without that birth certificate, she cannot vote in Wisconsin. Two court cases have found that the voter-suppression law violates Wisconsin’s constitution. We’ll see if the state’s Republican-majority Supreme Court agrees.
Then there’s Dorothy Cooper, a 96-year-old African-American in Tennessee. Nothing in her state’s constitution seems to disallow the new GOP law. So Cooper, who says she voted without any problems throughout the Jim Crow era in the South, is now facing one for the first time. Cooper doesn’t drive, but she does have a birth certificate. However, she was denied a “free” ID at the DMV because her itself—who had manufactured fraudulent voter registrations instead of doing the hard work of signing up genuine voters. Nobody ever cast a single vote in any election via an inappropriate registration by an ACORN worker.
In early 2011, Virginia’s Gingrich for President campaign submitted a large number of fraudulent petition signatures in its futile effort to get the candidate on the state’s 2012 Presidential primary ballot. In a statement aired by CNN in December 2011, Gingrich admitted that “1,500 of them were by one guy who, frankly, committed fraud.”
Gingrich, whose tally of bogus signatures was far worse than that of the now-defunct ACORN, failed to turn in the “one guy” who he claimed was responsible. An official at the Virginia State Board of Elections told me that, if true, what Gingrich described is “definitely an illegal act.” And earlier this year, an official at the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia confirmed to me “that there is an investigation underway.”
Here’s a quick summary of other recent serious fraud allegations and convictions against high-profile Republicans:
•In February 2012, Indiana’s Republican Secretary of State Charlie White was declared guilty of having registered and voted from a residence where he did not actually live. In a separate civil case, White was ordered removed from office by a circuit court judge, who ruled that the defendant’s fraudulent registration made him ineligible to be on the 2010 ballot. It was the felony convictions, however, that forced White out of office. Other than that, he received a slap on the wrist: one year of home detention.
•In March 2011, then-GOP Presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman was also identified as having committed apparent voter fraud. The former governor of Utah remained registered to vote in that state well over a year after he had been appointed U.S. ambassador to China. As the Salt Lake Tribune noted: “Huntsman voted by absentee ballot for last year’s  general election using the state-owned mansion on South Temple as his Utah residence— months after Governor Gary Herbert settled into the historic building and Huntsman purchased a home in Washington, D.C.”
•In February 2012, Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana)—who, like Charlie White, hails from the first state in the nation to implement voter-suppressing photo ID laws—was accused by a group of Tea Partiers (who find him too moderate) of having committed voter fraud. It seems Lugar had been registered to vote at the address of the Indianapolis house he reportedly sold decades ago. Lugar hasn’t resided in the Hoosier State since moving to the Washington, D.C., area after first winning a Senate seat in 1976.
•Representative Todd Akin (R-Missouri), who is vying for the U.S. Senate this year, has been voting for years, according to the St. Louis Post- Dispatch, from a house in an electoral district where he does not actually reside. The property, the newspaper found, is vacant and has been long scheduled for suburban redevelopment. Nevertheless, Akin has continued to use it as his voting address for some seven elections, ever since the congressman and his family moved to their new house 18 miles away. BTW: Akin supports polling-place photo IDs for everyone else.
•In a ham-handed attempt to demonstrate that polling-place voter fraud exists in New Hampshire, despite election officials’ assertions to the contrary, GOP propagandist and federally convicted criminal James O’Keefe led a videotaped conspiracy to commit just such a fraud during the Granite State’s “First in the Nation” primary last January. Unamused, a Republican mayor called for O’Keefe and his coconspirators to be “arrested and prosecuted.” New Hampshire’s attorney general is investigating O’Keefe on charges of voter fraud.
•In what appears to have been an attempt at massive election fraud, Charlie Webster—chair of the Maine Republican Party—publicly announced Mitt Romney the winner of the state’s 2012 GOP caucuses (by just 194 votes) before hundreds of voters in two different counties had even convened. Moreover, dozens of towns that had already held caucuses were fraudulently reported by the party as having had no voters at all. Several months earlier, Webster had named hundreds of student voters as having committed fraud when they hadn’t. An investigation by Maine’s Republican secretary of state determined that the students were, in fact, all legal voters. Apparently hoping to dissuade them from voting, he nonetheless sent them threatening letters.
•In a hilarious turn of events, religious supporters of Newt Gingrich charged that religious supporters of then- Republican Presidential candidate Rick Santorum rigged an informal election during a secret meeting near Austin, Texas, last January. The confab had been called by “religious conservative leaders” to coalesce their support around a single GOP alternative to Mitt Romney.
Other examples of high-profile GOP voter fraud include, among others, the 156-year sentences imposed on eight top election officials in Clay County, Kentucky, who had changed the votes tallied by electronic voting systems; the guilty plea of a registration firm’s owner accused of hoodwinking registered California Democratic voters into switching their allegiance to the GOP in 2008; and neocon superstar Ann Coulter’s alleged multiple cases of demonstrated wrongdoing, including falsifying her address in Florida.
Not a single one of the above instances of election fraud would have been deterred or prevented by the polling-place photo ID restrictions Republicans have instituted, or are attempting to institute, in at least a dozen states across the country prior to the 2012 Presidential election. Meanwhile, the epidemic of election fraud by prominent GOP figures continues unabated.