Voter Fraud or Voter Suppression?

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E.J. Dionne has a column today about the longstanding conservative effort to pass “voter fraud” laws that (a) don’t seem to reduce actual voter fraud, but (b) do tend to reduce turnout among traditional liberal constituencies. James Joyner reacts:

Are these reforms are aimed at suppressing the black and youth votes? I’d have to see substantially more evidence. But they seem to be aimed at theoretical problems that those who study such things can’t find in the wild.

Well, look: we’ll probably never find smoking gun proof that voter fraud laws are aimed at suppressing the black and youth votes. After all, you’d have to be a monumental moron to actually admit this in any kind of written or otherwise permanent form.

Still, let’s walk through the evidence:

  1. Research showing that actual voter fraud is minuscule — perhaps 0.001% of the vote or so — is overwhelming and very well known.
  2. Republicans have nonetheless been pushing voter fraud laws for nearly two decades.
  3. This costs a lot of money and sucks up a lot of energy.
  4. Parties don’t generally spend lots of money and energy on things unless they benefit the party or its supporters in some way.
  5. The evidence that voter fraud laws reduce turnout among groups that trend Democratic is also very well known among party apparatchiks who pay attention to such things.

Maybe you can come up with some alternative interpretation for such a tenacious, coordinated, and energetic campaign. But the obvious explanation is that Republican Party apparatchiks think that voter fraud laws offer a method of reducing Democratic turnout in elections that’s both effective and deniable. I really think you have to be almost willfully blind not to see this.

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