ﻁThe Fired U.S. Attorney, David Iglesias, and "Voter Fraud" ::: International Endowment for Democracy
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The Fired U.S. Attorney, David Iglesias, and "Voter Fraud"

By John Boyd
from http://www.bradblog.com/?p=4276#more-4276

In order to blunt the scandal arising from the Republican efforts to persuade U.S. Attorney David Iglesias (New Mexico) to indict some Democrats just before the last election, Senator Pete Domenici and other Republicans have explained that, really, they've been "disappointed" with Iglesias for some time. Why? Because, according to Domenici et al., Iglesias failed to aggressively pursue the problem of "voter fraud" in New Mexico. These Republicans are undoubtedly telling the truth about this. The problem for them is that this explanation doesn't make things better for them, it makes things far, far worse. Read on.

In the run-up to the 2004 election, there were intense efforts at voter registration going on in New Mexico. The result was the enfranchisement of many minorities and poor. The Republicans were apoplectic, of course. The registration campaigns added about 65,000 voters to the rolls in Bernalillo County alone, about a 10% increase.

The Republicans' response (and it has since been surfacing in Congress as well as in other states) was to demand strict "voter i.d." laws. Strict voter i.d. laws have the effect of disenfranchising many students (who may not have in-state licenses, or other forms of i.d. showing an address), old people, minorities and poor who for many reasons may not possess the type of identification such a law would require.

The Republicans have been trying to sell these laws for the last two or three years, but they have needed a "hook". The hook is what they refer to as "voter fraud." If they can persuade the public that people are voting twice, or that people who shouldn't be permitted to vote are voting, or that other kinds of "fraud" are occurring, they can sell "voter i.d." as the solution. The problem for the Republicans is that voter fraud is not even a tiny problem. There are not a lot of people who are prepared to risk a felony conviction by finagling a way to vote twice, and there are not a lot of illegal aliens trying to figure out how to vote in American elections. As I learned from a Harvard professor who has studied the history of voting in America, the banner of "voter fraud" has a long and ugly history because it has been repeatedly used to justify impediments to voting, from poll taxes and literacy tests to the present day push for strict "voter i.d." laws.

So in New Mexico, in the late summer of 2004, a group of Republicans marched into the county clerk's office and asked if there were any "problem" registrations associated with the voter registration drives. The clerk said "yes" and told them that there were some 6000 defectively completed registration forms (missing ss#'s, po box addresses, no signature, that sort of thing). The problem for the Republicans, however, was that these didn't represent fraud, they were just typical and expected screw-ups by the registrants or the people registering them.

The Republicans nevertheless held a press conference, and grabbed headlines, announcing how terribly shocked they were to report that there were over 6000 "fraudulent registrations" submitted by these nefarious voter registration groups, and New Mexico's voter rolls were being grossly corrupted. This had the predictable effect on the public, whose response was that they could now understand why a strict voter i.d. law would be a good idea.

The Republicans filed suit to try to get a state district court declaration that New Mexico's very narrow voter i.d. statute (which applied only to first-time voters who had mailed in their voter registration applications) should have a much broader interpretation, under which most new voters would have to present i.d. at the polls. I represented the Democratic Party as an intervenor in the suit.


The Republicans attached to their complaint a few examples of what they alleged to be "clearly fraudulent" registration applications. This was to show how dire the situation was and how badly the state needed a more expansive interpretation of its voter i.d. law. Suffice it to say that we investigated the ostensibly fraudulent registrations and it turned out that they were clearly not fraudulent.

For example, one woman had signed two different registration applications, both of which were accurate. She signed one on a desk and one on her hand as she was walking across campus, with the result that her two signatures appeared different.

Another involved a couple who had registered at a voter registration drive table but had not received their registration cards. Worried that their applications has been lost, the husband returned alone to a registration table and filled out two new forms and, with his wife's permission, signed her name.

These were "Exhibits A and B" to the Republicans' allegations of rampant voter fraud. Only one of all the supposed examples was actually fraudulent. It was a registration application that a teenager had filled out as a prank. The testimony was clear that his name would never have appeared on the rolls because of the cross-checking that occurs with respect to every new registration, nor was there any indication that he would even have dreamed of trying to vote.

It was this evidenceif it can be called evidencethat the Republicans presented to David Iglesias when they demanded that he appoint a federal task force to get to the bottom of the "serious voter fraud problem" facing New Mexico. Iglesias understandably blew it off. What the Republicans wanted from him, of course, was not convictions (there was no evidence of any crimes, other than the teenager's prank), but HEADLINES! The Republicans' theory, probably correct, is that if they can get enough headlines about voter fraud, they will be able to sell their disenfranchising voter i.d. laws to the public. Iglesias, understandably, had better things to do with his time and with our money.

What this means, of course, is that the U.S. Attorney scandal is far worse than it now appears. The Republicans are telling the truth when they say they have been "disappointed" with Iglesias for a long time. What is not understood, however, is that the reason they've been disappointed with him is that before the last Presidential election Iglesias failed to obey the Republican politicians who asked him to devote his resources to publicly pursuing non-existent fraud. As we on the other side of the litigation referred to it, it was "the voter fraud fraud." Senator Domenici and Representative Wilson should hardly be able to find any political cover in their excuse that they had been disappointed by Iglesias' supposed failure to aggressively pursue voter fraud.

So this is a three-pronged scandal. First, there is the scandal of the "voter fraud" fraud which the Republicans have been trying to use to help promote restrictive, disenfranchising voter i.d. legislation. Second, there is the scandal of the Republicans attempting to enlist the US Atty's office in their voter fraud fraud by getting him, at taxpayer expense and contrary to the most elemental ethics, to use his office to generate headlines about "voter fraud" when none was occurring, for the sole purpose of shaving Democratic party margins. Third, there is the scandal of firing Iglesias for refusing to go along with this fraudulent manipulation. In other words, it's not BETTER because the Republicans have been "disappointed" in Iglesias for some time. It's WORSE.


  
 
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