Friday, Dec. 28, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Conservatives would love for Americans to believe that the voting scandal in North Carolina reveals the need to impose all kinds of new restrictions on voting.
And with that, the GOP has officially reached the summit of hypocrisy.
Somehow, the same party that has embarked on a multiyear campaign using both legal and illegal methods to rig the nation’s votes is now pointing to one isolated case in which GOP operatives allegedly tampered with the vote as proof that the nation’s balloting systems are broken.
The party that has gerrymandered districts to the point where Democrats can win 70 percent of the popular vote in a state and only pick up 30 percent of that state’s congressional seats is now presenting itself as a defender against vote-rigging.
With protectors like these, we don’t need enemies.
It’s true that the voting system is being tilted, but it’s a GOP lie that the culprits are unauthorized voters. It’s Republicans who have seized on their completely unsubstantiated claims of widespread illegal voting to press for voting restrictions that benefit their party —things like curtailing early voting and absentee voting, establishing proof-of-citizenship documentation at the polls, and other policies that make voting more inconvenient.
These restrictions unfairly affect groups of voters who tend to support Democrats, and the GOP knows it. Those include younger voters, minorities and low-income voters who have difficulties with transportation.
But while trying to block those Americans from the ballot box, or make voting so inconvenient for them that they skip elections out of frustration, the GOP also scoffs at the will of the voters when things don’t go their way. Witness the legislation in Michigan and Wisconsin to limit the power of Democratic Party governors who beat out their GOP counterparts.
Then there’s the Republicans’ relentless gerrymandering, which courts routinely find excessive and illegal.
So let’s focus on who’s really guilty of vote rigging.
The scandal in North Carolina is serious and needs to be fully investigated, no doubt.
But to the contrary of how Republicans are portraying it, the situation there actually shows how difficult it is to get away with clandestine voter fraud.
For massive numbers of unauthorized voters to be casting ballots year after year, think of all of the people who would have to either be asleep at the switch or complicit in the rigging scheme for it to work.
That’s a list that includes — deep breath here — poll workers, local election officials, state election officials, the boards that certify the results, party wonks, the media, campaign teams for candidates up and down the ballots, and voters themselves, all of whom are watching for abnormalities and could blow the whistle if they saw something strange.
In North Carolina, a TV news reporter and a university elections expert played key roles in uncovering the possible corruption there, in which operatives reportedly collected and withheld absentee mail-in ballots from Democratic Party voters in the state’s 9th Congressional District.
In the expert’s case, he discovered that while only 19 percent of the voters casting that type of ballot in the district were registered Republicans, 62 percent of the mail-in absentee ballots went for the Republican candidates. He posted a note about his findings on his blog, and the media took off with it.
As for the TV reporter, he hustled to the district and started interviewing people after the state’s bipartisan board of elections voted not to certify the race. Some voters told him about how a woman had collected their ballots — one even said she was wearing a T-shirt for the Republican candidate, Mark Harris — and said state investigators had been questioning voters in the district.
The upshot of this story is that an instance of outright fraud was caught by third-party observers. Thank heaven. While we would hope such observers can catch all examples of vote rigging, as it stands we have a dominant American party that is entirely in favor of very public vote rigging through suppression and gerrymandering, and continues down this path despite court after court finding its behavior illegal.