Legitimate concern

As you read this, those voters living and dead, real and fictional who have not already voted are streaming to the polls to vote. In some states they will be required to show the folks manning the polls some form of identification to prove they are who they claim to be, but in others no questions will be asked lest someone be in some way discomforted.

It is, presumably, only in such states that Mickey Mouse and Wonder Woman will actually be allowed to vote, but one never knows. Politicians and their managers have always tried to game the system and take advantage of every possibility to maximize their vote. George Washington and politicians of his era were expected to provide voters booze on their way to the polls. Machine politicians of both parties have fought to keep their opponents from cleaning up the voter rolls for decades lest someone be denied the right to vote just because he or she had the misfortune of dying before Election Day.

This has gone on forever, but in past cycles politicians and particularly candidates denied having a role in the practice and universally condemned it as morally wrong and a threat to the stability of the very democratic process they hoped would bring them to power. Not so this time. Today’s Democratic presidential candidate and his team not only pooh-poohed the threat posed by supporters who are trying to help him by registering hundreds of thousands of nonexistent voters in battleground states, but have funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to those doing it.

Democrats argue that registration fraud doesn’t necessarily lead to voter fraud. Sounds good, I guess, but even some of those involved in the scheme have had second thoughts. The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund, for example, recently talked to Anita MonCrief, who worked for ACORN and its voter registration offshoot from 2005 until early this year. She told him, “It’s ludicrous to say that fake registrations can’t become fraudulent votes … if you can get them on the rolls you can get them to vote, especially using absentee ballots.”

It remains to be seen what will transpire today, but Republicans are not comforted by the fact that Federal Election Commission records reveal that the Department of Justice official charged with protecting the sanctity of the process “maxed out” to the Democratic candidate and has suggested that the activities of ACORN and other groups don’t much concern him and shouldn’t concern the rest of us.

In traditional fashion, Democrats have tried to turn the tables on those concerned about voter fraud by arguing that any effort to ensure the sanctity of the electoral process should be dismissed as a shabby attempt to “suppress” their vote. To an extent this is, of course, true. If Mickey Mouse can’t squeakily prove that he is who he claims to be, he should be turned away or scared off even if doing so deprives the candidate a vote. In any rational system the electorate is asked to trust; real voters need to know that the dead, fictional or fraudulently registered won’t be able to cancel out their votes.

The stability of a democratic society depends on the faith voters have in the honesty of the electoral process, because in such a system, losers are expected to accept the decisions of the electorate regardless of the stakes. This becomes increasingly difficult if significant numbers of voters believe the system has been rigged.

After the 2000 election, many Democrats were convinced, fairly or not, that because their candidate won the popular vote and the Supreme Court had handed Florida to the Republicans, George W. Bush was an illegitimate president who did not deserve the office. Many of his critics acted on that conviction from Day One, refusing the Bush team the benefit of the doubt newly elected presidents usually enjoy.

To the detriment of the nation through two terms, the toxicity of our politics increased as Bush was derided and attacked by those who held to this conviction.      

Now, supporters of the Democratic candidate who hopes to and may well succeed Bush are acting in a way that is almost guaranteed to delegitimize their candidate’s election in the minds of many voters.

Even if today’s election is only close in a few states, many Republicans could walk away thinking, rightly or wrongly, that ACORN’s outrageous, Obama–sanctioned, fraudulent attempts to register Mickey Mouse and his buddies made the difference. If that happens, it could well doom the country to at least four more years of division and turmoil.

Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, can be reached at Keeneacu@aol.com.