by Charley James —
It might be the supreme, ironic, twist of Republicans efforts to keep people from voting. It turns out that Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher – the infamous Joe the Plumber – may not be able to vote.
The Republican Party in Ohio lost a battle it took all the way to the US Supreme Court to force the Secretary of State to use “exact matches” against driver license or Social Security lists to purge voters. It turns out that Wurzelbacher is registered as Worzelbacher and might have found himself blocked from voting.
While this is happening everywhere, it is compounded by a protracted Republican effort to disenfranchise Democratic voters under the guise of combating voter fraud. Voter fraud is a serious issue.
The trouble is that it barely exists.
In the six years since the Bush administration made it a priority, barely 100 people have been convicted and fewer than 200 have been charged with voter fraud. The overwhelming majority either were people who thought they were eligible but weren’t such as immigrants and felons or individuals registering fictitious people who couldn’t turn up to vote in any event.
A Worse Fraud
Knowingly false cries of “voter fraud” are a much worse fraud the GOP is trying to foist on the country than the actual crime itself – which doesn’t exist in any event. But its real purpose is to intimidate voters, especially those who are uneducated, poor and black or brown when they show up to vote.
“If they found a single case of a conspiracy to affect the outcome of a Congressional election or a state-wide election, that would be significant,” Richard Hasen, an election law expert at Loyola University Law School, told the New York Times last year. “But what we see is isolated, small-scale activities that have not shown any kind of criminal intent.”
This doesn’t stop Republicans from trying.
Over the weekend, President Bush sent Attorney General Michael Mukasey a letter asking him to investigate the Ohio case already rejected by the Supreme Court. And don’t forget that five of the 12 US attorneys fired last year in the scandal that led to the resignation of Alberto Gonzales were illegally fired because they refused to pursue voter fraud with sufficient zeal to satisfy their ideologue masters in Washington.
It also explains the Republican attacks on Acorn, which pays people to register voters in low income and minority areas. A tiny handful of Acorn workers made up names this year, which was condemned by both Acorn and the Obama campaign; in fact, Acorn flagged suspicious registration forms before submitting them to county clerks, something the GOP vote suppressors never mention when doing cable news interviews.
But there is absolutely no evidence – none, nada, zip – that Acorn or anyone else resulted in a single fraudulent vote ever being cast since Acorn began its large-scale drives in 2004.
While attempts at voter suppression are partisan in intent, they are racial in effect.
The Democrats have not won an election without the black vote since 1964. The most effective and crude way to undermine their base is to minimize the vote in black areas. This is just what happened in Florida in 2000, where Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris lowered dramatically the threshold for including someone on the “purge list.” By the time Harris and her minions were done, African-Americans were 88% of purged names even though they account for only 11% of the actual electorate.
As I wrote on October 22, McCain insiders say that the campaign and the Republican National Committee are allegedly conspiring with outside groups to supress voter registration and turnout. Bush’s weekend letter to Mukasey is another piece of damning evidence that the GOP plans to keep people from voting since they cannot be convinced to vote for McCain.
When I first read Franz Kafka in high school, it struck me that the dark tales he spun were from a society, time and place far removed from the safety of Minneapolis. As I re-read Kafka over the years, the stories became increasingly real – and hit much closer to home. A few nights ago, I had a Kafkaesque nightmare where a group of people kept standing in front of me at a voting machine so I couldn’t cast a ballot.
Despite the legions of voter rights groups and the armies of lawyers on stand-by for any hanky-panky on November 4, I’m convinced by my own reporting and other pieces I’ve read that the Republican Party intends to steal the presidential election if it cannot win it. It’s why a landslide is the only way to prevent this from happening: The GOP can steal a state but it cannot steal an entire country.
But if, somehow, that happens I shudder to think what will become of America and her experiment in democracy.
If you’re born in Milwaukee, you are born a Democrat. And so I gravitated naturally to liberal politics, first as journalist and then an activist. I’ve been writing since I was eight years old and, after working in newsrooms for far too long, I have devoted much of the past decade as an independent investigtative journalist. When not writing about politics or George Bush, I scribble out essays on the peculiarites of modern times.
Articles by Charley James: