The Fantasy Behind the Scandal

Last week, we learned that the administration edited a government-ordered report on voter fraud to support its fantasy. The original version concluded that among experts “there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud.” But the publicly released version said, “There is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.” It’s hard to see that as anything but a deliberate effort to mislead the public.

Sound familiar? In President Bush’s first term, a White House official, who had been the oil industry’s front man in trying to discredit the science of global warming, repeatedly edited government reports to play down links between climate change and greenhouse gases. And then there was the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, which turned reports on old, dubious and false tales about weapons of mass destruction into warnings of clear, present and supposedly mortal dangers.

It’s obvious why the Bush administration would edit those documents, but why the voting report? Because charges of voter fraud are a key component of the Republican electoral strategy. If the public believes there are rampant efforts to vote fraudulently, or to register voters improperly, it increases support for measures like special voter ID’s, which work against the poor, the elderly, minorities and other disenfranchised groups that tend to support Democrats. Claims of rampant voter fraud also give the administration an excuse to cut back prosecutions of the real problem: officials who block voters’ access to the polls.

The New York Times | Editorial