Fraud claim puts integrity at stake

The Trump administration’s easily disproved claims of rampant voter fraud in New Hampshire, repeated by the president and his associates this past week, remind us of a scandal that took place during President George W. Bush’s second term.

"In 2007, the Justice Department was upended by scandal because it had pursued a partisan agenda on voting, under the guise of rooting out suspected voter fraud," write Adam Gitlin and Wendy R. Weiser in "The Justice Department’s Voter Fraud Scandal: Lessons," for the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law.

The paper sounds the alarm because, "Jeff Sessions’ prosecution of civil rights leaders for ‘voter fraud,’ all of whom were acquitted, was a key factor in his rejection by a Republican-majority U.S. Senate for a federal judgeship in 1986."

Now Sessions is the U.S. attorney general, the chief enforcement officer for the nation’s voting rights laws.

The idea that there is rampant voter fraud in New Hampshire was thoroughly debunked after Trump first raised it, shortly after his election, claiming he would have won New Hampshire if not for illegal voters.

Senior Deputy Secretary of State David M. Scanlan, head of the state’s election division, said: "There is no indication of anything that widespread taking place in New Hampshire. If he (Trump) has evidence he should pass it along so we can act on it."

Assistant Attorney General Brian Buonamano, said: "I do not see any indication of a coordinated effort to conduct voter fraud on a large scale in the state of New Hampshire. There is no indication of that."

GOP Senate President Chuck Morse bristled at a hearing when asked for increased funding to investigate voter fraud. "I don’t understand why this is coming out today," Morse said. "I have been assured by the secretary of state that our elections are good and clean."

Even Gov. Chris Sununu, who peddled the fiction that busloads of Massachusetts voters cast ballots in the state, conceded to The Union Leader: "No evidence of voter fraud in this past election has been brought to my attention."

Despite the rejection of these false claims, New Hampshire currently has nearly a dozen bills aimed at voting rights pending in the Legislature.

Federal Elections Commissioner Ellen L. Weintraub stated: "I am acutely aware that our democracy rests on the faith of the American people in the integrity of their elections." She challenged Trump to provide proof.

But proof will not be coming because it doesn’t exist.

This repeated falsehood is not about Trump’s alternative reality or his bruised ego. These lies have a much darker motive. Repeated long enough and loud enough they will be just the excuse the Department of Justice needs to launch politically motivated investigations, just as it did under Alberto Gonzales.

Should the DOJ "be guided by political goals rather than legal principle, it could seriously damage the institutions of American Democracy. There is reason to worry – because that is exactly what happened little more than a decade ago," warns the Brennan Center for Justice.

Spreading lies about the integrity of our electoral process is not only troubling, it’s dangerous. We need to keep our eye on the ball and fight to protect the right of all Americans to vote. Voting is the foundation upon which all our other rights stand. Attacks on voting rights should be a line we do not allow the Trump administration to cross.

The Portsmouth Herald