“You constantly hear about voter fraud… but you don’t see huge amounts of vote fraud out there.” –Eric Holder (who doesn’t see huge amounts of executive integrity, either)
One of my favorite parts about being a reasonably well-liked Ivy League alumnus is that among many of my friends I am something of a token ambassador from conservative America. Military brats are a rare species in the liberal academies of the Northeast—even more so than those of us who regard sequestration, liberal antipathy to drones, or the College serving fried chicken and fake cornbread for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with polite horror—and folks who say “y’all” or prefer sweet tea and chivalry without irony blend as naturally as Eric Cantor in Manhattan. (By the way, when snow accumulates in the Northeast, one is actually expected to venture outside and function with uninterrupted normalcy. Yes, their cruel efficiency never sleeps.)
One of the many duties of a token conservative is to apologize to indignant liberals for all the alleged craziness of my fellow travelers in the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Put another way, I am encouraged to remain up to speed on the latest left-wing talking points, dog whistles, and accusations of perhaps criminal extremism. The latest incident deals, as does so much of the drama in this cycle, with Wisconsin. Specifically, perennial hack-that-cries-wolf social justice chronicle Think Progress found what it presented as evidence of the Romney campaign training poll watchers to mislead voters, the “story” commenced the rounds on leftist blogs, and I got called to give account. So here it is.
Progress Senior Reporter Scott Keyes of Ohio leads with the case of ex-felon voters:
CLAIM: Any “person [who] has been convicted of treason, a felony, or bribery” isn’t eligible to vote. (Page 5)
FACT: Once a person who has been convicted of a felony completes his or her sentence, including probation and fines, that person is eligible to vote.
The “probation and fines” point is key here, as it means paroled convicts who are ineligible to vote might show up to polls claiming otherwise. But conveniently enough, Wisconsin law requires that ex-felons receive notice, in writing, of their restored franchise when such point arises. This written confirmation is perfectly presentable to any poll worker, and there is no evidence of the Romney campaign instructing observers to confiscate, ignore, or otherwise reject these letters.
After quibbling over the semantics of an exhaustive list of acceptable proofs of residency, Mr. Keyes continues his case with alleged conspiracy to curb curbside voting for the disabled:
CLAIM: “If a handicapped voter is unable to come into the polls to vote, an assistant can deliver the ballot to the voter if the CEI verifies the elector’s proof of residency.” (Page 10)
FACT: Under Wisconsin law, the CEI (Chief Election Inspector) does not have to verify proof of residency so long as the voter is registered.
A more accurate description of the actual policy is:
Curbside voting is available if a voter cannot enter the polling place due to disability on Election Day. Photo ID must be provided. Proof of residence must be provided if you are not registered. Two poll workers will bring a ballot to the individual needing assistance, and conduct voting at their vehicle, or at the polling place entrance.
As you can see, the point about the CEI is misleading. The identifying information must be verified, and then poll workers will assist.
This brings us to the last “fact-check” against the Romney operation:
CLAIM: “Election Observers should not assist [voters].” (Page 10)
FACT: A voter can ask for assistance from anyone, including a poll watcher, so long as the voter initiates the request and does not engage in electioneering.
I hope you’ll forgive the effrontery of noting that the campaign never says observers “cannot” assist voters, only that they should not do so. Given the whole do “not engage in electioneering” bit, it would follow that internal advice would aim to shield the campaign’s observers from charges of voter tampering. As the campaign notes, voting assistants must leave all their personal information alongside the assisted voter, and it is not unreasonable to expect that any kindness rendered by its affiliates would later be held against an interested campaign.
To be sure, politics is messy and sometimes people engage in dubiously scandalous or illegal behavior. Just recently, an Obama campaign staffer in Texas was caught trying to help someone vote twice. Elsewhere in the Old Confederacy, the Florida Democratic Party is under investigation for voter fraud and three Arkansas Democrats were arrested for it. Perhaps Keyes’s article is just another salvo in the eternal battle of accusations between pots and kettles.
At any rate, I wouldn’t extrapolate from any of this that the Obama campaign and allied Democrats are trying to steal the election (though I’m sure others will and are), unless I find really compelling evidence of a deliberate, systemic hostility to the integrity of the voting process.
Remember your ID at the polls!