Just in time for this year's electoral excitement, Wall Street Journal columnist John Fund has revised and updated his 2004 book, "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy (Encounter)." From felons voting and absentee voter fraud to the shady registration drives of ACORN, Fund's book surveys the bureaucratic ineptitude and deliberately fraudulent ballot-rigging tricks that have destroyed the creditability of our elections system among the American public and made it a laughingstock among industrialized nations. I spoke by phone to Fund Wednesday, Oct. 22, as he rode a train from Washington to New York City.
Q: Please give us a brief idea of what your book tells us about the nature of our voting system.
A: It tells us that we in many ways have as sloppy, as chaotic and as varied an election system as we had in 2000, when Bush and Gore spent 37 days fighting about Florida and the country didn't know who the next president would be.
If you compare voting conditions to the conditions of a dry forest at the end of summer, when there is a danger of fire, the flammable material is just as present as it was in 2000, except now a lot more people have matches.
Obama and McCain have 14,000 lawyers between them spoiling for intervention. If the margin of victory is close, if it comes down to one or two or three states that are very close, we're going to see lots of lawsuits, recriminations and recounts if the margin of victory is less than what I call the "margin of litigation" -- in other words, the trigger for which you start filing a lawsuit to try to get enough votes thrown out or get enough votes added to your column to win the election. I think it's a conscious strategy on the part of both campaigns to go to court and demand recounts if it is close enough.
Q: Why did you feel you had to write this book back in 2004?
A: Remember, 75 percent of this new book is fresh material. It's basically been completely rewritten and updated. I wrote the old edition and the new edition because I felt people were not sufficiently informed about how vulnerable our election system was to breakdowns, incompetence and outright fraud.
Q: What's an example of an update or revision that you've added since 2004?
A: The Washington governor's race of 2004. There's fresh material on Barack Obama's relationship with ACORN that is very timely and very newsy.
Q: Will readers of your book be encouraged or depressed by what they learn?
A: I hope they'll be entertained, because some of the stories are hilarious, frankly. I don't want to frighten them. I want to educate them. I want to educate them that we have the sloppiest elections system of any industrialized country. We have the least secure elections system of any industrialized country. And we can take practical steps to make them better, but all of this is drenched in partisanship and one side always wants to block the reforms it thinks are less advantageous to it or encourage reforms that are more advantageous to it. In other words, it's become a partisan football.
I cover both Republican malefactors in my book and Democratic malefactors. My job is not to serve as a partisan advocate; my job is to serve as someone who says, "Look, political power is so important in this country, there's so much political power lodged with the government, that people will often cheat in order to get that political power. And no political party has a monopoly on virtue." I present example after example. Right now we have an honor system in our elections; basically we take people at their word that they are who they say they are, that they are casting a legitimate vote. I want to replace that with a system similar to what Ronald Reagan urged -- trust but verify.
Q: Who seems to like your book more, Republicans or Democrats?
A: The majority of examples in my book are Democratic voter fraud examples. The reason for that is, Republicans used to have big-city machines -- Chicago; Philadelphia, by the way, until the '50s was a Republican machine; St. Louis. Those Republican machines have faded. Nassau County was the last one on Long Island. What's left are Democratic big-city machines.
Voter fraud is most frequent in big-city machines because two conditions are present at the same time: You have a large pool of voters who rely on politics for their livelihood or can be bribed or seduced into casting an illegal vote; and you also have the voting officials who are often beholden for their jobs to the machine and will often look the other way if they see fraud or sometimes they are even part of the fraud. That combination creates the perfect conditions for the largest amount of voter fraud.
Those are usually found in big cities or rural machines, old-style political machines, and those are more often than not controlled by Democrats. So it's not that one party is more virtuous than the other, but Democrats have more of an opportunity to commit voter fraud and, believe me, in big-city machines and rural machines, they often take advantage of that.
Q: What's the most overrated problem, vote fraud or vote theft?
A: Look, there's also a second problem which everyone says -- voter suppression -- which is Jim Crow tactics to try to keep down minorities from voting. I don't say it doesn't happen. I cite examples in my book of it happening, but they are not recent. The only recent examples of voter suppression or intimidation that I can find are people will leave fliers in neighborhoods that say "Republicans will vote on Tuesday and Democrats vote on Wednesday." Or, "You have to clear up all your parking tickets before you vote or you might be arrested." These are anonymous fliers and I certainly deplore them. If anyone is found to have manufactured them and distributed them in neighborhoods, they should be prosecuted, because they are trying to trick people, fool people. I don't think people are that stupid to believe them.
The bottom line is, I don't say voter suppression doesn't exist. We spent a long battle in the 1960s over that. We have to make sure that we never again have people who try to intimidate or prevent people from voting. There are two civil rights. We have the civil right to make sure people can cast a vote -- we fought a battle in the 1960s for that, the Voting Rights Act. We should preserve and extend those gains. There's should be a second civil right -- not to have your vote canceled out by someone who shouldn't be voting, someone who's voting twice or someone who doesn't even exist. You can be disenfranchised just as easily if your vote is canceled out through fraud as if somebody stood in the courthouse door and prevented you from entering a polling place and voting. Do you see my point? Both are civil rights. We should pay attention to both civil rights -- that's the theme of my book.