- - Monday, October 17, 2016

The Democrats, who imagine they have the franchise on ethics in politics, have argued for years that there’s no such thing as voter fraud, and anyone who says that such wickedness exists is a racist in a small closet who ventures out from time to time to keep minority voters, i.e., blacks, from voting.

Voters of other nations cheat, of course, but once such cheaters arrive in America, so this reasoning goes, they never cheat again. Election Day in Chicago is often regarded as what that fine old hymn of the black church calls “that great gettin’ up mornin’.” Asking prospective voters to show identification to get a ballot is regarded as an act of racism.

Nevertheless, reality intrudes. Not long ago several boxes of ballots already marked with voter choices, no doubt the work of someone just being helpful, were discovered in Ohio, a battleground state still in play. Recent disclosures in North Carolina reveal the state may have once cast its electoral votes in error for Barack Obama. “Non-citizens” may have cast the ballots that provided Al Franken, the comedian from “Saturday Night Live,” with the margin that put him in the U.S. Senate from Minnesota. His vote, as it turned out, was the vote that insured the passage of Obamacare. Coincidences abound.

So voter fraud lives beyond the imaginations of conservatives. But if Donald Trump cannot keep his attention off his pet peeves and get his campaign back to the legitimate issues that separates him from Hillary Clinton, after the final debate on Wednesday night no Democrat will have to bother to steal a single vote. A new poll finds that 60 percent of the public says he’s right to say there’s a real possibility of voter fraud, and 41 percent say they think the election could actually be stolen.

The Republicans are the worried folk this year, but only yesterday it was the Democrats who said that George W. Bush and Karl Rove had contrived to steal the votes that put the final result in the courts.

It’s probably true that voter fraud doesn’t determine the outcome in many races, but it can, and one false outcome is one too many. Worse is that the mere perception that voter fraud is a problem, because it undermines the stability of the American political system. The system functions because most Americans believe that, a few crooks aside, everyone can expect his vote to be counted. That’s why the nation has managed the peaceful transfer of presidential power since George Washington won the first presidential election in 1789. Since then we’ve expanded the electorate, and no one has seriously argued that an election result should be ignored.

This year Donald Trump says the election may be rigged against him and Hillary Clinton says the Russians are hacking into the system and the implication is that they’re doing it to elect the Donald. Such charges and countercharges dangerously undermine public confidence in the system. Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential candidate, has pledged that Mr. Trump will “absolutely accept the results of the election.” Similar assurances are needed from Hillary Clinton.

There’s a growing perception that many voters are not voting because they think the votes aren’t always counted accurately. Such perceptions must be erased, and the way to start is to require voters to identify themselves. This can be done without discriminating against anyone for reasons of race, religion or politics. All voters matter.

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