We go through this charade every election cycle. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, Republicans claim that Democrats and their allies are coordinating to steal the election through massive voter fraud campaigns. Here in Illinois, Senator-elect Mark Kirk and the Republican Party dispatched election lawyers to "vulnerable precincts ... where the other side might be tempted to jigger the numbers somewhat." When the election actually rolls around, those partisan officials surely don't prevent the theft of votes; widespread voter fraud is insanely complicated to pull off and thus never happens. Indeed, as Demos' Tova Andrea Wang wrote last Thursday, there was a "sudden silence from the fraud-mongerers and Tea Party poll watch groups" because they could not find "one case of substantiated fraud at the polling place." But the media takes the political stunt seriously, so the GOP wails about the "problem" every year. In doing so, they diminish the credibility of the electoral system and lay the groundwork for more sophisticated voter suppression tactics. More from Wang:
It is well established through academic research, reports from elections officials and law enforcement statistics that voter fraud at the polling place is almost non-existent. The motivation for ginning up this bogeyman is to encourage activities such as vote caging and challenges designed to intimidate certain groups of voters and ultimately enact policies such as proof of citizenship and voter ID laws that will make it harder for disadvantaged groups to exercise their right to vote. Such efforts must continue to be combated as weapons of disenfranchisement rather than fraud fighting.
What's most infuriating about the voter fraud canard is that our voting system still has legitimate problems. In Illinois, poll workers throughout the state acknowledged confusion over who was eligible to file a regular or provisional ballot. The Election Protection Coalition, for example, received complaints that some election judges were requiring individuals on a list of "suspended voters" to cast provisional ballots even though they were entitled to a regular ballot if they provided required identification. Four years ago, plenty of Illinois' provisional ballots were rejected for a variety of reasons ranging from registration list errors, address changes, and a lack of provisional ballots at polling places. If the GOP was serious about preserving the franchise, they would have worked with the Attorney General's office to clear up this confusion before November 2. But ensuring that all voters get the chance to cast a ballot isn't really one of their top priorities.