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With Hours to Go Before Elections, Right-Wing Voter Suppression Picks Up Steam

"We are all voter fraud police now," said right-wing pundit Michelle Malkin recently. And sure enough, her compatriots have been more than happy to join her call to continue hyping the conservative myth of systematic voter fraud in the final hours leading up to Election Day. 

Despite the fact that an individual is more likely to be struck by lightning than to commit any sort of voter fraud, conservatives continue to take every opportunity to exaggerate the degree to which it occurs – even going so far as to blame "voter fraud" for progressive gains in early voting or to claim that their usual target for demonization, ACORN, has re-emerged to usher in an "epidemic" of voter fraud.  

Yet if there is a true epidemic sweeping states across the nation in these final days before voters go to the polls, it is the effort by the right wing to suppress turnout of disenfranchised communities through dirty tricks, intimidation, and reprising the same myth of voter fraud they do every cycle. The New York Times reported on this year's emergence of the "voter fraud" myth last week, citing Department of Justice statistics to highlight the disconnect of right-wing claims to reality:

A report by the public-integrity section of the Justice Department found that from October 2002 to September 2005, the department charged 95 people with “election fraud”; 55 were convicted.

Among those, fewer than 20 people were convicted of casting fraudulent ballots, and only 5 were convicted of registration fraud. Most of the rest were charged with other voting violations, including a scheme meant to help Republicans by blocking the phone lines used by two voting groups that were arranging rides to get voters to the polls.

Yet the coordinated push of the right-wing machine on the voter fraud myth shows no signs of slowing down as the polls are hours away from opening. Progressive States Network highlighted some recent reports of voter suppression attempts at the state level last week - here are just a few of the additional reports that have emerged in the days since (many highlighted by TPM Muckraker):

  • A prominent conservative website (which once hired Joe the Plumber to report on the geopolitics of the Middle East) announced the launch of their "Voter Fraud Watch" this week, encouraging readers to send in evidence they see of "fraud" at the polls.
  • Another conservative blog credited with "breaking" the debunked New Black Panthers story two years ago released an iPhone app so that their readers can use new technology to document instances of perceived voter fraud and immediately alert the right-wing noise machine to blow any isolated instances out of proportion.
  • Misleading flyers have appeared in African-American neighborhoods in Houston, Texas, informing potential voters not to vote "straight ticket Democrat" and alerting them that doing so would count as a vote for Republicans.
  • In Arizona, notorious anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio sent an email to supporters warning of "illegals stealing the election."
  • Right-wing bloggers and media figures went into overdrive accusing a Latino civic engagement group of voter registration fraud in Arizona and Colorado, despite the fact that such attacks had been previously dismissed by election officials as baseless.
  • In Nevada, the Secretary of State and election officials held a press conference to announce that they have found no evidence or even "credible complaints" about alleged voter fraud in early voting, and released a 20-page report responding to Republican party allegations that found some instances of human error but "no evidence of voting machine tampering or voter fraud." Secretary of State Ross Miller's investigation concluded that current election procedures in place are succeeding in their "attempt to balance the need to prevent voting fraud at the polls, with the need to assure that every qualified voter is permitted to vote."

As voters go to the polls, PSN will continue to track reports of attempted voter suppression and false claims of organized "voter fraud" across the nation.