Republican officeholders Beth Chapman, the secretary of state, and Luther Strange, the attorney general, called a news conference Monday to recite their lines.
Fraudsters to the left of us. Fraudsters to the right of us. Fraudsters behind us.
Fear not, gentle Alabamians, Chapman and Strange are on the case. They wanted everyone to know they will be vigilantly guarding the state’s polling places, keeping an eye out for lawbreakers. That’s fine. It’s what we should expect. Though it begs the question: Would we expect state troopers to issue similar warning every time they hit the highways looking for speeders?
However, there is subtext to this pronouncement from Montgomery. To strain Lord Tennyson’s brilliance once more, we must skip the “do or die” and ask the reason why.
We will begin with what it’s not. It’s not because of overwhelming evidence of actual voter fraud in the state. Counting out the number of convictions in Alabama on that count over the last 20 years barely occupies the fingers on two hands.
Never mind, says Gen. Chapman, in your heart you know it exists. Belief in widespread voter fraud, it appears, is a matter of faith. You can’t see it, which makes it all the more dangerous. (Cue the dramatic music.)
In reality, Monday’s news conference was merely the local spin on a national movement led by Republicans. The not-so-naked aim is to create the impression that a massive amount of voter fraud is occurring across the country. University of California at Irvine law professor and author of The Voting Wars Richard L. Hasen recently told The New Yorker, “[T]he myth that Democratic voter fraud is common, and that it helps Democrats win elections, has become part of the Republican orthodoxy.”
This explains the countless GOP-led statehouses toughening up voter-ID laws. This effort is in spite of the fact that voter impersonation is extremely rare and a wholly inefficient way to sway an election. Many racial minorities, college students, the poor and nursing home patients will likely see their otherwise valid ballots denied because of these laws, but to Republicans leading this effort, they are mere collateral damage victims of a war against the great invisible Vote Fraud Monster.
Strange and Chapman have let us know that on Nov. 6 they will be hunting the great beast. We wish them luck on a difficult task. Catching what’s not there is usually a tough job.