Belmont Club

The Real McCoy

Reacting to warnings that bogus gold jewelry was being sold at smaller shops in Manila, one careful customer brought a quantity of vinegar in order to test its authenticity. When the supposed gold jewelry turned gray under the assay, the customer was incensed, but the shopkeeper was nonplussed. “That only proves,” he said, “that your vinegar is fake.” That was the line taken by the Adam Martin of the Atlantic Wire today, reacting to a video showing a James O’Keefe successfully requesting the Attorney General’s ballot.

It doesn’t reveal a widespread problem of people falsely impersonating other voters. In fact, the only people it proves impersonate voters are those working for Project Veritas.


Adam Martin’s argument is yet another another example of “begging the question” — “a type of logical fallacy in which a proposition is made that uses its own premise as proof of the proposition.” Voter fraud doesn’t exist, therefore there’s no need to prevent it. That is not self-evidently true. Politico reports that nearly two million dead people are on the electoral rolls. In addition, “there are 2.75 million people currently registered to vote in more than one state.”

There have been other reactions along the same lines as the Atlantic Wire’s. James O’Keefe Proves That Pointless Form of Voter Fraud Is Possible — New York Magazine. “Video trickster James O’Keefe has posted a video showing a man walking into a Washington, DC polling place last Tuesday during the local primary and claiming to be Eric Holder,” — MSNBC. The best part of the MSNBC article is this: because O’Keefe did not continue to vote it proves he “never received or cast a fraudulently obtained ballot”.

Mike DeBonis at the Washington Post begs the argument yet again, “there is no evidence a widespread effort to engage in this type of fraud would be successful or rational. In other words, they say, organizing a scheme large enough to throw an election would be easily detected and would not be worth the risk.”

The problem with that argument is that the people who would adjudicate the fraud would be those fraudulently elected in the first place. After several cycles of voter fraud, the democratic process itself would be so corrupted that the fraudsters would be virtually unassailable. Far from being an irrational or doomed enterprise, voter fraud is a real threat. One historical example was the Presidential election of 1960 when Richard Daley allegedly gave the Presidency to John Kennedy:

Many Republicans (including Nixon and Eisenhower) believed that Kennedy had benefited from vote fraud, especially in Texas, where Kennedy’s running mate Lyndon B. Johnson was Senator, and Illinois, home of Mayor Richard Daley’s powerful Chicago political machine. These two states are important because if Nixon had carried both, he would have won the election in the Electoral College. Republican Senators such as Everett Dirksen and Barry Goldwater also believed that vote fraud played a role in the election, and they believed that Nixon actually won the national popular vote. Republicans tried and failed to overturn the results in both these states at the time—as well as in nine other states. Some journalists also later claimed that mobster Sam Giancana and his Chicago crime syndicate played a role in Kennedy’s victory in Illinois.

To say that voter fraud can’t happen because no one would risk it is a pure exercise in begging the question. The Battle of Athens in 1946 illustrates what happens when voter fraud gets baked into the system. In the case of Athens, Tennessee, newly returned GIs actually shot it out with “the wealthy Cantrell family (supporters of the Democrats’ New Deal policies in the 1932 Presidential elections) [who] essentially ruled the county. Paul Cantrell was elected sheriff in the 1936, 1938, and 1940 elections, then was elected to the state senate in 1942 and 1944, while his former deputy, Pat Mansfield, was elected sheriff.” The Cantrells would stuff the ballot boxes. The Tennessee Encyclopedia describes the lengths to which the GIs had to go to upend entrenched voter fraud.

When Sheriff Pat Mansfield’s deputies absconded to the jail with key ballot boxes, suspicious veterans took action. A small group of veterans broke into the local National Guard Armory, seized weapons and ammunition, and proceeded to the jail to demand the return of the ballot boxes. The Cantrell-Mansfield deputies refused, and the veterans, now numbering several hundred, opened fire. The ensuing battle lasted several hours and ended only after the dynamiting of the front of the jail. The surrender of the deputies did not end the riot, and the mob was still turning over police cars and burning them hours later. Within days the local election commission swore in the veteran candidates as duly elected. The McMinn County veterans had won the day in a hail of gunfire, dynamite, and esprit de corps.

The best thing to do is ensure that things never get that far. Pooh-pooing the risk of voter fraud and making its commission easier can over the long haul endanger democracy itself.  Of course, not everyone is convinced there is even such a thing as voter fraud. Dave Johnson, who is a Fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future, calls for the arrest of O’Keefe.

Finally, finally, there is an actual instance of voter fraud. Finally we can publicly prosecute a voter fraud case and set an example! By making an example of what happens to people who actually commit voter fraud we can nip this problem in the bud before it gets started!

Although Johnson’s tone borders on the absurd he is really making the same argument as the Atlantic Wire and the other sources quoted above. O’Keefe is engaged in exposing a non-existent problem. There is no proof that voter fraud is happening or is likely to happen, and hence, he is engaged in the greater crime of disenfranchising the voter. As Dave Johnson puts it:

We want more citizens to vote. Stores don’t make it harder to buy food to stop shoplifting, why should we make it harder for millions to vote when all we need to do is prosecute this case publicly, so people will see what happens if they do this.

How do you know they’re citizens? It’s probably criminal to ask that question also. One might be forgiven for thinking the actual crime in all these cases is to disagree with the given agenda.

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