What James O'Keefe Gets Wrong About Voter Fraud

Voter fraud has yet to be proven as a significant problem, but that D.C. lacks full voting rights is.

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An election scandal unfolded during primary day in Washington, D.C. But it's not the one professional agitator James O'Keefe thinks.

O'Keefe, who's made a name (of sorts) for himself by filming elaborate, absurd "sting" videos to prove the worthlessness and dishonesty of liberals or anyone who wants to help people get decent housing or vote, pulled another such stunt during the primary. He sent a youngish, white man to a D.C. voting site, had the man ask if Eric Holder (who happens to be not only the attorney general, but African-American and considerably older than O'Keefe's actor) was on the rolls. The implication was that this imposter was to vote, illegally, under Holder's name.

[ Robert Schlesinger: The Real Voter Fraud Scandal]

O'Keefe gleefully posted the video online to prove that voter fraud is a sweeping problem. Allegations of widespread voter fraud have not been substantiated, but have been used by political actors across the country to justify imposing ID laws and other rules that will make it harder for people to vote. Critics of the laws say that there is so little voter fraud that the impact of the rules would largely be to disenfranchise voters—especially African-American and low-income voters.

So what did O'Keefe's video prove? It proved that his team was willing to almost break the law (the man in the video was careful not to actually follow through on the crime). It may prove that the poll worker didn't ask for ID. But it doesn't remotely prove that voter fraud is a significant problem—that's the sort of conclusion a real journalist would spend weeks or months poring over election records to determine.

[ Washington Whispers: ACLU Leader Says Voter ID Law Akin to Jim Crow-Era Law]

In a statement, District of Columbia Board of Elections member Devarieste Curry said:

What is troubling is that someone who purports to be concerned about the integrity of the voting system would in fact perpetrate a fraud. Whether that fraud is prosecutable remains to be seen, but it was a fraud nevertheless. We want every voter to know that no vote was cast in any of the incidents depicted in this video, that we condemn this stunt, and that we will thoroughly investigate it, as we customarily investigate all reports of irregularities before we certify the outcome of an election.

Further, the whole episode ignores the real election scandal in Washington—that the more than 619,000 people who live in the District of Columbia pay taxes, serve in wars and on juries, and are subject to the same federal laws as everyone else, lack full voting rights. Not only does the District not have senators or a full voting member of the House of Representatives, but Congress enjoys using the District as its little governmental petri dish, using its authority over the D.C. budget to impose policies the residents don't want. Perhaps O'Keefe could make a little video about that.