(MoJo) The Dog That Voted and Other Election Fraud Yarns
The Dog That Voted and Other Election Fraud Yarns
The GOP's 10-year campaign to gin up voter fraud hysteria—and bring back Jim Crow at the ballot box.
—By Kevin Drum | July/August 2012 Issue
On March 21, 2005, a sandy-haired 43-year-old attorney named Mark "Thor" Hearne took a seat under the Greek Revival dome of the Ohio Statehouse to testify before the House Administration Committee. The committee was holding a field hearing on the subject of voter fraud, a hot topic in Congress—and in Ohio, where George W. Bush had eked out a narrow, hotly contested victory over John Kerry the year before.
Hearne introduced himself as counsel for the American Center for Voting Rights. The Buckeye State, he said, had suffered from "massive" registration fraud during the presidential election. Liberal groups like ACORN and the AFL-CIO were implicated in illegal voter registration schemes. An NAACP operative had paid for fake registrations in crack. Then, after enrolling thousands of phony voters, these same groups had flooded the courts with lawsuits designed to create bedlam on Election Day and prevent fraudulent votes from being discovered. To back up his story, Hearne submitted a 31-page report, signed by more than a dozen Ohio attorneys.
It was a startlingly lurid picture—and the latest chapter in a long-simmering feud between Republicans, who claim that fraud is rampant in US elections, and Democrats, who say such charges are merely an excuse to suppress the vote. Still, there was something different about this episode. It wasn't just a one-off bit of bluster during a bitter recount battle. That would have been politics as usual. Instead, it marked a dramatic widening of the war. This was, after all, a congressional hearing, and Hearne represented an organization dedicated to pushing Republican claims of voter fraud not just during post-election court fights, but everywhere and all the time.
So two questions lingered after Hearne had finished his dramatic testimony. Who exactly was Thor Hearne? And what was the American Center for Voting Rights, a group no one had heard of before that day? Therein hangs a tale, one that starts on a nail-biter of an election night in a nearly forgotten battleground—St. Louis, Missouri.