Friday, January 27, 2017

Man Child in the Promised Land

This is the kind of stuff you need to dig into, at some point.  None of this is undiscovered country, but if you don't chase it down you just get the surface "he said/she said" which is the froth of our national "discussion."

The basic claim here was made on a tweet.  In fact, according to this interview on CNN, Greg Phillips admits all of his information has been released on Twitter.  He mentions  in that interview that a "federal grand jury" that conducted an investigation and found "10,000" people registered illegally and voted illegally.  I can't find a reference to any such grand jury report on Google.  There was an investigation in Illinois in 1982.   62 people were charged with federal election crimes.  Most of those people were poll watchers, election judges, etc. 62 obviously is not 10,000.  There are websites out there with various claims, most highly unreliable sources of information.  If you listen to Mr. Phillips, he clearly has no basis for his assertions except xenophobia and conspiracy theories.  And I can't find any news account or grand jury report supporting this claim.

But back to the foundational issue:  the entire claim of millions of illegal votes having been cast has only been made on Twitter.  Donald Trump knows no more about it than what can be conveyed in 140 characters.  Whether or not there is any basis for the claims (and there isn't, so far), the only source for it is in tweets.  Of course, Trump has shifted his sources for this claim over and over again.  But for now, Greg Phillips seems to be Trump's go-to guy.

Interestingly, and in-line with that 1982 grand jury report out of Illinois, Greg Abbott has claimed to have prosecuted 50 cases of voter fraud when he was Attorney General of Texas.  I can't verify that number, but since 2012, 15 cases of voter fraud have been prosecuted in Texas.  All of them involved, not impersonation voting, but "vote stealing."

A new FBI anti-corruption task force is trying to clean up the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. According to the Justice Department, in 2013, more public officials were convicted for corruption in South Texas than in any other region of the country. One of the practices the task force is looking at is vote-stealing.

Now, the FBI investigation is not the Texas AG's investigation.  But that gives you an idea of the kind of "vote fraud" we are talking about.  Again, not impersonation voting, but corruption of public officials.  The charges in 11 of 15 cases was "unlawful assistance of a voter."  The problem is largely a matter of acquiring a signature on a mail-in ballot.  Interestingly, the Texas AG seems to think the problem is most rampant in south Texas:

“It’s a problem we’ve asked legislators to address because if you’re concerned with voter fraud or voter intimidation, what better place to start with (mail-in ballots) because you don’t have to show an ID,” Hinojosa said from his office in Brownsville. “I’m not saying those prosecutions are ill-intentioned, but they are very specifically oriented toward South Texas.”

“You don’t see them engaging in an investigation or prosecutions of people that are sending in mail-in ballots to Livingston, Texas,” which is 60 percent white, Hinojosa added.

In addition to Verino, investigators arrested and prosecuted five other Brownsville politiqueras – one of whom was 85 years old. Verino was indicted on 10 election violation charges, but entered a plea deal for one charge and was placed on probation.

Charges against the five other women included filling out ballots for voters and failing to provide a state-required signature after assisting a voter during the July 2012 primary runoff election. Sixty of the 93 cases investigated by the attorney general’s office since 2004 were in South Texas – a region largely made up of Democratic and Latino voters.

Of 360 complaints made, the 15 prosecuted were in south Texas.  Well, as the President would say:  "take a look at what is registering."  Then again, none of those cases involved in person voting.  Such cases of voter fraud are, indeed, as rare as hen's teeth.

Part of the problem, then, is playing fast and loose with the language.  Is failing to sign a form for a mail-in ballot "fraud"?  The law doesn't call it that.  But "fraud" is such a fun word to use, especially since it denotes people standing in line who look like they shouldn't be voting.  I should note here the White House denied that Trump mentioned any specific Central or South American countries where these alleged illegal voters could have come from based on their appearance; but it didn't deny the rest of the reported anecdote.

Fraud, you know, is in the eye of the beholder.

And in the "be careful what you ask for" column, there is this statement from "True the Vote," a Tea Party based organization worried about brown voters:
On Thursday, True the Vote sent out a fundraising email saying it had “already initiated a comprehensive forensic audit of the 2016 Presidential election.”

Its focus, according to the email, “will include, but not be limited to, non-citizen voting, falsification of identity, double voting, mail-in ballot fraud, votes cast in the name of dead voters, and federal registration flaws.”
Of course, there is no "federal registration" of voters, so "federal registration flaws" is a non-issue.  The one known case of double voting in November was a voter who tried to vote twice for Trump.  Her lawyer is arguing she is not competent to participate in her own defense, so we should not look upon her as a source of mockery or even schadenfreude.  If anyone else voted illegally (non-citizen, false identity, mail-in fraud, etc.), we can't tell who they voted for.  So the solution is....?  Other than, of course, keep people who don't look like they should be voting from voting.....

To put this in perspective:  Trump claims 5 million people committed a felony in order to vote for Hillary Clinton (and still she lost!).  There are about 2 million people in state and federal prisons in America.  Is it really likely 2.5 times that many people are vote fraud felons?  As Chris Ashby explains, given the nature of a national election in this country:

a conspiracy of this magnitude would require the participation of Republican and Democratic governors, state and local election officials, political party observers and representatives of major party, minor party and independent candidates, as well as voters, election lawyers and members of the news media.

But President Trump is obsessed with vanity metrics, so he can’t accept the fact that he lost the national popular vote by the equivalent of the margin in California. Instead, he proposes to subject our election system to a show trial—and in the process, to make waste of taxpayer dollars, his administration’s political capital and the American public’s time, attention and confidence.
Which is why even Jason Chaffetz isn't interested in this investigation; well, not yet, anyway.

And, of course, there's no way to tell who voted for whom, so the whole exercise is a pointless one on that scale, too.  It can't prove Trump would have won the popular vote, even if he wants to say it did.  It can't even prove what Phillips claims it proves, because there's no way he had the data only days after the election, upon which to base such a claim.

This is not, in reality, an issue worthy of the time it takes to discuss it.  We shouldn't expend the energy is takes just to point out Greg Phillips is a conspiracy nut and his claims are absolutely baseless; that the reason he can't produce evidence is because no such evidence could possibly exist.  He should be ignored as another know-nothing with a Twitter account.   One reason we don't have accurate information on who voted in November is that those numbers are still being compiled; but Greg Phillips claims to already have the answer; he just can't tell you how he got it yet. Our President is a man who thinks the tweets of Greg Phillips are a source of reliable information, and a sound basis for a government investigation.  Then again, he is also a man who just introduced the Prime Minister of Britain at a press conference by talking about his Scottish mother and his presence in Scotland when the Brexit vote was cast.  As Josh Marshall says:  "It's difficult to fully grasp what a child this man appears to be."

Or how dangerous he is going to be.

1 comment:

  1. There will be some talentless, third-rate Republican committee head who will see this as his chance to get on C-Span and the stinking cabloids and other irresponsible by choice venues of opportunity.

    I'm convinced that the key to the downfall of America was when the idea of the relativity of the truth was chosen as a means of people having to do the work of discerning the real thing from the lie. To expand occasional ambiguity into a wholesale chance to abandon one of the basic responsibilities of adulthood in an eternal pretense that we are all college Freshmen taking one of those rather stupid courses designed to thrill the adolescent customer with the idea that patent nonsense "might" be considered true.