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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"It's that we're screwed with or without him if we can't show the public that what we do matters for the long term," writes Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein as she kicks off our drive to raise $350,000 in donations from readers by July 17.

This is a big one for us. So, as we ask you to consider supporting our team's journalism, we thought we'd slow down and check in about where Mother Jones is and where we're going after the chaotic last several years. This comparatively slow moment is also an urgent one for Mother Jones: You can read more in "Slow News Is Good News," and if you're able to, please support our team's hard-hitting journalism and help us reach our big $350,000 goal with a donation today.

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