Latino Guy Delivers Absentee Ballots In Arizona. You'll Never Guess What Happens Next.
Finally, the right has incontrovertible evidence of voting fraud! Democratssayit's rare, but here is the video that proves just how real and scary it is: "Liberal activist caught on video stuffing hundreds of ballots." Or, from some of the more responsible rightwing sites who are pretending to hedge a little, "This Video Appears To Show A Guy Stuffing Hundreds Of Ballots Into A Ballot Box."
The shitstorm broke late last week at the "Arizona Daily Independent," which recounts the claims of A.J. LaFaro, chair of the Maricopa County Republican Party, who was observing early primary balloting at the Maricopa County Elections Department in August, just to make sure the wrong kind of people didn't try to do any voter fraud. He's a real patriot.
LaFaro, according to his own account of the encounter at this rightwing blog (archive link) -- which The Arizona Daily Independent piece copied verbatim, without a byline, just "ADI News Services," because journalism -- was protecting democracy from "behind bullet proof glass because of the violence and protesting that occurred by militant groups during the November, 2012, General Election." We were unaware of any reports whatsoever of thuggish militants rioting throughout Arizona in 2012, but, sure, we'll just take LaFaro's word for it.
All of a sudden, LaFaro spotted an obviously suspicious Latino wearing a Citizens for a Better Arizona t-shirt delivering votes. LaFaro "watched in amazement" as the obviously suspicious Latino "dropped a large box of hundreds of early ballots on the table and started stuffing the ballot box."
The obviously suspicious Latino was very rude and very suspicious and when LaFaro demanded his name, he dared to say, "Go fuck yourself! I don't have to tell you who I am."
LaFaro, who was perfectly calm and polite the entire time, of course, while the scary Latino was screaming obscenities at him and threatening him with his being Latino and all, pointed out that one of the ballots wasn't sealed, at which point, according to LaFaro, the suspicious vote-frauding Latino "hid behind the ballot box and table as he slipped the unsealed ballot into his brief and left." Moments later, he returned with the ballot now sealed and put it in the ballot box. Then, as he was leaving the building, he said to LaFaro, "Go fuck yourself gringo."
Poor LaFaro adds, in his unedited version of the story, how the scary Latino man scared him so very much:
I don't know if that person in the video is an illegal alien, a dreamer or a citizen. What I do know is that he was a vulgar, disrespectful, violent thug who has no respect for our laws. I would have followed him to the parking lot to take down his tag number, but I feared for my life.
That almost sounds like a stand your ground scenario ! What was so violent about the man who was very likely illegal or one of those DREAMer kids? We do not know. But he was a violent thug! You can tell just from watching the surveillance video that LaFaro requested from Maricopa County, which shows the violent thug violently walking through the door and violently placing -- no, ramming! violently! -- votes into the violent ballot box. (Caution: video contains no actual violence.)
The piece closes with LaFaro's lament about this horrible open fraud in Arizona elections:
I believe it's inconceivable, unacceptable and should be illegal for groups to collect hundreds, if not thousands, of voter's ballots and return them to the elections offices or polling locations. And let's not forget the "ballot parties" that occur where people gather en masse and give their unvoted ballots to operatives of organizations like Citizens for a Better Arizona so they can not only collect them but vote them illegally. America used to be a nation of laws where one person had one vote. I'm sad to say not anymore.
By Tuesday, the story was all over the rightwing blogosphere. The Blaze and The Daily Caller both ran with it, although we should note that the Daily Caller at least framed its headline as a question: "Does This Video Show A Hispanic Activist Openly Committing Vote Fraud?" (The answer is definitely yes, by the way). The story was also reblogged by the Stupidest Man on the Internet, Jim Hoft, who keenly observed from the video, "They don’t even try to hid [sic] their lawlessness anymore," and claimed that "a vulgar, violent Democratic operative was caught on tape stuffing a ballot box."
Commenters are, of course, quite outraged as well, and have suggested that this obviously illegal immigrant "wetback" thug who is ruining democracy should be deported or perhaps shot. And this incident proves what they've been saying all these years -- that President Obama only won his election (twice) because of these illegal thugs stuffing ballot boxes all the time. It's right there on tape! (For somerealclassy comments, check out, or avoid, the story at Ben Shapiro's Home Of Brilliant Conservative Discourse.)
This is the part where we explain that, as you might have guessed, the entire VOTER FRAUD! hysteria is thoroughgoing bullshit. As it turns out, Mr. LaFaro has long had a wee bit of a problem with Citizens For a Better Arizona, (CBA) a progressive group that grew out of the successful 2011 effort to recall former state Senate president Russell Pearce,the architect of Arizona's "papers please" immigration law. Since that victory, the group has also tried, unsuccessfully, to launch a recall of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. LaFaro is a close ally of Arpaio and does not like progressive activists who work to get the wrong people involved in politics. In a 2013 Tempe Tea Party email, LaFaro called backers of the Arpaio recall drive, including CBA leader Randy Parraz, "domestic terrorists" and reminded readers, "These are the same thugs who wrongfully recalled Russell Pearce." It seems there's a pretty low bar for what constitutes thuggery in LaFaro's very active imagination.
