GOP Voter Fraud Hucksters Latest Lie: Felons Made Franken U.S. Senator
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Right-wingers are in a tizzy over excerpts from a new book by two of the GOP’s leading voter-fraud hucksters alleging that Minnesota’s Democratic Senator Al Franken would not have won a statewide recount in 2009 were it not for ex-felons voting illegally.
They are jumping to the false conclusion that illegal felon voting in November 2008 not only tipped a recount in which Franken won by 312 votes—out of 2.4 million cast between the two men—but that tougher state voter ID laws would have changed the result. Both claims are wrong.
“And that’s just the question of voting by felons,” wrote the Washington Examiner’s report by Byron York, chief political correspondent. “Minnesota Majority also found all sorts of other irregularities that cast further doubt on the Senate results.”
The problem with this assertion—from a new book by The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund and George W. Bush Justice Department attorney Hans von Spakovsky—is that it is not just factually wrong, according to Minnesota Supreme Court records, the Minnesota prosecutor who investigated most of the cases, and some of the country’s top election scholars, but it is intended to rile a segment of the Right that thinks it is patriotic to demonize voting by non-whites and disrupt voting for everyone else.
“They are talking in code to their base,” said Rutgers University’s Lori Minnite, co-author of Keeping Down The Black Vote: Race and the Demobilization of American Voters. “My guess is that von Spakovsky and Fund know exactly what they are doing.”
“There is no basis in fact, whatsoever, in these inaccuracies propagated by the Minnesota Majority here, none,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Wednesday. “After the most closely scrutinized election in Minnesota history in 2008, there were zero cases of fraud. Even the Republicans lawyers acknowledged that there was no systematic effort to defraud the election, none.”
“In Hennepin County, 650,000 people voted,” he continued. “The Minnesota Majority presented us with 1,500 cases that they felt there were problems with voting. Our own election bureau gave us 100. At the end of the day, we charged 38 cases. And all but one of them are felons voting who were still under the penalty [of not legally applying to regain individual voting rights]. There was no fraud.”
In many cases, former felons are not aware that they have to go through a legal process to regain their voting rights, unlike getting a driver’s license.
“How many of the former felons were registered to vote but never voted,” said Kathy Bonnifield, executive director of Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota, which issued its report on scapegoating felons in November 2010—five months after the rightwingers first raised the spectre of illegal felon voting. “There is a lot of devil in those details.”
The GOP’s Voter Fraud Propaganda War
We must first consider the Right’s devilish messengers and then their dubious details.
John Fund and Hans von Spakovsky are ideologues whose assertions about widespread fraudulent voting have not just been debunked by scholars, but by George W. Bush’s Justice Department itself—where in 2006, von Spakovsky, a lawyer, led the firing of seven U.S. attorneys for not zealously pursuing voter fraud.
The scandalous firings were hardly a federal law enforcement triumph; the full force of the DOJ could only find three-dozen cases in a country where presidential elections see upwards of 130 million voters. (Von Spakovsky was then appointed by Bush to the Federal Election Commission). Between 2002 and 2005 federal prosecutors under von Spakovsky only brought 38 cases of voter fraud nationwide, winning 24 convictions.