John Fund has a must read article in the Wall Street Journal today that serves as a reminder to Republicans and the Tea Party that an election can’t be stolen if it isn’t close:
An attempt to hijack (Wisconsin’s) election laws and open the door for voter fraud failed at the last minute this week in Wisconsin’s legislature. But threats to ballot integrity continue in other states, and Congress may rush to pass ill-conceived legislation this year that would only sow confusion and increase the potential for chaos on a national level.
Wisconsin’s story shows how high the stakes are. Late in March, a 72-page bill was suddenly introduced and rushed forward with only abbreviated hearings. The bill would have given “nationally recognized” community organizing groups access to the state driver’s license database to encourage voter turnout. After the infamous registration scandals involving Acorn in 2008, this was clearly a strange priority. Requests for an absentee ballot in a single election would also become permanent (without requiring a legitimate reason, such as infirmity), and the ballots would be automatically mailed out in future elections.
Coercion and chicanery are made much easier by the excessive use of absentee ballots. Most of the elections thrown out by courts–Miami, Florida’s mayoral election in 1998, the East Chicago, Indiana’s mayor’s race in 2005–involved fraudulent absentee votes.
Republicans threatened to attach a voter ID amendment to this proposal that Democrats admit is very popular.
Democratic leaders also worried that a popular amendment to require photo ID at the polls would have been attached to their measure. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle has vetoed three previous photo ID laws, even though Democrats such as state Sen. Tim Carpenter of Milwaukee supported them saying he’s seen “eye opening” public support for the idea.
That backing is based on real evidence. In 2004, John Kerry won Wisconsin over George W. Bush by 11,380 votes out of 2.5 million cast. After allegations of fraud surfaced, the Milwaukee police department’s Special Investigative Unit conducted a probe. Its February 2008 report found that from 4,600 to 5,300 more votes were counted in Milwaukee than the number of voters recorded as having cast ballots. Absentee ballots were cast by people living elsewhere; ineligible felons not only voted but worked at the polls; transient college students cast improper votes; and homeless voters possibly voted more than once.
Much of the problem resulted from Wisconsin’s same-day voter law, which allows anyone to show up at the polls, register and then cast a ballot. ID requirements are minimal. The report found that in 2004 a total of 1,305 “same day” voters were invalid.
In the 2006 midterm Democrats picked up control of the Senate and the House. One of the lesser known facts about that change of control, from a national viewpoint, is that the change in control of the Senate came down to a difference of 2,847 votes out of a total of 61.2 million cast nationally. And of the fourteen closest races that “settled control of the House of Representatives” (according to Karl Rove) 27,022 votes out of a total of 81 million in all House races made the difference for Democrats. Fund worries that we are forgetting the lessons of the 2000 election recount debacle. That take is a little too kind in my view. I’m concerned that the other side is resolutely determined to steal it right this time.