Suppressing the Vote, GOP Style

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A friend writes to complain about press treatment of the biannual frenzy over voter fraud. Here is the New York Times, for example, in a story headlined “Fraudulent Voting Re-emerges as a Partisan Issue” yesterday:

A report by the public-integrity section of the Justice Department found that from October 2002 to September 2005, the department charged 95 people with “election fraud”; 55 were convicted. Among those, fewer than 20 people were convicted of casting fraudulent ballots.

Statistics! Actual facts! For all practical purposes, there is no voter fraud. Charges of fraud are merely a cynical tactic designed to suppress the vote of various demographic groups who are likely to vote for Democrats.1So, my friend asks, why not collect some actual facts about that?

You don’t see major outlets examining in any detail the suppressive effects of voter fraud hype, monitoring and legislative restrictions. Reporters duly note that Democrats claim it’s intended to suppress turnout, but then they simply go back to whether there is evidence of fraud, because the facts to analyze that are frankly available through Google. They certainly investigate Republicans claims of voter fraud — why don’t they investigate claims of suppression?

Actually, the Times article above does a decent job of glossing the issue of voter suppression, but glossing is all it does. So why not really dig into this? The facts themselves, after all, are painfully obvious: every two years, like clockwork, Republicans gin up a massive hysteria over voter fraud that study after study shows doesn’t exist. The fact of its nonexistence is about as well established as anything can possibly be, so there has to be some other reason for relentlessly bringing it up. And that reason, quite plainly, is to suppress the vote of groups unlikely to vote for Republicans.

So why doesn’t the mainstream press dig into that more deeply instead of merely dismissing it as a “partisan issue”? The cynical among you will probably think it’s because an actual investigation would be unlikely to turn up a narrative in which both parties can be held equally to blame. But that would be pretty damn cynical, wouldn’t it?

1And raise money from the kind of people who respond well to racially tinged hysteria, of course. We can’t forget that.

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This feels like the most important fundraising drive since I've been CEO of Mother Jones, with staggeringly high stakes and so much uncertainty. In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," I try to unpack the reality we all face and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support Mother Jones’ nonprofit journalism: We need to raise $400,000 to help cover the vital reporting projects we have planned, and right now is no time to pull back.

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