It was pretty funny last week seeing state GOP leaders scurry away from the voter registration company they had hired. Suddenly, the party that's spent the better part of the past year squawking about a phantom voter fraud problem had its own, very real voter fraud mess to deal with. It happened after Strategic Allied Consulting, a for-profit voter registration company that worked for the Republican National Committee and several state GOP organizations, was caught turning in more than 100 fraudulent registration forms in Florida. Most of the fraudulent forms were for bogus absentee ballots, the most common form of voter fraud. The scandal revealed that some SAC agents operated as boleteros, or ballot brokers, a historically common problem in Florida. Boleteros often engage in such lovely activities as snooping around nursing homes, offering to "help" the infirm fill out their ballots and taking the completed forms to the post office.
Faster than you could say "ACORN," the N.C. GOP and the Republican National Committee fired Strategic Allied Consulting amid a cloud of unintentionally ironic proclamations about the integrity of elections. What the state GOP didn't mention, though, is that the company's founder, one Nathan Sproul, is a GOP consultant who's been investigated in the past for voter fraud. One can't help but wonder why Sproul's outfit was picked to register voters if the GOP is as concerned as it claims to be about voter fraud.
It seemed fitting that the Republicans' voter fraud scandal came to light around the same time that a new study, Bullies At The Ballot Box, was released by public interest groups, Demos and Common Cause. The report examines the massive effort planned by various conservative groups to challenge voters in "targeted areas," a term that usually translates to "wherever there are minorities, old people or students," i.e., demographics that traditionally vote Democratic. It's all part of the GOP's efforts to suppress vote totals among those groups, most blatantly through voter ID laws, and also via voter challenges at the ballot box. (The General Assembly passed a voter ID law, but GOP leaders were later unable to override Gov. Beverly Perdue's veto of the measure.)
As a presidential battleground state, North Carolina has seen its share of right wing vote-suppression shenanigans this year and apparently more is in the offing. In May, James O'Keefe, the far-right video sting "journalist," tried to "expose" voter fraud in the Tar Heel state. Unfortunately for the hapless O'Keefe, North Carolina's voters he accused of being non-citizens were actually citizens, and a supposedly dead voter turned up alive and well — and pretty pissed off. Now O'Keefe, who is already on probation as a result of a failed sting targeting U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is being investigated by North Carolina for possible charges of impersonating a voter — the precise practice the conservative voter fraud obsessives accuse Democrats of fostering.
Last month, Jay DeLancy, director of the Voter Integrity Project of North Carolina, an offshoot of the national tea party-affiliated group True the Vote, whipped up publicity by claiming he'd compiled a list of 30,000 dead voters registered in North Carolina. After the national media dust settled, the State Board of Elections began investigating the list. So far neither the state nor any county board has found any instances of such voter fraud. Sadly, that result jibes with previous DeLancy efforts, such as when his claim that 528 Wake County registered voters weren't U.S. citizens resulted in a whopping 11 names being struck from the registry.
So the GOP's odd circus of obsession over supposed Democrat-sponsored voter fraud continues; God only knows how many aggressive voter challenges we'll see in the current election. Conservatives have long held as gospel truth their belief that Democrats only win by stealing elections — a fantasy that usually includes two things. One, busloads of illegal voters pulling up to polling stations (buses that no one ever seems to remember actually seeing). And two, evil Dems cheating in the most difficult and inefficient way possible: voter fraud through impersonation of other voters. As has been reported a zillion times, there is next to zero evidence that voter fraud by impersonation even exists in America, much less constitutes a huge problem.
What does exist, of course, is fraud by absentee ballots. Republicans who claim concern for election integrity have a problem, in that confirmed cases of absentee ballot fraud invariably reveal cheating by Republicans. And that, dear readers, is why the GOP targets fraud by impersonation. That way, the most common type of voter fraud, absentee ballot fraud, mostly perpetrated by Republicans, is ignored; meanwhile voter ID requirements can trim the rolls of students, the poor and senior citizens, i.e., likely Democratic voters. It's really that simple, and the fraudulent campaign against fraud that's being perpetrated by Republican hacks is really that blatant.