“What to know about Ron DeSantis’s political ‘election fraud’ arrests”

Philip Bump for WaPo:

It’s critically important to put this into context. Attendance at DeSantis’s announcement was restricted, with “a woman who identified herself as a volunteer with the Palm Beach County Republican Party” monitoring who was allowed to enter the room, according to Washington Post reporting. Just as DeSantis was aware of the political utility of announcing the creation of the “Office of Election Crimes and Security” earlier this year, in the midst of ongoing agitation on the right over the specter of rampant voter fraud, he is aware of the utility of standing at a lectern and announcing that purported criminals had been found.

Mind you, this is 20 voters out of more than 11 million who cast ballots in the state that year. Some perspective for that is below. The small black dot indicates 20 votes out of the 2020 total — and, rest assured, the black dot is actually there.

And that this isn’t “voter fraud,” as such. An operating theory of Republican politics in the Donald Trump era has been that there’s a rampant effort to cast votes illegally on behalf of unwitting actors. This is people casting votes on their own behalf who are simply having their votes thrown out. It is to “election fraud” what overstaying a visa is to “illegal immigration.”

Most importantly, the allegations being made are just that: allegations. There have been multiple examples in recent years of states making splashy announcements about fraud only to have those allegations wither. Skepticism is warranted here particularly given DeSantis’s track record of hyping culture-war victories that turn out to be little more than the hype itself.

There has been actual voter fraud alleged in Florida. Four people who live in the conservative, senior-oriented community of the Villages have been arrested for committing fraud. DeSantis did not hold a press conference to celebrate that triumph of law enforcement.

That clarifies another particularly revealing aspect of the governor’s announcement. The subtext to much of the fretting over purported illegal voting is that it’s the wrong people who are casting ballots, which is clearly what DeSantis wants to highlight. In Wisconsin, for example, a focus of allegations about election “rigging” was that systems were implemented making it easier for people in low-turnout areas — cities, places with larger non-White populations — to cast a ballot. The backlash against Amendment 4 had some obvious grounding in worries that those new voters would vote for Democrats — in part because they were disproportionately Black.

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