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life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness --- amendedThis post is my way of virtually banging my head against the wall in frustration over how Democratic sloppiness keeps helping the GOP sell it's claim that voter fraud is real. I don't mean to pick on Meteor Blades or Ted Deutch. They're just the example I happened upon a short while ago.

The title of the article is Top Florida Republicans have no advice for election officials about voter fraud by ... Republicans, and here's the offending quote of a Democratic congressman in a letter to Florida's governor:

Governor Scott, we are on the cusp of a Presidential election. Disturbing reports suggest that professionally coordinated voter fraud occurred in Florida that is potentially massive in scale. Your silence and inaction are shocking and hypocritical considering you have spent the last year in an expensive and highly controversial effort to purge legitimate citizens from our rolls in a supposed search to find “voter fraud.” Your efforts to purge 182,000 individuals from our voting rolls continued until we discovered that the list was nakedly partisan and so error-ridden that it contained the names of tens of thousands of legitimate voters, including small business owners and a decorated World War II hero. Now, when an actual voter fraud scheme has apparently been discovered in our state, there is neither room nor time for the partisan allegiances that typically guide your Administration’s actions.

Governor Scott, you now have an opportunity to prove that you care about voter fraud even if involves the Florida Republican Party, the Republican National Committee, and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.

Please tell me you see the problem.

The problem is the use of the term "voter fraud". Voter fraud is carried out by individual voters. You need a lot of people participating in the conspiracy, which is why it's almost mathematically impossible to steal an election through voter fraud. When you interfere with either the casting or counting of votes, that's election fraud, not voter fraud. To the extent Sproul employees were faking voter registrations, that's registration fraud, the same thing ACORN caught some of its employees doing, and which is inevitable when employees have to register enough voters to meet a quota or earn a bonus. When Sproul was throwing out Democratic and independent registrations, that was election fraud, because they stopped a bunch of people from being able to vote. It sounds like the new twist was to change Democratic forms so the information would be wrong, and the voter wouldn't actually be registered. That's election fraud. You have to have some ability to manipulate the machinery of elections, like throwing out registrations from the "wrong" party, to commit election fraud. When Florida illegally purged black voters from the registration rolls in 2000, when Ohio election officials removed voting machines from Democratic precincts to create all-day waiting times, those were election fraud. Those were, unfortunately, enough to steal two elections for Bush Jr. (along with a few other things pulled by Republicans in Ohio and Florida), which gives us not one, but two reasons to get our terms straight:

1. When Democrats say things like "reports suggest that professionally coordinated voter fraud occurred in Florida" or "voter fraud by ... Republicans", we feed the assumption voter fraud is common, and neglect that a non-partisan audience doesn't assume it's a Republican thing, but that both parties do it. So no wonder they're open to photo ID laws.

2. By not referring to election fraud when that's what happened, we make it that much harder to explain it to the public or convince honest public officials to do something about it. We're opening ourselves up to a "both sides do it" charge, no matter how much the facts say otherwise.

Above all, given the laws and constitutional amendments imposing photo ID for voting that we're fighting right now, misusing the term "voter fraud" makes it sound like we're saying, "There's no such thing as voter fraud, and the Republicans are committing a bunch of it." Not a winning argument.

cross-posted at MN Progressive Project

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