Watchdog Blog

Barry Sussman: Will the New GOP Chairman Come Down Hard on Voter Fraud?

Posted at 11:24 pm, January 30th, 2009
Barry Sussman Mug

Michael Steele, former lieutenant governor of Maryland, was elected chairman of the Republican National Committee Jan. 30. He won on the sixth ballot in voting that a Washington Post writer said “displayed a level of drama rarely seen in national politics.”

A question reporters might ask Steele is how he feels about a plank in President Obama’s civil rights agenda to issue “harsh penalties for those who have engaged in voter fraud and provide voters who have been misinformed with accurate and full information so they can vote.”

Republicans often express concern about voter fraud, so Steele might go along with the idea, right? On the other hand, maybe not. For in Steele’s recent background is a nasty dirty trick—some might call it fraud—from 2006 when he ran for U.S. Senate in Maryland and Republican Robert Ehrlich ran for re-election as governor. By the campaigns’ own admission, Ehrlich and Steele put out a phony “official voter guide” in which three prominent black Democrats were said to back Ehrlich and Steele for election. In fact, only one of the three had endorsed Steele and none had endorsed Ehrlich.

On Election Day, according to the Washington Post, at least seven large buses picked up recruits in Pennsylvania and Delaware to distribute the deceitful flyers at mostly black voting places in Maryland. (This Slate article shows the flyer.)

A Washington radio station, WTOP, quoted a spokeswoman for the Ehrlich campaign as saying the ballots were “paid for in part by the Bob Ehrlich for Maryland Committee, as well as the Steele committee, as well as the Maryland GOP.”

There was quite a stink at the time. A lot of it is recorded on the Web but I didn’t see any comments from Steele. Perhaps as GOP chairman he’s got some views on voter fraud or dirty tricks that he’d like to share; it’s 2009 now and he’s had a good bit of time for reflection.

The 2006 Election Day chicanery went to the Justice Department, which didn’t do anything. Ehrlich and Steele lost so it can’t be said that they stole an election, only that they tried.

2 Responses to “Will the New GOP Chairman Come Down Hard on Voter Fraud?”

  1. Ivan Safonoff says:

    Barry Sussman is right on the money as usual. I remember the Steele/Erlich fraud well.

    Maybe Steele could also come down hard on the GOP’s perennial fraudulent attacks on Acorn, the worst of which was carried out by an ordained Protestant minister and former Republican Senator near the end of the recent presidential campain.

    Let us not hold our collective breaths.

  2. Thomas says:

    Hey, we could also have someone look into the most recent presidential election, in which the winning candidate promised the electorate, among other things, that he’d bring net spending cuts. Fraud? Surely a candidate’s statements on the substantive issues is more crucial to the voting decision than an endorsement–or at least we should assume so, lest we lose faith in democratic deliberation.

    And yet Sussman isn’t concerned about some fraud. Which really is why we shouldn’t have laws about this sort of thing–it’s usually just an excuse for bullying opponents.

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