Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Book Reviews: From political histories to bad comics, to bad comics of political histories. And the occasional rant about fiction and writing.

Mimsy Review: Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, October 28, 2012

“In the days when Norman Rockwell used to paint Saturday Evening Post covers showing people lining up outside churches and schools to vote, it was thought that we all should vote together, and that absentee voting was somehow shirking a voter’s true duty and should only be a last resort. In our instant-gratification era, that notion now seems a bit quaint.”

John Fund’s Stealing Elections is a concise, easy-to-read description of just how much of a disaster is looming toward us when vote fraud finally catches up to a major election—as may already have happened in places like Florida.

RecommendationRead now
AuthorJohn Fund
Length241 pages
Book Rating8

I’ve written before about how easy it is to vote as someone else in San Diego. Turns out my experience is an old one. Writing about Boss Tweed of Tammany Hall fame, Fund says:

The historian Denis Tilden Lynch describes how thugs would go from one polling place to the next, impersonating citizens who hadn’t yet voted.

One such “repeater” posed as the dignified pastor of a Dutch Reformed church. The election clerks asked him his name.

“Jones,” shouted the repeater, startling the poll workers with his scraggly beard, unclean face and whiskey breath.

“What is the first name, Mr. Jones?” asked the election clerk.

“John,” snarled the repeater.

“The Reverend Dr. John Jones, pastor of the Dutch Reformed church around the corner?” asked a clerk.

“Yes, you dirty, lousy @$#%%^**!” exclaimed the repeater. “Who’n else did you think I was, eh?”

The officials let “Reverend Jones” vote.

Works the same way for me, except that in my case they don’t know me and they give me my first name if I miss it by a few letters.

Stealing Elections goes over the same things—how easy it is to subvert our current voting system to fraudulent purpose, and how often it does, in fact, happen despite claims to the contrary. One of the fascinating things to me is how much politicians will resist good reforms that also carry high popular support. In the United States, people don’t just overwhelmingly support voting reforms, they overwhelmingly support specific proposals. A voter photo identification requirement carries an 80% approval rate, “including three-fourths of Democrats”.

Unlike the caricature usually provided by the media, voter ID requirements go out of their way to provide options for everyone. Georgia’s 2005 reform provided that:

Acceptable forms of ID included a driver’s license issued by the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) or photo ID issued by any state or by the federal government (which would include passports and college IDs issued by Georgia’s university system); an employee ID issued by Georgia state government, a local government, or the federal government; a military ID; or a tribal ID. Anyone declaring indigence in an affidavit would get a photo ID from DDS free of charge, and the state was going to provide a mobile bus system to provide ID cards to locations remote from DDS offices. Voters without a photo ID at the polling place could vote using a provisional ballot; that ballot would not be counted unless the voter returned to the registrar’s office with photo ID within forty-eight hours of the election.

Despite these measures, the state was sued on the grounds that the photo ID requirement amounted to a poll tax. So in 2006, Georgia amended the law to make all photo IDs issued by DDS free, eliminating the indigent affidavit requirement. But the lawsuit continued.

Despite the claims of the plaintiffs’ lawyers that there were hundreds of thousands of Georgia voters who did not have a photo ID and could not obtain one, over the course of the next two years of litigation they were unable to produce a single voter who was disenfranchised by the Georgia law. After the original litigation was filed in federal court with two named individual plaintiffs in addition to the organizational plaintiffs, one of those individuals withdrew when he found out that he would have to appear at a deposition. The remaining individual, Clara Williams, actually had a government-issued photo ID in the form of a MARTA transit card.

Despite [a broad email campaign and all their resources] they were able to find only two individuals to be new plaintiffs.

Ms. Young, who was seventy-eight years old and lived only one block away from her polling place, testified that she did not have a driver’s license or any other form of photo ID. However, she was employed as a housekeeper by one of the lawyers in the case, who had her picked up and driven to his house at least two days a week to do her cleaning job. Moreover, even though the lawyers were trying to claim that she could not get to a DDS office or the country registrar’s office to obtain a photo ID, Ms. Young testified that she regularly went across town to her bank, passing by the registrar’s office two miles from her home. In addition, her son would take her anywhere she wanted to go, and she said she would have no trouble at all obtaining a photo ID.

[Eugene Taylor was] forced to admit that he lived the same distance from his polling place as he did from the registrar’s office where he could obtain an ID. It turned out that his daughter regularly brought him groceries and his medicine; and someone also picked him up to transport him to the farm where he worked a few times a month. To the obvious consternation of his lawyers, he admitted in the deposition that he could easily get a photo ID since his daughter could take him to the registrar’s office to obtain one.

A third witness who was deposed but was not a plaintiff, Annie Johnson, was seventy-seven years old and lived in Jimmy Carter’s hometown of Plains, Georgia. She had provided a declaration saying that she would not be able to get a photo ID because of health problems and difficulty traveling long distances (the nearest DDS and voter registrar offices were in Americus, about eleven miles from her residence)…

Unfortunately for her lawyers, however, Ms. Johnson testified in her deposition that she went to Americus regularly on business and that her son or daughter or friends drove her wherever she needed to go. When she was told that the photo ID was free and that she could obtain it from her registrar’s office, she said she would plan to pick one up the next time she was in Americus…

When asked about her earlier declaration, Ms. Johnson could not remember signing it. Then she recalled that President Carter’s deacon had come to her house with the declaration and told her she needed to sign it to keep voting.

The final affidavit relied on by the plaintiffs was from Larry Dewberry… Although the nearest DDS office was ten or twelve miles away in the town of Perry, it turned out that Dewberry lived a quarter of a mile from the voter registrar’s office, and he could walk there in seven or eight minutes. When Dewberry found out during his deposition that he could obtain a photo ID at his registrar’s office for free, he said that if he had known so earlier, he would already have gotten a photo ID.

Note that you probably can’t blame Jimmy Carter for the actions of his deacon: Carter, having lived through some serious fraud of his own, supported photo ID laws as part of the Commission on Federal Election Reform. At the beginning of Carter’s political career, he ran against the local Democratic Party machine’s candidate and won only by proving serious vote fraud. “They compiled files showing that votes had been cast for people who were out of town, in prison, and falsely registered. In addition, some precincts showed voters casting ballots in alphabetical order.” Carter used to tell a story about one elderly couple who had voted for him, who had their ballots torn up by the machine boss, Joe Hurst, and replaced with “correct” ballots that voted for Carter’s opponent, all in front of the couple.

There’s a lot more in the book. I definitely recommend Stealing Elections.

Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy

John Fund

Recommendation: Read now