Maybe now we can lay the ‘election integrity’ talk to rest
Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin walks across Capitol Square in Richmond last month. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)
I doubt seriously that Thomas Youngkin, the 17-year-old son of Virginia’s newly minted governor, tried to pull a fast one by voting illegally on Election Day.
He must have been excited his father was running for the state’s highest office. Thomas went overboard in supporting his dad – even though you have to be at least 18 to cast a ballot. Fairfax County officials noted the teen didn’t end up voting and didn’t violate state election laws – even though Thomas tried to vote twice at the same polling place.
Forgive me, though, for reveling in a moment of schadenfreude.
Glenn Youngkin dabbled in the lies stoked by former President Donald Trump following the 2020 election. The governor-elect suggested during the campaign something just might be amiss in the electoral mechanics of Virginia. That was nonsense.
Nor would Youngkin say unambiguously – during the Republican Party nominating process – that Joe Biden won that election. (The Democrat carried the commonwealth by a comfortable 10 percentage points over Trump.)
Of course Biden’s the commander-in-chief, Youngkin said finally – after he won the GOP nomination. He knew he had to pivot to win more than just the party faithful come November.
That didn’t stop him, throughout the campaign, from contending elections in the state deserved greater scrutiny. And by golly, he would get to the bottom of possible wrongdoings!
He formed an “Election Integrity Task Force” of citizens to “to ensure free and fair elections in Virginia.”
Youngkin called for restoration of photo ID laws – even though there were no major reports of irregularities last week. During the summer, he took part in a discredited “election integrity” rally in Lynchburg, as I noted in a previous column.
Youngkin did all this even though a statewide audit of the 2020 election found virtually no chance the state’s voting system produced an inaccurate count. The report also said the audit is further evidence of “the integrity and validity” of the presidential election in Virginia. Things ran smoothly.
Makes you wonder: What level of proof should be required for his own policies and initiatives after he’s inaugurated?
As an aside, I’ve been waiting for the outrage following last week’s elections, with complaints of fraud and cheating. That only seems to happen when Democrats win.
Republicans captured all three statewide contests and appear to have gained control of the House of Delegates – two close races may go to recounts. Democrats, though, have accepted the will of Virginians.
Had Republican leaders nationwide done the same en masse in late 2020, instead of placating the Orange Loser in Chief, we all could’ve avoided the horrifying Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Youngkin spokesman Devin O’Malley didn’t respond Tuesday to my questions about what happened with the governor-elect’s son and whether the incident might change the father’s views on elections.
After all, the younger Youngkin didn’t illegally vote, because polling officials recognized the problem. They were doing their jobs.
O’Malley spun it this way in a statement last week, according to published reports: “It’s unfortunate that while Glenn attempts to unite the commonwealth around his positive message of better schools, safer streets, a lower cost of living, and more jobs, his political opponents — mad that they suffered historic losses this year — are pitching opposition research on a 17-year-old kid who honestly misunderstood Virginia election law and simply asked polling officials if he was eligible to vote; when informed he was not, he went to school.”
That doesn’t account for the teen’s second attempt at voting. Journalists would’ve been less inclined to cover the issue had the governor-elect not gone so Trumpian about voter accuracy.
I’ve written many voter ID and (alleged) voter fraud columns over the past decade. Studies over the years have shown – repeatedly – the number of people who intentionally cheat the system is small statistically. That’s especially true given the tens of millions of people who vote in presidential elections.
For example, the Government Accountability Office, in a 2014 report, reviewed several studies and “identified few instances of in-person voter fraud,” I wrote. A Cornell University blog reported in late 2020: “The vast majority of studies have concluded that voter fraud is too rare to influence national elections.”
Lorraine C. Minnite is an associate professor of public policy at Rutgers University–Camden and author of book, “The Myth of Voter Fraud.” “The specter of voter fraud,” she said last year, “is used to scare people and justify rules that make it harder to vote for that segment of the population that already votes the least – the poor, new citizen voters, young people and, most importantly, racial minorities.”
Virginia, thankfully, doesn’t treat its citizens the way other states do. Texas stands out for undue harshness and insensitivity. The Kafkaesque case of Crystal Mason is Exhibit A.
Austin’s KXAN.com reported earlier this year that 150 people have been charged with voter fraud since 2004. Most of the cases ended with a guilty plea or jury conviction, but only 24 of those convicted spent at least one day in jail.
Mason, though, was sentenced to five years in prison for casting a provisional ballot during the 2016 presidential election; the ballot wasn’t counted. She was on supervised release from an earlier conviction and thought she could legally vote. Mason testified later that she didn’t know she was ineligible.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, said this year it would consider her appeal. I interviewed Alison Grinter, one of Mason’s attorneys, by phone this week.
Politics appear to overlay her client’s prosecution. “Voting has become a polarizing issue,” the attorney said.
Grinter also wondered if Glenn Youngkin’s comments about elections in Virginia have placed undue, unnecessary attention on his own son. “It’s a really scary time to have your freedom in jeopardy over a voting issue,” she said.
Indeed. The governor-to-be should tone down the rhetoric, end the demagoguery, and focus on real problems.
Unless he wants to investigate his own son.
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