Yes, there’s fraud, but it’s not at the polls

Miami Herald Editorial Board

Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, of North Carolina, contested election results, then conceded a month later.
Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, of North Carolina, contested election results, then conceded a month later. Associated Press

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory gave it his best shot, but on Monday, threw in the towel. He conceded the gubernatorial contest to his Democratic rival, state Attorney General Roy Cooper, almost a month after Election Day.

For residents of the Tar Heel State, the race finally is over. But its significance extends far beyond the state line and is likely just the beginning of Republican legislatures invigorated efforts to suppress the votes of African-Americans, Hispanics, young residents and others.

And with President-elect Donald Trump making his outlandish, unsupported claim — a lie, really — that millions of people across the nation voted illegally, otherwise he, not Hillary Clinton, would have won the popular vote, there should be no doubt that state lawmakers have been given the go-ahead to go scorched-earth against voting rights, all in the name of fight voter fraud at the polls.

Already, several states, Florida chief among them, have for years clamped down on some people’s access to the polls. In 2011, Florida lawmakers reduced the number of early-voting days and polling sites. They also made it more difficult for organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, to conduct voter registration drives.

This year, Gov. Rick Scott was dead set against extending the voter-registration deadline after Hurricane Matthew caused major disruption in October. A federal judge called the decision “irrational” and the deadline was extended.

Gov. McCrory’s loss aside, voter suppression has worked like a charm for Republicans in many states. Look no further than the giddy, and public, statement issued by North Carolina Republican Party one day before the Nov. 8 presidential election: “North Carolina Obama Coalition Crumbling … As a share of early voters, African Americans are down 6.0 percent, (2012: 28.9 percent, 2016: 22.9 percent) and Caucasians are up 4.2 percent, (2012: 65.8 percent, 2016: 70.0 percent).”

The statement crowed about Democratic apathy and African-American and young voters who failed to show up at the polls. It neglected to mention this, though: North Carolina’s Republican Party engaged in an all-out push to suppress votes. In July, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found that the state’s voter ID laws targeted black voters “with almost surgical precision.”

Mr. Cooper declared victory on election night. Gov. McCrory declared, “Vote fraud” and his advocates demanded a recount.

Any corruption of the voting process must be ferreted out and eliminated. But widespread voter fraud remains a myth, a powerful narrative that has allowed many states to make damaging mischief. The guarantee of a vote is sacrosanct in this country — or should be — and those who would deny their fellow citizens a voice to keep their hold on the reins of power are, simply, un-American.

Which brings us to Mr. Trump’s declaration that more than 2 million fraudulent votes were cast in the presidential election. No evidence, no substantiation, no nothing. That’s never stopped him before. Make no mistake, his claim, itself fraudulent, was a full-throated rallying cry to fellow Republicans to double down in the state legislatures and make voter suppression.

Only Americans’ vigilance and, so far, the wisdom of the courts to uphold the law, will ensure the no citizen is disenfranchised.