<html> <head><style type ="text/css">body { font-family: "Bloomberg Prop Unicode I", Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:125%; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; color: #FF9F0F; background-color: #000000; text-align: left; } p {line-height: 1.25em; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" );} h1, h2, h3 { text-align: left; font-weight: normal; color: #FFFFFF; } h1 { font-size: 130%; } h2 { font-size: 115%; } h3 { font-size: 100%; } #bb-style { font-size: 90%; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" ); } b, strong { font-weight: bold; } i, em { color: #FEC54A; } pre { font-family: "Andale Mono", "Monaco", "Lucida Console"; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; line-height: 1.25em; } table { border: 0; font-size: 90%; width: 100%; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; } td, tr { text-align: left; } td.numeric { text-align: right; } a:link { color:#53B2F5; text-decoration: none; } a:visited {color:#53B2F5} a:active {color:#53B2F5} a:hover {color:#53B2F5} </style> </head> <body> <p>By Josh Barro</p> <p>Outgoing Maine Republican Party chairman Charlie Webster caused a controversy this week when he raised concerns about voter fraud due to a suspiciously large number of black voters. The Portland Press Herald <a href="http://www.pressherald.com/politics/Maine-Republican-chairman-questions-black-voters-.html">quotes him</a>:</p> <p style="padding-left: 30px">In some parts of rural Maine, there were dozens, dozens of black people who came in and voted on Election Day. . . . Everybody has a right to vote, but nobody in (these) towns knows anyone who's black. How did that happen? I don't know. We're going to find out.</p> <p>Webster’s comments reveal that voter-fraud concerns tend to be thinly veiled racism. He basically is asking, “What are these suspicious black voters up to anyway?” Webster has gotten a lot of criticism for letting the veil slip off, including calls from other Maine Republicans for him to resign. (Webster has since <a href="http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1112/83967.html">apologized</a> and will be leaving office on Dec. 1 in any case.)</p> <p>But Webster’s comments also demonstrate how absurd the average voter-fraud claim is. What exactly is Webster alleging was going on? That some Democratic Party operative loaded up a bus of non-resident black people and took them to rural Maine, where they used their fraudulent votes to influence . . . presumably a state senate race or something? Maine, after all, had no competitive federal elections this year.</p> <p>That seems like a ludicrously inefficient strategy for winning an election. It would mean investing a lot of time and energy into getting people to commit illegal acts. If all went according to plan, the organizing party would have gotten a few dozen more votes. And if it went wrong, people would have gone to jail.</p> <p>This is why voter-fraud discussions from the right are all grumbling and no prosecutions. I was an intern for a Republican congressional campaign in the Philadelphia area in 2004. The Republican Party operatives I interacted with seemed sincerely convinced that the Democratic "machine" in Philadelphia routinely stole elections through chicanery at polling places, including illegal voting. Similar complaints <a href="http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2012/11/shocking-audio-dem-poll-watcher-kicking-out-gop-inspectors-in-philly-video/">spun around</a> the conservative blogosphere this November.</p> <p>Yet Republicans have held the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office for the last 32 years. Rooting out voter fraud in Philadelphia would have been a great career move for any of those attorneys general. That they haven’t done so is a good sign that the fraud isn't actually happening.</p> <p>You can also see this in the <a href="http://washingtonexaminer.com/son-of-dem-congressman-jim-moran-resigns-from-campaign-after-voter-fraud-video-surfaces/article/2511688#.UKZD1eOe_Vs">hidden camera scandal</a> that brought down Democratic Virginia Congressman Jim Moran’s field director (who is also his son) this fall. A conservative activist approached Patrick Moran about a plan to bring ineligible voters to the polls to vote for Democrats. Patrick Moran initially pushed back on the idea, not raising a moral objection to illegal voting, but pointing out that it seemed like a less efficient use of resources than legal means of getting out the vote.</p> <p>Voting is arguably <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/06/magazine/06freak.html?pagewanted=all">irrational behavior</a>. Voting more than once, or voting in a way that risks criminal prosecution, is far more irrational. Trying to get people to do so is a bad strategy. And that is why voter fraud, while it might be rampant in the conservative imagination, is rare in real life.</p> <p>(Josh Barro is lead writer for the Ticker. <a href="mailto:jbarro1@bloomberg.net">E-mail</a> him and <a href="https://twitter.com/#%21/jbarro">follow</a> him on Twitter.)</p> <p>Read more breaking commentary from Josh Barro and other Bloomberg View columnists and editors at <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/view/the-ticker/">the Ticker</a>.</p> </body> </html>