Mike Freeman on GOPers making Franken-Coleman voter fraud allegations: "They are just liars"

A Minneapolis bus stop at Central Ave. NE and 35th Ave. NE asks passersby to look out for voter fraud.
A Minneapolis bus stop at Central Ave. NE and 35th Ave. NE asks passersby to look out for voter fraud.
Michael-Carlos Mitchell (@stmichael36)

In the most recent edition of the New Yorker, Jane Mayer takes a close look at the Republican lawyer who has spearheaded the drive for tighter voter ID laws nationally and here in Minnesota, Hans von Spakovsky.

Along with John Fund, von Spakovsky recently cowrote a book entitled, "Who's Counting?: How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk." One of the books most explosive claims is that voter fraud was the decisive factor in Al Franken's 312-vote triumph over Norm Coleman for one of Minnesota's U.S. Senate seats in the 2008 election.

-- Majority of MN college students favor voter ID amendment that could disenfranchise 70 percent of them
-- New York Times on MN voter ID amendment: Solution to a "virtually non-existent problem"

Mayer got Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman's response that allegation, and suffice it to say he's not a fan of Fund and von Spakovsky's work.

From Mayer's "The Voter-Fraud Myth":

"Who's Counting?" opens with an insinuating account of how Al Franken, the Minnesota Democrat, was elected to the Senate in 2008. According to the book, there is "compelling" evidence, compiled by a citizens' watchdog group, that "1,099 ineligible felons voted illegally" in the contest--"more than three times" Franken's victory margin. The subhead of the chapter is "Would Obamacare have passed without voter fraud?"

Fox News and other conservative media outlets have promoted this argument. However, Mike Freeman, the Hennepin County Attorney, who oversees Minneapolis, told me, "Those numbers are fraudulent. We investigated, and at the end of the day, out of over four hundred allegations in the county, we charged thirty-eight people. Their research was bad, sloppy, incredible. They are just liars." Some of the targeted voters weren't actually felons; others were on probation and hadn't realized that they remained ineligible to vote. To be convicted of voter fraud, a suspect needs to have criminal intent.

Von Spakovsky told me, "It doesn't matter whether they"--the felons--"intended it or not. The point is they did vote." The subject of electoral fraud is now front and center in Minnesota: in November, the state will have a referendum on a state voter-I.D. law.

Think Freeman, as a Democrat, may just have an axe to grind with a voter ID law pushed by Republicans? Consider this revealing passage from earlier in Meyer's piece:

Von Spakovsky offered me the names of two experts who, he said, would confirm that voter-impersonation fraud posed a significant peril: Robert Pastor, the director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management, at American University, and Larry Sabato, a political-science professor at the University of Virginia. Pastor, von Spakovsky noted, had spoken to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about being a victim of election fraud: voting in Georgia, he discovered that someone else had already voted under his name.

When I reached Pastor, he clarified what had happened to him. "I think they just mistakenly checked my name when my son voted--it was just a mistake." He added, "I don't think that voter-impersonation fraud is a serious problem." Pastor believes that, compared with other democracies, America is "somewhere near the bottom in election administration," and thinks that voter I.D.s make sense--but only if they are free and easily available to all, which, he points out, is not what Republican legislatures have proposed. Sabato, who supports the use of voter I.D.s under the same basic conditions, says of the voter-impersonation question, "One fraudulent vote is one too many, but my sense is that it's relatively rare today."

In other words, even the experts who Von Spakovsky believes has his back think voter ID is a solution in search of a problem. Maybe Freeman is on to something.

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