It turns out that the Republican Party’s obsession with voter fraud may be yet another case of projection. Four former staffers for resigned House Rep. Thaddeus McCotter have been charged with 36 counts of misdemeanor and felony election fraud. Yesterday one of those staffers, Lorianne O’Brady, pled not guilty to five misdemeanor counts of submitting fraudulent signatures on a ballot petition. O’Brady is the last of the four staffers to be arraigned; the other three, Don Yowchuang, Mary Melissa Turnbull, and Paul Seewald, were arraigned on similar charges on August 10th.
So what happened? It all started last May, when the Michigan Congressman announced that he was considering running for the Republican nomination for president. McCotter, who had served in the US House of Representatives for nine years, officially announced his candidacy in July of 2011, but was unsuccessful due to his relatively unknown status. In September of 2011, McCotter officially withdrew from the race and endorsed Mitt Romney.
For the next part of the story, we have to go back to April of 2011. Prior to running for president, McCotter had not confirmed that he would be running for reelection is his district. He was the only one of Michigan’s 15 representatives who still had yet to announce his intentions for his seat. That May, after McCotter began exploring a presidential run, he confirmed that he would not campaign for his seat in the House. Then in September, McCotter reversed that plan after ending his presidential campaign. McCotter was indeed running for reelection in Michigan’s 11th District.
Fast forward to May 2012. the date to collect signatures to appear on the ballot in Michigan has come and gone. 1,000 signatures are necessary for each candidate, and the McCotter campaign turned in over 2,000. There was just one small problem: most of those signatures were forgeries or photocopies. Only 244 of the signatures – just over 10% of the total number – were actually legitimate signatures.
Michigan’s Secretary of State announced that the McCotter campaign had not gathered 1,000 valid signatures, which McCotter accepted. McCotter then announced that he would still be running for his seat in the August primary, as a write-in candidate. But the discoveries of fraud by the Secretary of State were so egregious that the matter was turned over to Michigan’s state attorney general. The Michigan elections director Chris Thomas called the fake signatures an “unprecedented level of fraud.”
By June, the news of the false signatures had put enough pressure on McCotter, and the Congressman resigned in disgrace. In his resignation statement, McCotter lamented his decreased earnings potential, expressed his concern for the toll the scandal took on his family, and said that he would continue to cooperate in the investigation. He never took responsibility for the incident.
This incident perfectly highlights the dirty little secret about election fraud. Election fraud overwhelmingly happens on the campaign side, not the voter side. It’s far easier – and more rewarding – to cheat while working from within the system than it is to commit in-person voter fraud. The GOP is legislating against cases of voter fraud in which a person would have to give someone else’s name at the correct polling place in order to falsely vote once; meanwhile a Republican Congressman and his staff fabricated 1,756 signatures so that he could run illegally.
And this is the truth about so many Republican policies: rules and regulations are put in place to scapegoat people who aren’t causing problems. In Florida, drug testing welfare recipients showed that less than 3% of those receiving welfare were using drugs illegally, while that discriminatory testing cost the state nearly $120,000. Mitt Romney has evoked the “47% of people [who] pay no income tax,” conveniently ignoring that collecting income tax from all of those households would bring in less than than the president’s Buffett Rule which would slightly raise taxes for the country’s wealthiest. Reagan’s racist welfare queen myth still looms large in the conservative narrative, despite the fact that the Bush-era bailout for corrupt and irresponsible banks cost far more than years of welfare programs.
The cognitive dissonance bordering on willful delusion has become the hallmark of Republican policies and rhetoric. Expecting this heinous fraud to bring the GOP back to reality would be wishful thinking at this point, but at least one corrupt Congressman is now out of a job.