Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Thursday, April 12, 2007

  The real consequences of the Republican "voter fraud" crusade

Yesterday I wrote about the lack of integrity of the Republican lawyers who pretend to be fighting the scourge of "voter fraud" nationally. Their actual but unspoken goal is to suppress the vote among likely Democratic voters. The national GOP treats election integrity as if it were a game. For the most part, Republican allegations of "voter fraud" are meant to distract from their own systematic efforts to suppress the votes of people who aren't voting Republican.

Today, the New York Times has a disturbing report about the consequences of this shabby Republican crusade upon the people living around us. It turns out that in trying to whip up hysteria about "voter fraud", Republican federal attorneys (the ones whom the White House did not fire) have hounded some poor unfortunates most shockingly.

Here are some selections from the Times' account:

Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.

Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year.

Most of those charged have been Democrats, voting records show. Many of those charged by the Justice Department appear to have mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules, a review of court records and interviews with prosecutors and defense lawyers show...

Previously, charges were generally brought just against conspiracies to corrupt the election process, not against individual offenders, Craig Donsanto, head of the elections crimes branch, told a panel investigating voter fraud last year. For deterrence, Mr. Donsanto said, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales authorized prosecutors to pursue criminal charges against individuals.

John Ashcroft began the crusade in the DoJ to make "voter fraud" a priority, both in the courts and in new legislation in Georgia and Texas requiring voters to present IDs at the polls (both laws were later thrown out by the courts). But it was his successor Gonzales, who has repeatedly lied to Congress about his activities in the Bush administration, who ordered the get-tough policies against the occasional offender.

And what kinds of people have been caught in his net?

For some convicted people, the consequences have been significant. Kimberly Prude, 43, has been jailed in Milwaukee for more than a year after being convicted of voting while on probation, an offense that she attributes to confusion over eligibility.

In Pakistan, Usman Ali is trying to rebuild his life after being deported from Florida, his legal home of more than a decade, for improperly filling out a voter-registration card while renewing his driver’s license...

Some of those cases have baffled federal judges.

“I find this whole prosecution mysterious,” Judge Diane P. Wood of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, in Chicago, said at a hearing in Ms. Prude’s case. “I don’t know whether the Eastern District of Wisconsin goes after every felon who accidentally votes. It is not like she voted five times. She cast one vote.”...

Ms. Prude said she believed that she was permitted to vote because she was not in jail or on parole, she testified in court. Told by her probation officer that she could not vote, she said she immediately called City Hall to rescind her vote [by absentee ballot], a step she was told was not necessary.

“I made a big mistake, like I said, and I truly apologize for it,” Ms. Prude said during her trial in 2005. That vote, though, resulted in a felony conviction and sent her to jail for violating probation...

The Wisconsin prosecutors lost every case on double voting. Cynthia C. Alicea, 25, was accused of multiple voting in 2004 because officials found two registration cards in her name. She and others were acquitted after explaining that they had filed a second card and voted just once after a clerk said they had filled out the first card incorrectly.

In other states, some of those charged blamed confusion for their actions. Registration forms almost always require a statement affirming citizenship.

Mr. Ali, 68, who had owned a jewelry store in Tallahassee, got into trouble after a clerk at the motor vehicles office had him complete a registration form that he quickly filled out in line, unaware that it was reserved just for United States citizens.

Even though he never voted, he was deported after living legally in this country for more than 10 years because of his misdemeanor federal criminal conviction.

“We’re foreigners here,” Mr. Ali said in a telephone interview from Lahore, Pakistan, where he lives with his daughter and wife, both United States citizens.

Expelled from the country after filling out the wrong form while standing in a line at the DMV. Clearly a dangerous jeweller. Mr. Gonzales can be proud of his handiwork.

None of this is to say that there is no voter fraud in the US. But federal authorities have found that, such as there is, it tends to be concentrated in rural areas where candidates for local office sometimes try to buy votes. These are not, however, the cases the national Republican crusade is much interested in pursuing. No mileage there.

crossposted from Unbossed

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