Accusations about voter fraud seemed to fly from every direction in Missouri before last year’s elections. State and national Republicans leaders fretted that dead people might vote or that some live people could cast more than one ballot.
In fact, the threat to the integrity of the 2006 elections was seen as so grave that Bradley Schlozman, the acting chief of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and later the U.S. attorney in Kansas City, twice wielded the power of the federal government to try to fix it.
Even the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly stepped into action.
Now, six months after freshman Missouri senator Jim Talent’s defeat handed Democrats control of the U.S. Senate, disclosures in the wake of the firings of eight U.S. attorneys show that GOP campaign to protect the balloting was not as it appeared.
In fact, no significant voter fraud was ever proven.
Instead, the Republican preoccupation with voter fraud was part of a wider effort to protect the GOP majority in Congress with a series of measures to dampen Democratic turnout. They included stiffer voter ID requirements, wholesale purges of names from lists of registered voters and tight policing of liberal get-out-the-vote drives.
Few have endorsed the strategy with more enthusiasm than White House political guru Karl Rove, and nowhere has the plan been more apparent than in Missouri.
An example of the ensuing ugliness:
- The Missouri General Assembly - with the help of the White House - narrowly passed a law to require every voter to show a photo identification card, a restriction that the secretary of state estimated would disenfranchise 200,000 voters. The state Supreme Court voided the law as unconstitutional before the election.
- Two weeks before the election, the St. Louis Board of Elections sent letters threatening to disqualify 5,000 newly registered minority voters if they failed to promptly verify their identities - a move instigated by a GOP appointee that may have violated federal law. After an outcry, the board rescinded the threat.