An article in the Times by one of the nation's best journalists talks about a speech that AG Holder was to give today on states (mostly controlled by Republicans after last year's elections) that are restricting the ability of Americans (mostly minorities and young people) to vote. Those are obviously core constituencies of the Democratic Party and there is little need to explain why the GOP would crack down on those demographics beyond the blindingly obvious reason.
Such crackdowns are always justified with the false cry of vote fraud, an issue you probably won't hear much about in Holder's speech.
I want to pull out a section of Savage's story to drive home the fact that vote fraud is basically a non-issue in the United States, and that the justifications for these laws is nothing by naked election rigging:
Proponents of such restrictions — mostly Republicans — say they are necessary to prevent voter fraud that could cancel out the choices of legitimate participants in an election. Opponents — mostly Democrats — say there is no evidence of meaningful levels of fraud and contend that the measures are a veiled effort to suppress participation by eligible voters who lean Democratic.
The bit that I've highlighted is misleading. It's true that opponents of these restrictions are mostly Democrats (actually it's a mix of Democrats, civil liberties advocates, and minority advocacy groups). But the way it's written is confusing. It's not true that mostly Democrats … say there is no evidence of meaningful levels of fraud.
Despite orders from the Bush administration to investigate and aggressively prosecute the GOP's imaginary onslaught of vote fraud, the Department of Justice didn't actually find very much fraud to go after. Examples of what little fraud was uncovered and prosecuted in a Times investigation were felons voting without understanding that they were barred from doing so by state law, and honest mistakes by legal immigrants.
This is particularly relevant given the new voter ID law in Wisconsin so extreme that it prompted a lawsuit from the American Civil Liberties Union to protect the right to vote in next year's presidential election.
This is Wisconsin, four years ago:
In Wisconsin, where prosecutors have lost almost twice as many cases as they won, charges were brought against voters who filled out more than one registration form and felons seemingly unaware that they were barred from voting.
When your office has lots twice as many cases as it has won, you've either got the worst lawyers in the country working for you, or your office is chasing their imagination. Here's an assistant U.S. Attorney for Wisconsin serving in the Bush administration DoJ:
“There was nothing that we uncovered that suggested some sort of concerted effort to tilt the election,” Richard G. Frohling, an assistant United States attorney in Milwaukee, said.
That's not the Obama DoJ, or a liberal lawyer saying there's no "there" there. It was a Bush administration lawyer saying that in 2007, while he was still in office. This all ties into the U.S. Attorney firing scandal during the Bush administration where at least two non-partisan lawyers for the DoJ were fired – on orders from the oval office – for not aggressively prosecuting vote fraud (specifically and allegedly by Democrats), when apparently there just wasn't any to find in the first place.
I doubt that Holder will mention very much of this background in his speech (he probably already gave it this afternoon), but it's critical information to consider because it basically destroys the justification the GOP has for passing these laws, and lays bare the real reason for them: to keep loyal Democratic voters from being able to vote.
In that regard, America doesn't have a vote fraud problem. It has an election rigging problem being perpetrated by the second largest and oldest political party around. The question is, what is the Holder/Obama DoJ doing to do about it? Speeches clearly won't deter Republicans from pursuing these laws and trying to attack them in the public square isn't going to get any traction if the DoJ isn't willing to tell the truth about why all of this is happening.
It's idealist to say that America doesn't have a vote fraud problem, which is true, and leave it at that. But it's bad leadership and bad government not to tell the public the real reasons for these laws. The DoJ and Obama administration have a duty to their country to fight this behavior aggressively and honestly. It's not partisan to say that Republicans are doing this for stupid and immoral reasons that hurt the Democratic Party and benefit their own when that's the truth of it.
The Obama administration has too many faults to list at this point, but surely near the top must be their unwillingness or inability to tell the ugly truth to the American people if it can be framed as partisan mudslinging. A good person that knows the truth has the responsibility to say so without equivocation and without holding anything back, even if it opens the door for dishonest smears and lies. Republicans are already lying about why these laws are being passed so it won't be anything new for them to lie when challenged on their true purpose and effect. Nothing is to be lost from that, but securing the integrity of democratic elections in this country is at stake and practically everything stands to be lost from sitting idly by, or worse, making a half-assed attempts to fight back and losing ground because you were too weak or scared to do the right thing.