It’s that time again, so prepare yourself for a barrage of conservatives carrying claims of voter fraud, and a credulous media repeating each and every claim as fact.
There are two kinds of people who care about the actual voting process. There are conservatives, who look for fraud, and there are liberals, who worry about access. Conservatives believe that one fraudulent vote is one too many. Liberals believe just as strongly that one disenfranchised voter is one too many. There’s no middle ground. It’s adversarial.
The liberal argument is the better of the two, on the facts, but the divide is deep and wide, and the conservative belief that there is massive election fraud in the United States has filtered down from Fox News to Republican poll workers. As a former poll worker, I heard it again and again. I could split a room right down the middle, with conservatives on one side and liberals on the other on just this issue. Conservatives simply don’t believe that voting is a right. They consider voting a privilege to be granted, not a right to be protected. There’s no reconciling those two positions.
Major media have completely adopted the conservative view, and there is virtually no mainstream discussion of the fact that conservative efforts to limit fraud disenfranchise voters. We’ve all decided as a country that we will sacrifice a certain number of legitimate voters to mollify conservative fears about fraud. That’s unacceptable to people who care about access, and we’re not rolling over any time soon.
I’m constantly amazed how reporters refuse to apply even basic common sense to conservative claims of voter fraud. Forget the nuances of election law, media won’t even spin out conservative claims step by step, from registration to actual voting. They just swallow it whole. The good news is, it doesn’t matter. We can win on the ground and that’s where the voters are.
The Ohio volunteer effort on voter protection has gotten better and better since 2004. It was spotty and last minute and sloppy in 2004, better in 2006, a huge undertaking in 2008-my county had three lawyers on the ground and we have about 15,000 voters – and based on my personal observation it’s still better (although smaller) this year.
The best voter protection teams are volunteers admitted in the state where they volunteer. I was really grateful to the lawyers from out of state who came in 2008 (most came from New York, based on my conversations at training) but every state needs a home team. Voter protection is something liberals can put in place in every state and build on, because voter protection efforts are cumulative. Once the team is in place for one election, there’s then a pool of trained people who need only a refresher course and an assignment.
Here’s hoping Illinois and Wisconsin are prepared, because we weren’t prepared in Ohio in 2004.