(AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
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Democrats are frustrated: Why can’t Republican voters see that Republicans pass voter ID laws to suppress voting, not fraud?
Democrats know who tends to lack ID. They know that the threat of in-person voter fraud is wildly exaggerated. Besides, Republican officials could hardly have been clearer about the real purpose behind these laws and courts keep striking them down as unconstitutional. Still, Republican support remains sky high, with only one-third of Republicans recognizing that they are primarily intended to boost the GOP’s prospects.
How can Republican voters go on believing that the latest wave of voter ID laws is about fraud and that it’s the opposition to the laws that’s being partisan?
To help frustrated non-Republicans, I offer up my own experience as a case study. I was a Republican for most of my life, and during those years I had no doubt that such laws were indeed truly about fraud. Please join me on a tour of my old outlook on voter ID laws and what caused it to change.
Fraud on the Brain
I grew up in a wealthy Republican suburb of Chicago, where we worried about election fraud all the time. Showing our IDs at the polls seemed like a minor act of political rebellion against the legendary Democratic political machine that ran the city and county. “Vote early and often!” was the catchphrase we used for how that machine worked. Those were its instructions to its minions, we semi-jokingly believed, and it called up an image of mass in-person voter fraud.
We hated the “Democrat” machine, seeing it as inherently corrupt, and its power, we had no doubt, derived from fraud. When it wasn’t bribing voters or destroying ballots, it was manipulating election laws—creating, for instance, a signature-collecting requirement so onerous that only a massive organization like itself could easily gather enough John Hancocks to put its candidates on the ballot.
Republicans with long memories still wonder if Richard Nixon lost Illinois—and the 1960 election—thanks to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley’s ability to make dead Republicans vote for John F. Kennedy. For us, any new report of voter fraud, wrapped in rumor and historical memory, just hammered home what we already knew: it was rampant in our county thanks to the machine.
And it wasn’t just Chicago. We assumed that all cities were run by similarly corrupt Democratic organizations. As for stories of rural corruption and vote tampering? You can guess which party we blamed. Corruption, election fraud and Democrats: they went hand-in-hand-in-hand.