To the editor,
Tom West, in his column of Oct. 23, 2021, purports to be in support of bipartisan vote reform, then quickly goes about the task of minimizing the left and promoting the right. He frames his piece by first declaring that the philosophical rift in America is very deep, then shares the results of a survey which claims to substantiate an unapproachable political divide. The solution to this problem, he writes, must be bipartisan election reform.
It is reasonable to agree that our nation is currently beset by widespread polarized views. However, the belief that the underlying cause is fraudulent elections is sorely misplaced. In an exhaustive public records search, Carnegie-Knight News 21 Program reporters sent thousands of requests to election officials in all 50 states in 2012. They asked for every case of fraudulent activity, including registration fraud and absentee ballot fraud. Their analysis turned up only ten cases of voter impersonation out of 146 million voters. That’s one out of about every 15 million voters.
While claiming to make voting more accessible and equitable, the new rules enacted by legislatures in so-called red states do quite the opposite. In the last election, voters in the poorer districts in Georgia, for example, stood in line in the rain for as long as seven hours in order to cast their ballots. Part of Georgia’s new voting law makes it a felony to offer a simple drink of water to someone waiting in such a line. That is not the way to cure the scourge of a polarized political atmosphere.
What appears to have been overlooked here is the influence of social media. Recent investigations and hearings have only begun to unravel and decipher the tangled web of deceit and manipulation by entities such as Facebook. The multitude of radical and unsubstantiated claims on social media, meant to appeal primarily to a particular political base, have driven thousands to the political fringes, Ultimately, the threat to our democracy comes not from the presence of differing points of view. It comes from the myth of voter fraud used to challenge election results and to justify rules that restrict full and equal voting rights. Informed citizens are our democracy’s best defense. It is acceptable to take a stance on one side or the other. The decision on which side to support, however, should be founded on fact.
Stephen A. Miltich