For decades, conservatives have demanded that nonsense theories play central role in America’s public discourse. Taking a page from Nazi propagandist-in-chief Joseph Goebbels’ playbook, they repeating a big lie until it congeals into something that seems true. When challenged, they harp on minor inconsistencies in their critics’ stories or hold skeptics to an impossible standard of proof. As a result, while Americans could once tell the real from the rotten with a simple sniff, the modern smell test can’t register the obvious stink of pizza gate’s claim that elite Democrats operated a pedophile ring from the basement of a building that doesn’t have a basement.
But perhaps no current issue is cries out for a working smell test as much as in-person voter fraud, a problem so prima facie stupid future generations will marvel at our sheer gullibility for falling for it. Even by the standards of audacious reactionary gaslighting, voter fraud is an especially tall pile of BS.
Wingnuts argue that ineligible voters, including non-citizens, have taken advantage of lax voter laws to cast fraudulent ballots for Democratic candidates. Although the voter fraud canard isn’t new, it’s taken on new energy thanks to Donald Trump, who has repeatedly claimed that both the 2016 presidential election (in which he lost the popular vote by a significant margin) and the midterms in 2018 (in which his GOP got trounced by energized Democrats) were marred by a deluge of illicit ballots.
If the voter fraud Trump and his fans insist happened actually occurred, it would have been most audacious and far-reaching conspiracy in the history of U.S. jurisprudence. Democrats would have needed to recruit hundreds of thousands of people willing to risk the five years in prison and up to $10,000 they’d face if caught. After they found these outlaw voters, they’d need to get them to a polling or multiple polling places on election day.
That massive voter fraud would required millions of felonies to be committed in the harsh light of day under the noses of poll watchers, poll workers, Republican Party attorneys, county election officials and the press (including the conservative press). And somehow none of the hundreds of thousands of conspirators were caught. You’d think even one of these election robbers would have confessed or sold out higher-uppers in exchange for leniency when they’re caught for another crime, the typical “in” for investigators cracking criminal conspiracies. And that army of voters would’ve had to fill out and file reams of fake registrations, creating a paper trail rivaling the size of America’s largest highways.
And all that effort, expense and risk would have helped Democrats swing an election in a state their party’s presidential nominee has won handily since the early 1990s.
It’s certainly possible to mess with an election. Our voting infrastructure is vulnerable, and absentee ballots are especially prone to mischief, as has been seen recently in North Carolina. The in-person voter fraud of Republican horror stories, however, would probably be the worst way to go about it, as anyone with a nose attuned to the stench of BS could tell you.