by Tony Wyman
Trump Claims About Voter Fraud Are Intended To Discredit the 2020 Election
The White House, under the direction of President Donald Trump, is basing their claims that Democrats, liberals and illegal immigrants are planning to steal the 2020 election through voter fraud on a 381-page report from the right-wing think tank The Heritage Foundation.
The problem with that report is it doesn’t prove what the GOP thinks it does.
Jason Snead, a former senior policy analyst in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation, pointed out in an article published at the foundation’s website that voter fraud crosses party lines and isn’t unique to either political party or philosophy.
“Two decades ago, Gustavo Araujo Lerma took on the identity of a deceased U.S. citizen and proceeded to vote illegally in a number of U.S. elections,” Mr. Snead wrote.
“But Lerma didn’t vote for who you might expect. Lerma is a Republican and an ardent backer of president Donald Trump. His lawyers even held up as evidence at trial a letter from Trump and Vice President Mike Pence thanking him for his support. If nothing else, Lerma’s conviction is further proof that the incentives to commit voter fraud are truly bipartisan,” wrote Mr. Snead.
Before descending into a litany of all-too-familiar right-wing grievances about how the mainstream media unfairly treats conservatives, a complaint easily disproved by studies that show otherwise, Mr. Snead brought up perhaps the most prominent case of election fraud in recent American history, the race for the 9th Congressional District seat in North Carolina.
During that race, Republican operative Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr., who had previously served two years in prison for insurance fraud and felony perjury, allegedly led an election fraud conspiracy involving seven others who worked for him that included tampering with absentee ballots in an attempt to elect Republican Mark Harris to a seat in the House.
Mr. Harris, a Baptist minister who illegally set off a fire alarm to escape questioning by the media in January 2019 after the election, a class two misdemeanor in North Carolina, won over Democratic Party candidate and former Marine Captain Dan McCready by a very small tally of just 905 votes.
On election night, Mr. McCready initially conceded the race, but later filed a complaint with the state board of elections. The board, after an initial investigation showed widespread fraud by Mr. Dowless and the Harris campaign, refused to certify the election and demanded the seat remain open until a special election could be held.
Mr. Dowless was subsequently charged with multiple felonies, including tampering with absentee ballots in an effort to get Mr. Harris elected. State Elections Director Kim Strach, a Republican appointee who was later fired by the all-Democratic board for not being a Democrat, said evidence in the ongoing case would show “a coordinated, unlawful and substantially resourced absentee ballot scheme operated in the 2018 general election” by Mr. Dowless and his co-conspirators.
Mr. Harris claimed the fraud charges were a conspiracy by his opponents to deprive him of the seat. “Democrats and liberal media have spared no expense disparaging my good name,” he said, blaming “a liberal activist” on the Board of Elections, namely Ms. Strach, for the ensuing investigation and claimed that the charges against him and Mr. Dowless were “unsubstantiated slandering.”
However, evidence collected by the board of elections became overwhelming and Mr. Harris was forced to renounce his victory and to call for a special election, one in which he would not run. Lisa Britt, Dowless’s ex-wife’s daughter, spent months knocking on doors of the district’s black voters, asking them for their ballots and offering to fill them out for the voters .
She testified that her former father-in-law directed her to collect these ballots and to fill them out to cast votes for Republican candidates. She also testified that she and others had falsified witness signatures on the absentee ballots.
In addition, Mr. Harris’s son, John Harris, a federal prosecutor and assistant district attorney in Raleigh, testified that he had repeatedly warned his father Mr. Dowless was “shady” and likely involved in illegal activities associated with the election. “I thought what he was doing was illegal, and I was right,” the 29-year-old Mr. Harris testified in court before his weeping father in 2019.
Mr. Dowless has since been indicted on Social Security fraud charges, in addition to earlier federal charges associated with his alleged criminal activities during the election.
He appeared in court for the first time on May 11, 2020, to face charges he lied about $132,000 in pay he received from two campaigns in which he worked while collecting Social Security in 2017 and 2018 for supposedly being disabled and retired.
Why is Trump Pushing Voter Fraud as an Issue?
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the North Carolina 9th District fraud case is it is probably the first case in American federal election history where the results were altered by illegal vote manipulation. And the crime was committed to benefit a candidate who was a passionate supporter of President Trump.
Despite inflaming his supporters with dramatic and unsubstantiated warnings that illegal aliens are going to steal the 2020 race from him, Mr. Trump hasn’t said a thing condemning the real and verified case of voter fraud that effectively stole a seat from a Democratic candidate and gave it to a Republican supporter in North Carolina.
So, obviously, the president has no problem with voter fraud, as long as it benefits him. After all, his campaign recently hired, as director of rapid response for Spanish-language media, Giancarlo Sopo, a man tied to a scheme to illegally request absentee ballots for Florida voters without their knowledge. That attempt at voter fraud sent a Democratic operative to prison.
