Bill Barr Just A Big Ol' Liar About Absentee Voter Fraud, Who Knew?
During his big interview with Wolf Blitzer on CNN Wednesday, Attorney General William P. Barr offered a terrifying example of a real true incident of voter fraud that would really have helped support his claim that voting by mail is dangerously subject to fraud. If it had been true. But it wasn't. Not that reality matters all that much anymore, because he said it on TV, and that makes it a fact that will be repeated by rightwing idiots forever. And if you point them to the thorough debunking the Washington Post published yesterday (here's an un-paywalled Texas Tribune link), they'll just sneer, roll their eyes, and say, "I bet you think Russia's a real country, don't you?"
For all you old stick-in-the-mud fans of "reality," let's break down the lie anyway. First off, just to be clear, this William Barr thing we're about to quote is not true, so remember, this is the fake part, OK?
Barr asserted (falsely!) that absentee ballots are prone to massive fraud (they are not) because
For example, we indicted someone in Texas, 1,700 ballots collected, he — from people who could vote, he made them out and voted for the person he wanted to. Okay?
Except there has never been any such federal indictment. As WaPo explains, Barr badly mangled the details of a Texas investigation into election fraud in a city council election in Texas, which yielded a guilty plea to one (1) misdemeanor charge involving a single (one, 1) improperly marked ballot. Not 1,700. Which you have to admit does have the numeral "1" in it.
Although a Justice Department spokesperson said Barr had merely been working from an "inaccurate" summary of the case he'd looked at before the interview, the former assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case said the reality was nothing at all like what Barr described:
"That's not what happened at all," said Andy Chatham, who is now in private practice.
"Unfortunately, it speaks volumes to the credibility of Attorney General Barr when he submits half-truths and alternative facts as clear evidence of voter fraud without having so much as even contacted me or the district attorney's office for an understanding of the events that actually occurred," [Chatham] added later.
Chatham did work on an investigation into suspected absentee ballot fraud in Dallas County, but he told the Post that the guy who took the guilty plea may well have been part of a bigger ratfucking scheme that was never actually consummated. Another prosecutor who worked on the case, Mike Snipes,
said investigators initially suspected there were "potentially 1,700 fraudulent ballots, but we did not uncover that, at all."
"We actually thought there was voter fraud initially, and we couldn't find it except that little tiny case," he said. Snipes said he could not address Barr's comments specifically.
There certainly seemed to be something weird going on. A bunch of voters, many of them elderly, got notices in the mail telling them the absentee ballots they'd requested would soon be mailed to them, but they hadn't actually requested a ballot. About 700 ballot applications had the name "Jose Rodriguez" listed as the person who helped fill out the form, which sure looked fishy. (The Post incorrectly says they were "ballots," but that sounded wrong to us; a Dallas Observerstory is the source of the error. The photo in the story is clearly a ballot application, and other Dallas Observerstories got it right.)
Thing is, Chatham tells the Post, despite the weirdness with those applications, the mail-in ballots that were actually voted didn't seem to favor any one candidate, though that's what you'd expect with a fraud scheme.
[The] ballots were divided among candidates, and some were blank. When investigators approached the voters who were said to have cast them, Chatham said, the voters generally said the ballots were legitimate and cast for the candidate of their choosing.
"We didn't find any evidence of widespread voter fraud, and instead the ballots that were returned were consistent with the voter's choice," Chatham said.
A 28-year-old dude named Miguel Hernandez pleaded guilty to filling in and forging the signature on one ballot that he subsequently collected from a voter, accepting a misdemeanor charge for "improperly returning a marked ballot," down from the initial third-degree felony charge of illegal voting; he was sentenced to 180 days in jail. His defense attorney, Bruce Anton, told the Post that
as best he could remember, Hernandez was hired by others to canvass neighborhoods for mail-in ballots, which he would then turn over to those who hired him for possible alteration. He said that, on a good day, Hernandez might collect 12 ballots. "1,700? Not a prayer in the world," Anton said.
There's your massive ballot fraud: It looked like a scheme was concocted, but it fell apart, because ballot fraud schemes have to somehow get around security measures and that's really hard to do. The applications may have been requested illegally, but as far as we can tell, "Jose Rodriguez" was never found and convicted (there were rumors, but only Hernandez was convicted). Ultimately, a bunch of people got ballots they hadn't expected, then voted. Pulling off election fraud is hard, it turns out.
Even the 2018 scheme in North Carolina that briefly resulted in a "win" for a Republican congressional candidate unraveled as soon as some smart cookies noticed the absentee ballot results in two counties were lopsidedly in favor of the "winner," as compared to the in-person votes. That led to a new election, and of course to Republicans screaming about how Democrats do voter fraud all the time.
So Bill Barr was wrong, and we're sure he'll now go out of his way, when talking about voting by mail, to point out he was mistaken.
[WaPo (Texas Tribune no-paywall version) / Dallas Morning News / Dallas Observer]
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