Republican Silence On Actual Voter Fraud Is Deafening

After a decade of using the alleged problem of "voter fraud" to justify things like Voter ID Laws, Republicans are remarkably silent in the fact of an actual example of fraud and election tampering.

After years of decrying “voter fraud” as justification for Voter ID Laws, Republicans have been strangely silent when it comes to one of the most extensive examples of actual voter and election fraud in recent memory:

RALEIGH, N.C. — Republican politicians across the country have for years railed against the threat of voter fraud. Some have made unproven claims about how rampant it has become in order to pass voter ID laws and open sweeping investigations. The sanctity of the vote, they have said, must be protected at all costs.

But when a hard-fought congressional election in North Carolina — in which a Republican candidate appeared to narrowly beat his Democratic opponent — was overturned this week because of election fraud by a Republican political operative, the party was measured, and largely muted, in its response.

The state party chairman, Robin Hayes, issued a statement after officials ordered a new election calling the affair “a tremendously difficult situation for all involved.” National Republicans have been mostly mum. President Trump, who has made election fraud one of the hallmarks of his administration, was quiet on Twitter, although on Friday, facing reporters at the Oval Office, he condemned fraud — “all of it, and that includes North Carolina.”

Mark Harris, the Republican nominee, had eked out a 905-vote lead over Dan McCready. But the North Carolina Board of Elections refused to certify Mr. Harris as the winner and opened an investigation into irregularities. This week, the five-member board, made up of Republicans and Democrats, convened an evidentiary hearing in Raleigh at which witnesses described a voter-turnout effort that relied on the rogue collection of absentee ballots.

In several hours of testimony on Thursday, after his campaign acknowledged that it had withheld damning records from the board, Mr. Harris denied wrongdoing but also appeared to mislead regulators. He then surprised everyone by abandoning his claim to the Ninth Congressional District seat, which covers part of Charlotte and much of southeastern North Carolina.

Witnesses detailed how people working for a Harris campaign operative, L. McCrae Dowless Jr., had filled out parts of some absentee ballots and improperly collected others. On Friday, Lorrin Freeman, the district attorney in Wake County, said she could seek charges within weeks against Mr. Dowless and some of the people he hired.

“Obviously, it’s within the province of the grand jury as to whether they will return indictments,” Ms. Freeman said. “But do I anticipate there will be a criminal prosecution going forward? I do.”

State Republicans, who over the past few years have tightened voting laws and had fought to preserve Mr. Harris’s victory, were far less vociferous in denouncing voter fraud than they have been in the past.

That stands in marked contrast to 2016, when the state’s Republicans filed many complaints and claimed for a month that Roy Cooper, the Democrat who was elected governor that year, should not be seated because rampant fraud had enabled his victory. The charge proved baseless.

Much like North Carolina Republicans, Republicans on the national level have been strangely silent as this story has unfolded since election day. This has been true regardless of the fact that it has become apparent that the Republican candidate, Mark Harris, was involved in the entire scheme to some extent or at least had reason to think it was taking place. The person principally most likely knowingly conspired with someone who worked with the campaign as an outside consultant and who is the one who carried out the actions that clearly led to votes for Harris’s opponent being lost, buried, destroyed, or changed to votes for Harris. It’s possible, I suppose, that Harris was completely unaware of all of this but from the testimony during the hearing held before the state elections board, it seems quite clear that a candidate and campaign would almost have to have been willfully blind to not be aware of what was going on. While that falls short of actual conspiracy with the underlying bad actor, it is a strong indication that the candidate didn’t care how he won, even if it involved nefarious means such as those undertaken in this case.

As for national Republicans, the silence is equally telling. For the better part of the past decade, Republicans have talked about the alleged problem of in-person voter fraud, specifically meaning instances in which a person seeks to vote under the name of someone else or to vote multiple times in the same election. The only solution for such fraud, they claim, is to require that every voter obtain some form of identification which must be presented at their polling place before they’re allowed to vote. As numerous studies have shown, though, this form of voter fraud is so exceedingly rare as to be non-existent or at least not prevalent enough to justify passage of Voter ID Laws that have been shown to have a discriminatory impact on poor and minority voters such as those in Texas, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, all three of which have seen their Voter ID laws struck down by Federal Courts. President Trump has picked up on these themes with his continued and unsupported claims that millions of people voted illegally in the 2016 and 2018 elections. While Trump’s voters and the GOP eat this red meat right up, there’s no evidence to support the truth behind any of the allegations.

Now we have an example of real, proven, voter fraud that seems to have clearly had an impact on the outcome that was significant enough for the North Carolina Elections Board to order a new election, something that has never happened before in the context of an election to Federal office. Where are the Republicans who have spent a decade or more decrying voter fraud? Where’s the President of the United States who finds the time to tweet about virtually everything else in the news and who has advanced baseless and unsupported claims about voter fraud in each of the past two elections? They are silent, of course, and that should tell you a lot about what they really think and what the real motivation behind their push for Voter ID laws is all about.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, US Politics, Voter Suppression, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    For the life of me I don’t understand how Harris is being allowed to run again. It’s quite possibly the most ridiculous thing in an era of ridiculousness.

  2. gVOR08 says:

    GOP silence may be deafening, but it’s far from surprising.