He also hasn’t expressed concern about operations by hostile states like Russia that influenced the 2016 election or about Moscow’s plans to meddle in the 2020 election, a plot identified by the president’s own intelligence agencies.
But the president is hysterical over the possibility that illegal aliens and Democrats are going to steal the 2020 election from him, a prospect that not even the Heritage Foundation report thinks is much of a possibility.
In the out-of-date Heritage report on Whitehouse.gov, (there is an updated version Heritage published May 10th, 2020) there are only 1071 “proven instances of voter fraud” in the country over a period of time that stretches back as far as 1948.
According to the Heritage report, there have been 134 cases of mail-in voter fraud since 2000, less than half the number (270) of people estimated to have been killed by lightning strikes during that same period. Even if every single case of mail-in fraud happened in 2016, that would equal 0.00000097 of the total vote during the last presidential election.
In other words, the chances of millions of illegal aliens, people trying their best to stay under the government’s radar, suddenly popping up in numbers unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, capable of turning the next presidential election in Joe Biden’s favor – are zero. And Donald Trump knows it.
The Commission That Tried to Find Something
So what is the motivation behind the recent barrage by Mr. Trump and his agents warning of impending widespread fraud by illegal immigrants and their left-wing allies without any evidence whatsoever to back up their claims?
“They are trying to steal another election. It’s all rigged out there. These votes must not count. SCAM!,” Mr. Trump tweeted May 11th about California’s special election held during the COVID-19 pandemic in the district around Lancaster, a city north of Los Angeles. Specifically, he was complaining that election officials had placed an additional outdoor voting location in an area that was largely blue in an effort to help Democrats collect votes.
The problem with the president’s charge is the location was requested by the area’s Republican mayor R. Rex Parris, not Democrats. “I gotta take the rap,” Mayor Parris told reporters. “I called them up and said I want a vote center, so they gave it to me.”
Not much of a SCAM, after all.
In fact, the president knows that widespread voter scams are extremely rare and the few there are, largely ineffective. How does he know this? Because his own commission confirmed it. Or, more accurately, the partisan commission of Trump supporters assembled to manufacture a voter integrity crisis where none existed, failed to manufacture one.
I am, of course, referring to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity that President Trump assembled to look into voter fraud in the the 2016 presidential election, a race he won despite trailing by the largest number of popular votes in American history for a candidate elected by the Electoral College.
Unlike previous similar commissions impaneled by other presidents, Mr. Trump’s commission was heavily partisan. It was co-chaired by two Republicans, both leading and passionate supporters of the Trump Administration, Vice-president Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
In addition, the make-up of the commission’s board was heavily weighted to favor the president, with eight of the original members chosen from the GOP and only five from the Democratic Party.
The commission requested that all states share sensitive voter information as part of their investigation into the possibility of widespread voter fraud.
That information included full names and addresses, party affiliation, felony conviction records, partial Social Security records, military status, whether they had lived overseas, voting histories and whether they were registered to vote in other states.
Due to voter privacy laws, however, 44 states refused to give the commission either any or some of the data they requested. Not surprisingly, Mr. Trump saw in this refusal a conspiracy to hide the truth from him and his commission, as well as proof that a gigantic plot to stack the election against him was underway.
“Many mostly Democrat States refused to hand over data from the 2016 Election to the Commission On Voter Fraud. They fought hard that the Commission not see their records or methods because they know that many people are voting illegally. System is rigged, must go to Voter I.D.” he tweeted.
The problem with his allegation was it was only partially true. While he was correct that states that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 refused to cooperate with his partisan commission, so did many Republican states that Mr. Trump won in the election.
Among the states refusing to fully cooperate with the commission included states like Arizona, Kentucky, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming, all of which supported Mr. Trump against Mrs. Clinton.
In addition even Mr. Kobach’s state of Kansas refused to hand over some data, in their case Social Security numbers, because of privacy laws preventing state government from sharing such information publicly.
Ken Detzner, the Republican secretary of state of Florida, was one of the officials who flatly refused to cooperate with the commission.
“We absolutely will not provide any information that is not already publicly available,” Mr. Detzner said to reporters in July. “The responsibility for the accuracy and fairness of our elections process in Florida lies with us, not with the federal government in Washington, D.C.”
Louisiana’s Republican Secretary of State, Tom Schedler, echoed Mr. Deztner’s remarks. “The President’s Commission has quickly politicized its work by asking states for an incredible amount of voter data that I have, time and time again, refused to release,” he said. “My response to the Commission is, you’re not going to play politics with Louisiana’s voter data, and if you are, then you can purchase the limited public information available by law, to any candidate running for office. That’s it.”
Republican Delbert Hosemann, Mississippi’s Secretary of State, went even further. “My reply would be: They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico, and Mississippi is a great state to launch from,” he said in a statement to reporters. “Mississippi residents should celebrate Independence Day and our state’s right to protect the privacy of our citizens by conducting our own electoral processes.”
Beset by numerous lawsuits from voter’s rights groups and government watchdogs, Mr. Trump disbanded the commission in January 2018 before it made any findings on the subject of voter fraud.
One of the lawsuits came from a member of the panel, itself, Maine Democrat Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap who alleged in his case that he and other Democrats were being excluded from the commission’s work which he believed was being done exclusively by Republican members, including one of the chairs, Mr. Kobach.
In late 2017, Mr. Dunlap sued the commission to have documents that had been withheld from him turned over so he could view them. A judge ordered the commission to turn over more than 1800 documents in June 2018 and, in July, Mr. Dunlap made them public
Among the documents handed over to Mr. Dunlap was a draft of a report to be made by the commission written before any real and substantial investigation had taken place. Headlines in the document included “improper voter registration practices,” “instances of fraudulent or improper voting,” “instances of other election crimes” and “voter suppression.”
It was apparent to Mr. Dunlap the commission’s real function was to give an air of legitimacy to the president’s pre-ordained conclusion that voter fraud existed in significant numbers that explained why he lost the popular vote by nearly three million against Hillary Clinton.
“Contrary to what we were promised, these documents show that there was, in fact, a pre-ordained outcome to this commission to demonstrate widespread voter fraud, without any evidence to back it up,” Mr. Dunlap said in a statement released August 3, 2018.
And, in a letter he sent to Mr. Pence and Mr. Kobach that same day, Mr. Dunlap said, “That the Commission predicted it would find widespread evidence of fraud actually reveals a troubling bias. While individual cases of improper or fraudulent voting occur infrequently, the instances of which I am aware do not provide any basis to extrapolate widespread of systematic problems. The plural of anecdote is not data.”
In other words, Mr. Dunlap concluded the commission, under the direction of the vice-president of the United States was going to deliberately lie to the American people about the amount and impact of voter fraud in an official document of the federal government.
So, why is the president and members of his administration seemingly preparing a case claiming voter fraud is widespread and part of a conspiracy to rob candidates for public office of the seats they legitimately won when no such evidence exists backing up the claim?
Because he either knows or suspects he is going to lose to Joe Biden in November 2020 and wants to have something other than his poor performance as president to blame.
Tom Nichols, writing a piece The Atlantic today called Donald Trump, the Most Unmanly President put it brilliantly when he said:
“Does Trump accept responsibility and look out for his team? Not in the least. In this category, he exhibits one of the most unmanly of behaviors: He’s a blamer. Nothing is ever his fault. In the midst of disaster, he praises himself while turning on even his most loyal supporters without a moment’s hesitation. Men across America who were socialized by team sports, whose lives are predicated on the principle of showing up and doing the job, continually excuse a man who continually excuses himself. This presidency is defined not by Ed Harris’s grim intonation in Apollo 13 that “failure is not an option,” but by one of the most shameful utterances of a chief executive in modern American history: “I take no responsibility at all.”
This is precisely where Mr. Trump is heading with his wild and irresponsible claims that voter fraud is a threat to the nation’s system of choosing its elected leaders. He is planning on blaming his upcoming loss on the “Deep State” and the “Lamestream media” and illegal immigrants who somehow managed to get past the wall he never actually built.
He will inflame the emotions of men driven into a rage, manifested by putting on camouflage clothing bought in sporting goods stores and grabbing their AR-15s to storm the office of a female governor who deprived them of the right to go strip joints during a pandemic that, so far, has killed more Americans than every military engagement since World War II combined.
“What will happen if Trump loses and then takes to Twitter to say he actually won?” asked Washington Post columnist and professor of global politics at University College in London Brian Klaas
It’s not hard to see how deadly that could become, particularly given that Fox News personalities are already absurdly throwing around the word ‘coup’ to describe lawful investigations and oversight of the president’s conduct.
When people in positions of authority and influence invoke the language of political violence and then lose power, violence often ensues. It would be a mistake to assume the United States is somehow immune from that possibility.
Republicans who care about the republic must act now. They need to call out the president when he spreads lies and stokes fears about voter fraud that are rooted only in conservative mythology. Otherwise, we can pretend to be shocked, but nobody should be surprised if Trump tries to discredit the 2020 election — no matter the consequences — if he loses.”
Those “consequences” will likely include acts of violence and civil unrest that could cost Americans their lives. And should that happen, after the president calls upon his supporters to protest the “fraud” that led to his defeat to Mr. Biden, you can be sure that Mr. Trump, in typical fashion, will accept no responsibility for his role in causing it happen.