The Anti-Crime Fighter
You may have heard that in Cleveland, someone has put up billboards warning against voter fraud. Sojourners writer Troy Jackson, a pastor in Cincinnati, strenuously objects:
Fraud is a strong word. Webster’s defines fraud as deceit and trickery, and an “intentional perversion of truth in order to induce another person to part with something of value or to surrender a legal right.” Fraud is a serious matter.
The word “fraud” is on billboards around Ohio. I started noticing this a few weeks ago, when I was driving through a working class African American community in Cleveland and noticed a billboard that read: “Voter Fraud is a Felony: 3 1/2 years & $10,000 fine.”
Voter fraud sure sounds horrible, and based on these billboards in Ohio, one would imagine that it is an epidemic. After all, one of the hallmarks of American democracy is our fair and free elections.
But the billboards quickly created dissonance for me based on a recent meeting I and other pastors from Ohio Prophetic Voices enjoyed with Ohio Secretary of State John Husted. During the meeting, Husted told us that voter fraud is extremely rare and almost nonexistent. Statistics back up Husted’s contention.
They don’t, actually, especially if one includes the form of fraud involved in people registering in multiple locations, particularly across state lines, and voting in them. Pew Research has found that approximately 2.75 million Americans are so registered, and the increasingly liberal availability of absentee ballots has made it ever easier for people to cast multiple votes. That being the case, and since states don’t typically check their voter lists against those of other states, I suspect that thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of people are casting more than one vote. But Jackson considers this ad warning people about the penalties for such behavior to be a crime against democracy:
So if voter fraud is almost nonexistent, why is a private anonymous family foundation spending significant cash in a swing state like Ohio in communities of color?
The only conclusion I’m left with is that the billboards themselves represent the only true fraud going on here in Ohio. The billboards are meant to intimidate, to create fear, to make voting seem dangerous….
This attempt to intimidate and commit fraud on the people of Ohio through an exaggerated crisis targeting communities of color is an affront to God and to people of faith.
Actually, what is “an affront to God and to people of faith” is for Christian clergy to deliberately ignore evidence of criminal behavior, and to suggest that efforts to stop such behavior–which not incidentally undermines the very foundation of democracy, the integrity of the ballot–is somehow immoral.
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