As registration drives accelerate, including those run by the Barack Obama campaign and its allies, it's no wonder that Republicans are increasingly anxious about retaining their hold on a state that GOP presidential candidates have carried since 1968. What is surprising is their utterly baseless charge of "coordinated and widespread voter fraud . . . throughout Virginia."
That rhetorical hand grenade, lobbed the other day by the state Republican Party chairman, Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick of Prince William County, bears little relationship to the facts. Nor do Mr. Frederick's attempts to frighten prospective voters by warning that they could be victims of identity theft if they sign up to vote in registration drives by "a whole lot of groups out there that nobody has ever heard of." In fact, there is not even a whiff of evidence that identity theft is taking place in Virginia under the guise of registration campaigns. Mr. Frederick's message amounts to a classic attempt to suppress votes.
The editorial also points out that voter fraud allegations are equally unsupported, and excoriates Virginia Republicans for taking this low road.
That's all good, and sincere kudos to the WaPo for taking this stand. (At least when it comes to the Virginia GOP, they seem to be able to call a spade a spade, and not have to do their usual 'both sides are at fault' number, as another recent editorial shows.)
However, there's nothing 'surprising' about this GOP approach - or there shouldn't be, to anyone paying attention. (That's the 'startling ignorance' part.) The GOP has been banging the voter-fraud drum for years, to the point of passing voter-ID laws in multiple states, one of which was recently upheld by the Supreme Court. (If you're Fred Hiatt, how can you miss this?) The U.S. Attorney firings of 2006-07 were mostly about attorneys' refusals to file bogus vote fraud cases. And the GOP also has had an active recent history of discouraging and suppressing voter turnout among demographics likely to vote Democrat.
By now, all of this should be about as big a surprise as finding the swimming pools closed after Labor Day. Especially to someone whose day job is to pay attention to what's going on in American politics.