Political Correction

Gingrich Joins O'Keefe In Fearmongering About Voter Fraud

January 12, 2012 12:30 pm ET - by Brian Powell

Newt Gingrich

While GOP candidate Mitt Romney is busy forging unsavory political alliances, competitor Newt Gingrich is also associating his name with controversial figures. This week, he's thrown his lot in with serial liar James O'Keefe and the crowd of right-wing conspiracy theorists who fearmonger about the imagined perils of voter fraud. The Daily Caller reported:

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich told The Daily Caller on Wednesday that a video showing conservative activists obtaining New Hampshire primary ballots in the names of dead people indicates that President Obama's Justice Department isn't doing enough to protect the integrity of the voting process. [...]

Gingrich said reports of the dead coming to life to vote show the importance of voter ID requirements at polling places.

"If you can't prove who you are, an impostor can vote for you, a non-citizen can vote for you and someone can watch the obituary pages and go vote for all our deceased citizens," Gingrich told TheDC.

While O'Keefe's video purports to illustrate voter fraud in action, Talking Points Memo dismissed the exercise after interviews with legal scholars, noting that experts agree the failed sting "doesn't change the substance of the debate over whether the minimal threat of in-person voter fraud is worth the impact that such laws can have on minority and poor voters."

Gingrich's support for the work of a discredited hack like O'Keefe is unsettling in itself, but his dedication to the broader voter fraud conspiracy theory and the implementation of regressive voter ID laws is more troubling. Earlier in the week, Gingrich wrote an op-ed for the Daily Caller in which he argues the necessity of such laws:

Millions of Americans board planes every month. On each occasion, they are asked to present a photo ID to gain entry into the gate. It's a procedure we've come to accept for a little peace of mind so that air travel can be more secure.

To enter many office buildings, to cash a check or to even undergo a medical procedure, photo identification is also required. Having photo identification is an essential part of engaging in commerce in the 21st century.

Yet the Obama administration and Attorney General Eric Holder see no reason to require a photo ID for Americans to carry out one of our most important civic duties: voting. [...]

There has not been a shred of evidence found that requiring photo identification disenfranchises minorities, as a photo ID is universally used by all Americans of all backgrounds in many other aspects of our lives.

Gingrich's comparison between requiring an ID to vote and requiring one for other activities, like flying, is absurd. As Victoria Middleton, executive director of the ACLU's South Carolina office, noted, "It's not a constitutional right to buy Sudafed or become a frequent flier. ... People fought and died to win the right to vote."

The fact is, despite Gingrich's and O'Keefe's claims, voter ID laws have already disenfranchised voters, while there is no evidence voter fraud occurs in any significant numbers.

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