Also, big surprise, what LaFaro witnessed in August was a perfectly routine, completely legal part of early voting under Arizona law -- and LaFaro damned well knows it. Citizens for a Better Arizona, like several other political groups in the state, including the state GOP, helps collect and deliver absentee ballots from voters: one voter, one ballot. The Arizona Elections Manual is quite clear about the legality of this:
After they have securely sealed the voted ballot inside the early ballot return envelope, voters may voluntarily give their voted early ballot to a person of their choice for delivery to the Recorder or a polling place. The designated person shall not tamper with the envelope or the ballot and shall not deliberately fail to deliver the ballot to the Recorder or a polling place within the voter’s county of residence.
Yr Wonkette did some Serious Journalism and phoned Randy Parraz, president emeritus of CBA, who told us that their goal is to increase voter participation among Latino voters, especially those who might request an absentee ballot but not mail it in because they believe their vote won't count. They've been doing these drives for years, and state elections officials are well aware that CBA's activities are perfectly legal.
A.J. LaFaro knows it too. He testified before the state legislature in 2013 in favor of barring groups like CBA from helping people vote. The resulting bill, HB-2305, included a whole bunch of other beautiful restrictions on voting and petitions and nominations, but the centerpiece was the criminalization of taking another person's absentee ballot to the polls -- a tactic that had been key to recalling Russell Pearce. HB 2305 passed and was signed by Gov. Jan Brewer in 2013, but in the face of an initiative drive to overturn it and widespread criticism of the law, the legislature turned around and repealed it earlier this year. LaFaro's pretend surprise at CBA's alleged "ballot stuffing" is all the more disingenuous, considering he fought to outlaw what was a very useful strategy for gathering enough votes to hurt his cronies.
Far from being up to anything fraudulent, the CBA employee, Ben Marin, was simply fulfilling CBA's commitment to the voters it promised to help, delivering their sealed absentee ballots to the elections office. Said Parraz, "If anything, we're guilty of helping people vote." Parraz said that Marin is not making himself available for interviews -- not all that surprising given the number of Great American Internet Patriots who want him jailed, deported (apparently we deport citizens now), or shot for the crime of doing something completely legal. One charmer at Ben Shapiro's ConservaHole said, "To the activist I say, your face is on line now, and I'm sure has made the short list of some very dedicated patriots."
But what about all the thuggery and cursing LaFaro reported on his blog? Parraz tells Wonkette it never happened. He said that Marin told him he'd been professional at all times. Marin even pointed out to LaFaro that the building was monitored by surveillance cameras, noting that if he were doing anything wrong, he'd be on tape. Marin also categorically denies using profanity toward LaFaro. "LaFaro made that up," said Parraz.
As Patrick Howell O'Neill points out at the Daily Dot, if Marin had been trying to do fraud, he was one crappy fraudster, wearing a T-shirt identifying the nonprofit he worked for and walking into a lobby that he knew was monitored by video. Unlike those Mississippi tea partiers who got themselves locked in a courthouse on election night, Marin came right through the front door during business hours and wasn't the least bit sneaky about anything, including going back to his vehicle to seal that one ballot that was open. (We're no election lawyers, but it seems to us that maybe that one ballot should have just been turned in as is. Does sealing an unsealed ballot count as "tampering" with it? There is probably some case law on that somewhere.)
But what about the "ballot parties" LaFaro just knows are happening, where liberal groups supposedly scoop up unvoted ballots and illegally fill them in? Parraz was very clear on that point: while CBA does assist voters with getting their ballots to the election office, those ballots are filled out solely by the voters. This is surely a great disappointment to wingnuts wishing that the video showed sexxy top-secret voter fraud in action. Sorry, wingers, "ballot parties" are about as real as "rainbow parties."
Just how non-fraudy is this video? Randy Parraz says that after the rightwing noise machine lurched into action over the supposedly incriminating evidence, he got a call from the Phoenix Fox News affiliate, asking him for his side of the story, something that absolutely none of the rightwing blogs have bothered doing. After he explained that what the video showed was completely legal, and that Maricopa County elections officials are not merely aware of it but OK with it -- because, again, legal and not all that uncommon -- the local Fox producer realized there wasn't really a story and dropped the idea.
So there's an answer to the outraged questions in the wingnut blog comments: Why isn't this man in jail, or being deported, or executed for treason? Probably because he's doing nothing wrong, apart from the apparently criminal offense of helping people vote while brown.