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Republican GOTV: Voter Suppression Through Bogus Fraud Claims

I’ve received some interesting responses from my ground game post. Atrios sees positives in the fact that Republicans seemingly have had no coordinated voter registration strategy this cycle, and have appeared to rely on organic changes in the national environment rather than GOTV. Those organic changes probably mean more overall than turnout, but turnout can help at the margins in close races, which is pretty much the case everywhere.

But another reader made the discovery of Americans in Contact, a PAC that the GOP has reportedly been using to contact voters in 2010. They have allegedly logged a lot of voter contact, particularly through text messaging, and some of the fruits of this can be seen in early voting in states like Florida, which is elevated relative to comparable recent years.

I think there’s no one answer to this. The Obama Administration expects their turnout to carry them, particularly in labor-heavy Midwest states. The data on Florida and a couple other states suggest that the GOP will hold their own. Ground game operations vary from state to state. There’s also the very real factor of the weather, which is sadly a consideration in US politics. In plenty of countries they risk death to go to the polls. Here we don’t risk getting wet. For all the American rhetoric about our shared civic duty, we frequently allow the course of history to be determined by storm fronts.

One thing is certain: the Republicans do have an X-factor in their get out the vote operations. That’s what they always use: intimidation and voter suppression. The Rand Paul curb stomping incident, seen this way, wasn’t just an expression of violence but a warning to those planning to hit the polls on Election Day.

In 2006, conservative activists repeatedly claimed that the problem of people casting fraudulent votes was so widespread that it was corrupting the political process and possibly costing their candidates victories.

The accusations turned out to be largely false, but they led to a heated debate, with voting rights groups claiming that the accusations were crippling voter registration drives and squelching turnout.

That debate is flaring up anew.

Tea Party members have started challenging voter registration applications and have announced plans to question any individual voters at the polls whom they suspect of being ineligible.

This has flown a bit more under the radar than in previous years, but it’s starting to elevate. Tea partiers in St. Paul, Minnesota are offering a $500 bounty for any voter fraud cases. In Texas, poll watchers have physically intimidated early voters. And throughout the country, allegations have been flying about voter fraud, including in Yuma County, Arizona, where the allegations proved without merit.

Publius Pundit, a supporter of the Republican challenger to Rep. Raul Grijalva, wrote that “voter fraud on a massive scale could be taking place,” claiming that 3,000 new voter registration applications were dropped off at once and 65 percent were invalid. (Neither of which, if true, would be evidence of fraud.) The blogger, Maria Carvajal, also noted the “statistical improbability” that most of the registrations were Democratic […]

It appears the allegations are baseless. Mi Familia Vota, along with One Arizona, submitted about 3,000 requests to add voters to the permanent early voting list. They aren’t new registrations. Instead, already registered voters are asking to get an early voting ballot mailed to them every election cycle.

“Our goal was mainly signing Latinos up on the permanent early voting list. That way they become frequent voters,” Francisco Heredia, the Arizona state director for Mi Familia Vota, told TPMmuckraker. “We’re not telling people how to vote.”

The group only submitted about 300 new registrations, Heredia said. He also said that the requests were not submitted all at once, but on a weekly basis over two months.

Let’s make one thing clear: the goal is not to catch anyone for committing voter fraud. It has been well documented that there’s nobody to really catch. The goal is to intimidate poor, minority, or otherwise voiceless voters from the hassle of going to the polls. We’ve seen this with posters in minority-heavy precincts warning of immigration officials at the polls, or the wrong day put on voting fliers, or “Don’t Vote” campaigns on TV. And this plays into that. They want less people to vote, and they think that improves their chances.

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David Dayen

David Dayen