The setup was too perfect.
A new video purported to show a dark-skinned man from a liberal political group illegally stuffing an Arizona ballot box with hundreds of votes. It’s no surprise that the video is going viral in the conservative blogosphere. This is precisely the kind of egregious voter fraud that many conservatives have warned about in their campaigns for voter ID laws around the country.
The man dropping off the ballots is Latino, fitting perfectly into the theories about voter fraud enabling liberal electoral victories. Vitriol immediately began pouring into the comment sections of blogs like Glenn Beck’s enormously popular website The Blaze, calling the man an illegal immigrant, a wetback, and worse. The Blaze’s headline was cagey, stopping short of outright accussing anyone of a crime but promising clickbait-worthy “stunning” acts.
“Looks like a Mexican man to me,” one commenter wrote on another right-wing blog. “Obama’s plan is working.”
The problem is that the entire premise is wrong. The man is wearing a shirt that says “Citizens for a Better Arizona,” a liberal political group that asks voters to fill out absentee ballots and then delivers them to the polling station. In short, they help extend electoral participation to voters—particularly Latinos—who can’t make it to the polls on election day.
If he were a ballot-box stuffing political operative, the man in the video would probably have put more effort into his disguise. And, despite calls to arrest the man, he’s not hiding his identity either: Ben Marine, who was employed with the CBA for at least two years, is registered and familiar with Arizona courts in order to handle the ballots.
In fact, the story being told on conservative blogs is false, nothing here is illegal, this isn’t voter fraud, and the man is merely delivering absentee ballots to a polling station. That explains why he walks through the front door and doesn’t hide in the least bit what he’s up to.
The video, which has been viewed about 100,000 times and shared widely on popular blogs, is the latest false rallying cry for conservatives who claim that voter fraud is a massive problem in the United States.
The massive-voter-fraud conspiracy theories that fueled the reaction to this video have been repeatedly refuted: An analysis by News21, a journalism project at Arizona State University, found 28 cases of voter fraud convictions since 2000. A Washington Post article found about 31 incidents nationwide in the past 14 years out of more than 1 billion ballots cast.
None of this has stopped the video from making waves. The CBA’s Facebook page has been inundated with calls for criminal prosecution and the comment sections on conservative blogs are positively rabid. The YouTube video’s comments feature violent threats against Marine as well.
We haven’t been able to directly contact Dan Marine, but Randy Parraz, president emeritus of the CBA, called the video and the accompanying blog posts “a right-wing hit piece.”
Despite tens of thousands of shares across social networks, none of the conservative bloggers reached out to the CBA to ask for their side of the story. The video and story were delivered to the press by A.J. LaFaro, the chairman of the Maricopa County Republican Party, a noted rival of the CBA. Somehow, no conservative bloggers thought it was worth their time to check the story with the other side.
A local Fox station reached out to CBA but killed the segment when they realized nothing illegal was going on.
It’s true: Nothing illegal is happening, so the TV ratings for Fox might not have shot through the roof. However, the groundswell of racist, hyperpartisan vitriol bubbling up to the surface as a result of this video deserves to be addressed.
Parraz says the CBA at times delivers over a thousand ballots at a time, making the 100 or so being delivered here look like a pittance.
“Until the law is changed, we will continue to do it,” Parraz told the Daily Dot. “Especially for Latinos who believe their vote doesn’t count.”
Photo via Col Ford/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)