Michael Kinsley famously wrote: “A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth—some obvious truth he isn't supposed to say.”
Pennsylvania GOP House leader Mike Turzai uttered precisely such a statement over the weekend when he said that the state’s new voter ID law “is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
Republicans have passed more than a dozen new voting restrictions since 2010, including voter ID laws in ten GOP-controlled states, under the guise of stopping the virtually nonexistent problem of “ voter fraud.” Yet the real purpose of the new voting restrictions, as Turzai admitted, is to shape the electorate in the GOP’s favor, since such laws disproportionately impact Democratic-leaning young and minority voters. As Bill Clinton said last year: “Why is all of this going on? This is not rocket science. They are trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate.”
In order to justify new voter suppression laws, GOP operatives are spinning increasingly elaborate conspiracy theories about alleged schemes of the Obama campaign and its allies to try to hijack the 2012 election. “Stop the corrupt Obama machine from stealing the 2012 elections,” reads the headline of a recent fundraising letter from the conservative legal organization Judicial Watch (see below).
According to Judicial Watch, which led the fight to impeach Clinton, the Obama administration is “aggressively pursuing plans behind closed doors to enact ‘stealth’ amnesty’ for millions of illegal aliens in a move to curry favor with Hispanic voters and potentially make it easier for illegal aliens to break the law and vote in 2012,” along with “continuing to funnel tax dollars to the corrupt and criminal ACORN.”
Such assertions are easily debunked. There is no “stealth amnesty” program, there is no record of noncitizens intentionally voting in US elections and ACORN no longer exists. Yet such outlandish claims are deeply ingrained in the conservative psyche. A 2009 survey by Public Policy Polling found that “52% majority of GOP voters nationally think that ACORN stole the Presidential election for Barack Obama last year, with only 27% granting that he won it legitimately.”
The purveyors of such discredited arguments, like Judicial Watch, continue to be deeply influential in conservative political circles. Nancy Pelosi recently said that Republicans are going after Attorney General Eric Holder , another frequent Judicial Watch target, as payback for the Justice Department’s blocking discriminatory voting laws under the Voting Rights Act. “His department’s blatant refusal to enforce federal law requiring states to clean up their inaccurate voter-registration records, combined with DOJ lawsuits against state voter-ID laws, must bring smiles to any ACORN-like groups contemplating electoral mischief this fall,” conservative columnist John Fund wrote recently in National Review.
Judicial Watch’s “2012 Election Integrity Project” helped lay the groundwork for Florida’s discriminatory, illegal and inaccurate voter purge. “According to a Judicial Watch investigation voter rolls in the following states appear to contain the names of individuals who are ineligible to vote: Mississippi, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Florida, Alabama and California,” said a recent press release. “As part of its 2012 Election Integrity Project, Judicial Watch has put these states on notice that they must clean up their voter registration lists or face Judicial Watch lawsuits.” Judicial Watch and the Tea Party group True the Vote recently sued Indiana to force a Florida-esque voter purge in the Hoosier state. On Tuesday the two groups also filed a motion to intervene in support of Florida’s voter purge. (Florida says that fellow swing states Colorado, Michigan and North Carolina are trying to access a Department of Homeland Security database, potentially to conduct a voter purge of their own.)
Expect to see more voter suppression measures unveiled as we get closer to November. Because, according to the likes of Judicial Watch, the only legitimate elections are the ones that Republicans win.