While Democrats insist that there's no such thing as voter fraud, or nothing on a scale to justify Republican-favored voter-ID laws, the Republican secretary of state in Ohio has concluded an investigation that appears to reveal that a whopping seventeen non-citizens voted illegally in the 2012 presidential election. These aren't the first cases of voter fraud discovered in Ohio; Fox News reports that one woman is in jail for voting under her comatose sister's name and those of other people. While Fox ominously reminds us that President Obama took the state by "just 2 percentage points" last year, today's news only throws the result into question if you assume -- as some more loyal Fox viewers certainly will -- that the seventeen confirmed frauds are but the tip of a fraud iceberg.
Unless you refuse absolutely to believe anything a Republican says, the Ohio story shouldn't surprise anyone. While it hardly demonstrates that Obama stole the 2012 election, it's still an embarrassment to Democrats who, in their hostility toward voter-ID laws, have insisted that fraudulent voting is a myth. No one who knows American history could buy such a claim. If there's a myth about voter fraud, it's that only one major party ever practiced (or practices) it. Democrats have grown so obsessed with the idea that Republicans want to suppress voters and reduce turnout that it's become difficult for some to imagine that Republicans, too, would cheat to increase their numbers. Does anyone really believe that Republicans are so morally or ideologically opposed to fraudulent voting that they'd never do it even when they could get away with it? If anyone makes that assumption, Republicans have won a victory; they will have claimed some moral high ground that they probably don't deserve.
There's truth to the charges the major parties make against each other at election time. I take it for granted that oldschool big-city machine politics is not extinct and that Democrats will find ways to cheat at the polls. I also take it for granted that the main reason Republicans push for voter ID is not their principled opposition to fraud but their expectation that implementing such laws will reduce Democratic turnout. But as long as people assume that voter suppression is the Republicans' only tactic the GOP can continue to defend their efforts on anti-fraud grounds and look like the party of principle. If Democrats really want to take charge of this issue, they need to start digging wherever they can in search of positive proof of Republican vote fraud. It shouldn't be as hard to find as some may think. The impulse to cheat is not peculiarly Democratic -- at least not in the capital-D sense of the word.