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Fraud, Fights & Failures

“It was a nasty dispute that stings partisans to this day, and a taste of what the nation could endure for the next decade,” Hasen writes.

He then moves on to the idea of fraud and the role it has played in voter ID laws and attempts to purge rolls of ineligible voters. 

Hasen lambastes Republicans for supposed “unsubstantial charges” of vote fraud that have become part of the “conservative orthodoxy.” And he alleges that a “Fraudulent Fraud Squad” — founded by lawyer Thor Hearne, former Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Bush strategist Karl Rove, columnist John Fund and former Justice Department attorney and Federal Election Commission member Hans von Spakovsky — is responsible for a misinformation campaign to paint isolated examples of fraud as a trend.

How many “isolated examples” would it take to qualify as “widespread” fraud? Hasen doesn’t say. He does, however, touch on some of the cases that voter identification advocates have cited in their efforts. 

“The Fraudulent Fraud Squad desperately needed examples of significant impersonation fraud to justify voter identification laws because this is virtually the only kind of fraud that a voter identification law would prevent,” Hasen writes. (The book was published before the case of Wendy Rosen, a Democratic House candidate in Maryland caught voting in two jurisdictions, came to light in September.)

If Hasen is hard on Republicans in the chapter on voter fraud, he is skeptical of Democrats’ claims about voter intimidation efforts in the next. A 2010 television ad financed by an anti-
abortion advocate in California that encouraged Latino voters in Nevada to refrain from voting backfired. Instead of depressing Hispanic turnout — to the benefit of tea party candidate Sharron Angle, who lost to incumbent Democrat Sen. Harry Reid — it energized the Latino base and Nevada Democrats in general.

“The bottom line on (mostly Democratic) charges of voter suppression since 2000 is mixed,” Hasen writes. “Some charges are justified, others are arguable, and others are no more legitimate than Republican cries of voter fraud based on the registration of Mary Poppins.”  

Partisanship, Technology and Social Media

Hasen uses Ohio, where “Democrats and Republicans were engaged in an all-out war” during the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, to illustrate the myriad  decisions that must be made when deciding who qualifies as a voter and when their ballot can be cast. 

He pivots from former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, a Republican whom Democrats viewed as “evil incarnate,” to his successor, former Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat who “could well have put her party allegiance ahead of her responsibility to help voters,” before wondering whether current Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, could remain above the “partisan fray.” (Since the publication of the book, Husted made decisions regarding changes to Ohio’s early voting rules that have been challenged in court.)

It’s those legal challenges that Hasen cites as evidence for the growth of the problem. 

He describes the uptick in election-related legal challenges, reporting that, in the period before Bush v. Gore, courts collectively decided fewer than 100 per year. In the aftermath, that number has increased to at least 230 such cases annually. 

Antiquated technology has also played a role in the decaying of the election system.

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