The Difference Between Voter Fraud And Voter Suppression

When dealing with propagandists, one trap that well-meaning campaigners often fall into is the adoption of the other side’s “framing” of an issue. Another is to repeat the claims of the liars as you attempt to debunk them. Both mistakes end up reinforcing the lie in the minds of many people.

Stacey Abrams had a fair claim that she was cheated. Her opponent was a secretary of state responsible for conduct of elections – and oversaw the purge from the rolls of tens of thousands of predominantly black voters. GOPers mocked her. But she had a case. Trump has noises. David Frum (@davidfrum) November 10, 2020

One lie that Republican misinformation merchants are currently peddling is that their noises about the election are no different to the complaints made by the Democrats in previous election cycles. The response is to say, “no that’s different because our claims are genuine.” That might be true, but it doesn’t persuade anyone.

Moreover, the crucial difference lies in the fact that vote fraud is not the same as vote suppression. The Republicans are alleging voter fraud i.e. that people who were not entitled to vote did cast a vote. They have so far shown no evidence that this happens in anything more than a handful of cases nationwide. Indeed, a special commission set up by Donald Trump himself to examine the extent of the problem, found that there wasn’t one.

Compare this with the complaint of the Democrats, which is one of voter suppression i.e. preventing or discouraging people from voting. There is plenty of evidence that this practice is widespread: the purging of voter registrations, an under-provision of polling locations, and burdensome registration and absentee voting restrictions.

The most pertinent example of this is Stacey Abrams, who lost Georgia’s 2018 gubernatorial race by about 55,000 votes when the incumbent governor — her opponent in the race! — oversaw the purging of more than half a million people from the electoral register. None of the votes actually cast in that race were illegal, but in some sense the suggestion that the contest was ‘stolen’ carries weight.

Here’s an idea: if the Democrats do want to play a form of ‘hard ball’ with the other side, then perhaps they could promise a wide-ranging programme to investigate ‘election irregularities’ and then use that as an excuse to highlight examples of voter suppression, and to promote electoral reform.

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