    I don’t think The board can bar Harris from running. But I certainly hope the prosecutor and the grand jury have something to say about his future plans. It’s unlikely this is the only case of this and it won’t stop unless candidates, not underlings but candidates, go to jail.

  3. SKI says:

    The person who should be answering questions is Robert Higdon, the US Attorney for the Eastern District of NC who has been insanely aggressive in prosecuting legal residents who got bad advice in terms of voting from poll workers but ignored evidence of election fraud when presented to him by state officials.

    “Interestingly”, one of the AUSAs in that office is Mark Harris’s son who testified he warned his father about Leslie McCrae Dowless likely was committing election fraud with his absentee ballot operations. So AUSA Harris knew enough about Dowless to warn his father not to use him and works under a US Attorney who was on a mission against voting fraud and state officials warned the office about Dowless but the office didn’t investigate or prosecute…

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    The things that Democrats claim to believe in, they actually believe a good 80% . Of the things Republicans claim to believe in, they actually believe maybe 20%. Democrats will tell you what they believe, Republicans will lie about their beliefs. 100% of Republican ‘beliefs’ are contingent on how they affect the core Republican hunger for power. IOW there are no universal Republican beliefs, just transactional ones, just the beliefs that will line their pockets or hurt an opponent.

  5. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Michael Reynolds: For what it’s worth, the street-level Republicans I know have beliefs which are meaningful to them, and which they take action on. Some of those beliefs align with national Republican initiatives, some do not.

    And yeah, most of those people are completely transactional when it comes to supporting Trump. I know another conservative who thinks we should have single-payer health care, but it should be run by the states because .

    The only glue that holds modern conservatism together is hatred of liberals. That’s it. They disagree on pretty much everything else. Immigration policy, for instance, is a wedge issue for them, in spite of what’s been happening.

    Election fraud as an issue is a great way for Republican politicians to drum up fear and hatred of liberals, who can be cast as “cheating elections”. You know, like how 3 million illegal immigrants voted in California in 2016. This is important to them on the basis of “liberals are cheats, and couldn’t win anything if they didn’t cheat”, not on the basis of things like, you know, integrity.

  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    “liberals are cheats, and couldn’t win anything if they didn’t cheat”

    If there is one thing Republicans do believe in, it’s politics of projection.

  7. gVOR08 says:

    @Jay L Gischer: Correct to point out that one must distinguish between the pros: the pols, staffs, “think” tanks, pundits, etc. and “street level” voters. For the voters, this is mostly like religion, they believe what the preachers tell them and it’s mostly a tribal totem. As Reynolds likes to point out, they “believe” in heaven, but they sure don’t want to die. The pros just have a business plan, although, being conservatives, the tend to believe their own BS. at least if it’s convenient.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    Doug–bravo. Great article.

    It’s this sort of analysis-with-integrity that keeps me coming back to this site, over and over.

  9. Kathy says:

    One could hope that perhaps the GOP won’t bring up voter fraud, as the only documented, significant case was in their favor. But we know that won’t happen.

    BTW, if any Democrats called for abolishing absentee ballots, or placing onerous restrictions on the same, because of fraud concerns, I missed it.

  10. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jay L Gischer: I disagree. I suspect that disenfranchising black voters is as important to Republicans/conservatives now as it was in the 1950s to William F. Buckley. They’ve changed their reasoning on it from “too ignint and intellectually inferior” to “too dishonest,” but nothing else is all that different. Keeping “those people” away from the polls is still a goal.

  11. Kit says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    IOW there are no universal Republican beliefs, just transactional ones, just the beliefs that will line their pockets or hurt an opponent.

    I’d say that there are no Republican beliefs that anyone would dare utter in public, and that’s why dog whistling exists on the Right (and solely on the Right). So, voter fraud is disenfranchisement of political enemies, and tax cuts are about dismantling the State (the rubes cheer, while the rich get the warm feeling of doing good while doing well).

    I cannot help but feel that those in Trump country despise liberals in part because people all across the Conservative spectrum get to speak in something like Pig Latin and then watch while the libtards go chasing after every rabbit and down every hole, trying to refute ideas that the Right doesn’t even care about.

    The Left should probably learn to craft their own dog whistles for the next election: this is not about locking up Trump and his cronies, but about law and order; this is not about the environment but about, I don’t know, ending corporate welfare); this is not about cutting the military budget, but eliminating waste and fraud while preparing for the next war. Play offence instead of always reacting.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    That. GOPs have always been better at messaging – pro-life, death panels, death tax, wall. It’s partly because they’re pushing simplistic ideas and partly because they have the huge Wingnut Welfare infrastructure supporting them, but Ds do need to get better at dog whistles and bumper stickers.

    Medicare for All is a pretty good bumper sticker. Green New Deal is a pretty good bumper sticker. And could we please all wait til after we win the election to cavil about the details?

  13. Jen says:

    Not sure if anyone is following this thread anymore, but Mitch McConnell sunk to a new low today, blaming this election fraud on the Democrats for not supporting voter ID, which wouldn’t have done SQUAT to address the fraud that was perpetrated on this election.

    Each time I can’t imagine that I could be any more disgusted with him, he manages to sink even lower. He is appalling.

  14. Teve says:

    @Jen: there’s a reason I shut off the radio lightning-fast when he comes on it. It’s not just because his voice is as ugly as his face, it’s because everything he says is a dumb lie.

  15. Teve says: