Widespread voter fraud is a complete myth, but it’s a useful myth for Republicans, who have for many years relied on the idea that Americans are gaming the political system—again, a total fantasy with a dearth of supporting evidence—in order to push across the kind of legislation that ends up disenfranchising Democrat voters. These laws, which include voter ID regulations, reducing the opportunity for early voting, and shutting down polling locations to create access problems, inevitably target minorities. It’s a sinister ploy, and Republicans need the specter of voter fraud to hide the fact that they’re making a nakedly cynical attempt to hurt democracy.
If you follow politics, you probably already saw Trump’s tweet alleging that (fictional) voter fraud had skyrocketed to include millions of voters in this year’s presidential election:
And then there was this:
Trump’s chicanery is as obvious as possible, but what you may have missed is how Republicans around the country, from the Senate to the House to state legislatures and governorships, have been crying foul in what looks like a coordinated campaign. Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown was the latest to join the fray, making the totally unsubstantiated claim that Massachusetts voters make the trek to New Hampshire to vote fraudulently. Per Brown, who just happened to have lost a 2014 Senate race in New Hampshire after getting dusted by Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts in 2012:
“The people need to understand, people from Massachusetts could’ve gone up and voted that day. And quite frankly, some do. It’s well-known. It’s no secret,” Brown said.
Brown…said Massachusetts voters drive to polling locations north of the border, ask to vote, claim they’re “domicile,” and when they can’t provide an ID, fill out an affidavit giving them the green light.
“To think 100,000 people all of a sudden in this election, and 40,000 people in my election, all of a sudden say, ‘Oh my gosh, there’s an election today!’ It’s laughable,” Brown said.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it bears repeating that none of this should be trusted, and is beyond exaggeration—it’s essentially an invention. Nevertheless, claims of fraud seem to be more prevalent than ever. In North Carolina, where incumbent Republican Pat McCrory “trails” the race by almost 10,000 votes (ie, he lost and won’t admit it), the GOP has pinned its entire hopes on voter fraud. McCrory issued ballot complaints in 52 different counties, and intended to pursue all of them until the state board of elections shut him down yesterday. Even the Charlotte Observer, a not-very-progressive rag, is disgusted with him.
Barring a miracle, McCrory won’t win, and Scott Brown’s accusation of fraud in Massachusetts won’t produce any immediate tangible results. That being said, these accusations aren’t just short-term desperation plays—they’re meant for the long haul. Coordination on this level, extending far beyond the three examples in this short post, are part of an ongoing campaign to erode trust in the electoral process, both nationally and locally. By casting doubt on the sanctity of elections, Republicans hope to manufacture a justification for new voter ID laws and other pieces of disenfranchising legislation, which will in turn shut out minorities, which will help them win more elections. It’s not exactly a new strategy, but it is getting worse.
Tactics like these, it should be noted, are part of the reason why Republicans are so successful on the state and local fronts, where they now control a vast majority of legislative chambers and governorships. It’s never been more clear that they will do whatever it takes to win, democracy be damned.