Interesting report from the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder: John McCain's campaign, along with some other Republicans, is planning "to tone down the Republicans' traditionally aggressive and public campaign against potential voter fraud."
The reason? Republican strategists worry that their usual efforts will backfire. The right's anti-voter-fraud work is generally interpreted on the left as an attempt to suppress the votes of traditional Democratic constituencies: minorities, the poor and the elderly, all of whom are more likely to be targeted. According to Ambinder, some Republicans believe that this perception actually helped Democratic turnout in Ohio in 2004. They can't afford the same phenomenon this time around.
And, of course, the topic of race already looks like it will be a sensitive one for Republicans this year because of Barack Obama's presence in the race, and Ambinder says that concern plays in as well. He quotes one unnamed "top Republican who is advising the McCain campaign" as saying, "The Democrats will unfortunately try to bring race into play when this discussion happens, as they do every cycle. It's unfortunate because illegally cast votes disenfranchise real voters by potentially canceling out their votes."
Of course, as Ambinder notes, Republicans outside of the McCain campaign could decide to launch their own independent efforts on this front. Since claims of voter fraud have become wrapped up in the issue of illegal immigration, and the right is already unhappy with McCain's stance on that, some freelancing wouldn't be a surprise.
Despite what that Republican told Ambinder, there's actually no evidence that voter fraud is occurring on any significant scale in the U.S. The most popular fraud claim on the right -- actually, Michelle Malkin dredges it back up in her column this week -- is about fraudulent registrations turned in by people working for organizations doing voter registration drives. There's no link between that and actual voter fraud, though. In those cases, the victim is the organization conducting the drive, as the staffers typically use the fake registrations to get additional pay from their employers. Some of the fraudulent registrations Malkin discusses (she cites this as evidence for her side; it's not) list people like Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy and Jive Turkey. As Bud Cummins, the former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas told me in 2007, most of these registrations will never be used to vote -- who, after all, would be stupid enough to show up to vote under the name Jive Turkey?