Monday, March 26, 2007

Navarrette on Iglesias

In a column printed in today's Albuquerque Journal and headlined "Voter Fraud a Foolish Reason To Go After Iglesias" (available on-line from SignOnSanDiego and the San Diego Union-Tribune where it is headlined "A fear of Latino voters"), Ruben Navarrette shows he knows at least several things that simply are not so. Two are central to his column, and are particularly egregious. On a third, he may only be guilty of taking a self-serving statement as gospel without bothering to check it out. A fourth shows one of the hidden assumptions apparently behind Navarrette's thinking.

A key point of the column, highlighted in the Albuquerque Journal, is where Navarrette says

To think that illegal immigrants would hand over their savings to smugglers, trek across the desert, settle into an underground economy, and then suddenly get the urge to risk it all by rushing out to vote.
Navarrette asks "Are there people who really believe this?" But, actually, it's not so hard. One has only to remember the political operatives and their flyers at last year's marches supporting illegal aliens and illegal immigration — all working for the Democrats — seeking to sign people up as voters without regard to whether they were legally entitled to become voters, whether they were citizens, or whether they were here illegally. Illegal aliens are least likely to know about U.S. voting laws, and most likely to believe the political operatives when they tell the aliens they are allowed to register and vote. It can also be argued that later, when they do understand, being a registered voter makes it easier to pass as a citizen.

Another key point is stated early in the column, where Navarrette says

Whenever you hear the phrase "voter fraud," substitute "surging Hispanic political power."
A couple of paragraphs further, he supports this point, saying
In New Mexico, and anywhere in the Southwest, when someone sayd they're worried about voter fraud ("surging Hispanic political power"), you know they're talking bout the possibility of illegal immigrants going to the polls. And since in these parts, most illegal immigrants happen to be Hispanic, the issue comes with built-in and not-so-subtle ethnic overtones.
That's right — Navarrette says everyone (at least in the Southwest) who expresses concern over vote fraud is an anti-Hispanic bigot. In this, and in the point above, Navarette is trying to make the case that David Iglesias, formerly U.S. Attorney in New Mexico, was fired for reasons that are (a) different from any of those stated, and (b) probably racist. But Navarrette’s racist charge involves a substantial leap of faith on his part, and is unsupported by evidence.

Besides, Navarrette quotes Iglesias asserting that, even if some voter fraud does occur, there wouldn't be enough voter fraud to skew an election. This appears to be a Navarrette article of faith.

Let's approach this question from outside the Southwest — from Washington State — where former U.S. Attorney John McKay was fired along with David Iglesias. And for similar reasons: A key factor in McKay's firing was apparently his unwillingness to take action on vote fraud cases. McKay asserted he is aware of "no evidence of election crimes." Either this statement is false, or John McKay leads a very sheltered existence. Stefan Sharkansky, among others, have documented large numbers of fraudulent, and fraudulently counted, ballots in the 2004 election. The demonstrated number of such ballots is several times the margin in the 2004 election for governor of Washington State in that election. Sharkansky has provided copies of his findings and evidence to the authorities, as well as to the public. Under these circumstances, McKay's assertion of "no evidence of election crimes" looks to be willful ignorance, at best.

The McKay case demonstrates at least two things: (1) Voter fraud exists at a sufficient scale to change the results of at least close elections. (2) John McKay was apparently fired, at least in part, because of his refusal to pursue voter fraud cases in circumstances where anti-Hispanic bigotry was clearly not a factor.

Now let's come back to New Mexico. There has been a large amount of voter fraud here. ACORN has been active here, as elsewhere. In central New Mexico, ACORN has apparently been responsible for at least 10,000-20,000 fraudulent voter registrations in Bernalillo County, the state's most populous, alone. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. When voter cards were mailed to all state voters last year, more than 200,000 — representing over 18% of all registered voters in the state — were returned to the Secretary of State as undeliverable. These are huge numbers, especially when compared to the very slim margin by which Congresswoman Heather Wilson defeated New Mexico Attorney General Patsy Madrid for one of the state's three Congressional seats.

That suggests massive voter fraud. And, in at least one case, the U.S. Attorney's office had a confession from a responsible individual. But, even there, David Iglesias declined to pursue the case. How many other voter fraud cases he ignored is not known. Under such circumstances, firing Iglesias (in part) for not pursuing any voter fraud cases seems entirely appropriate.

And here's where Navarrette has apparently accepted Iglesias' claims uncritically. Navarrette says

Iglesias set up a bipartisan task force and hot line to investigate allegations of voting improprieties. But few of the tips had any merit.
Given the above, this statement (attributed to Iglesias) is at least slanted and misleading, and probably is just false. Either way, Iglesias declined to take any action on voter fraud cases. And the fact that the Administration had that as an issue in Washington State, where anti-Hispanic bigotry couldn't be a factor, at least suggests that bigotry wasn't the reason this issue came up in the Iglesias case.


One other piece in the column exposes the hidden assumptions in Navarrette's thinking. Navarrette writes "I asked Iglesias if he thought this issue was really about the GOP trying to suppress the Hispanic vote." The problem with this question is that the GOP is actively trying to compete for Hispanic votes. But they are having problems because of the false, but oft repeated, charges that they want to disenfranchise Hispanics. In one glaring example, the Democratic Party in New Mexico (under state party leader, now Lieutenant Governor, Diane Denish) ran ads — on the Spanish language stations only, which they denied on the English language stations — saying the Republicans would act to disenfranchise all Hispanics if they were elected. These fraudulent ads may have been effective in maintaining the Democrats' political dominance in this state.

Ruben Navarrette should retract this column, and apologize for it.

I'm not holding my breath.

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