Sunday, April 01, 2007

'Voter Fraud': Watching our language, again, still

Today’s post is by guest blogger, John Burik (photo).* This article and others by John are posted at Democracy for America’s “Blog for America,” John Burik's Posts.

The term voter fraud has again crept into the public conversation with questions about the firing of US Attorneys. The alleged failure of certain attorneys to aggressively pursue "voter fraud" led to some of the attorneys' termination. Who wouldn't oppose voter fraud? We want clean elections as much as want clean air.

Voter fraud, however, refers to individual voters who improperly seek to register or vote. While it does occur and no one fighting for democracy supports it, fraudulent votes--resulting from individual voter behavior--are largely a myth. There were four (4) actual cases of voter fraud prosecuted in Ohio in 2004, and as state Senator Teresa Fedor put it last year, "Minnie Mouse didn't vote." Waldman and Levitt put the attorney firings and voter fraud in context in a Washington Post

Like terrorism the term is used to elicit fear and justify overly stringent identification requirements which have the effect of decreasing voter registration and turnout, de facto disenfranchisement of young, poor or minority voters. Hmm. Who would want to do that?

Unfortunately, the term voter fraud is again being conflated with the larger and real problem of election fraud which includes voter intimidation, misinformation, defective software, and provisional and absentee ballots improperly discarded.

So watch your language and insist speakers and writers get honest--and accurate--on the issue. The US Attorneys "failing" to pursue voter fraud means they refused to be complicit in disenfranchsing likely Democratic voters.

*John Burik, Cincinnati, active in CASE-Ohio (Citizens Alliance for Secure Elections). Back in November of 2004, when I decided that what was going on with the Presidential election in Ohio was “the epicenter of the world,” (Jesse Jackson used these words as he talked to plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the election of Bush), I put all of my energy into finding recount observers and attorneys from all over the country to go to Ohio to challenge the election results. As I worked on finding free airfare and lodging for the volunteers, I was put in contact with John. He sent out a request to the CASE-Ohio members, and within hours, I had seven families scattered across Ohio who volunteered to house out-of-state volunteers.

John and I have stayed in touch. He helps me understand what is going on in Ohio. Above and beyond the call of duty, John edits the attorney profiles that I write for my county bar association quarterly magazine. What more could a person ask for from a friend?


Anonymous said...

Check out today's Paul Krugman column in the NYT.

He calls disenfranchisement "the unitary theory of the Bush administration.

The column needs wide wide wide circulation.


Gail Jonas said...

You are so right, Janie. Not just "wide circulation," but "wide wide wide circulation."