Misfired fraud bounty reveals GOP’s ‘big lie’

York Dispatch editorial board
A voter walks toward a polling location on election day in Austin, Texas on November 3, 2020. (Sergio Flores/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is one of the many conservative office-holders pushing the fiction that voter fraud cost Donald Trump reelection. He doesn’t really believe this but, like many Republicans echoing this lie, his servility to the former president surpasses any sense of public service or decency.

How can we tell Patrick knows he’s peddling a load of BS about the election? Because he offered a bounty of up to $1 million to anyone who could provide information about legitimate voter fraud. Who in their right mind would offer to pay six- and seven-figure bounties for an act that was allegedly rampant?

In Pennsylvania alone, where President Joe Biden defeated Trump by some 70,000 votes, Patrick would have had to shell out billions were this difference the result of actual fraud. OK, Patrick himself wouldn’t shell it out; when was the last time you saw a politician use their own money for … well, anything? In a salute to the nation’s laughably flimsy elections laws, the funds would come from his campaign war chest.

More:Texas GOP leader pays illegal voting 'bounty' to Pennsylvania Democrat

No matter. With everyone from the Supreme Court to the baldly biased Arizona elections “auditors” to Republican-appointed judges across the country repeatedly confirming the vote was fair, fraud-free, and in favor of Biden, Patrick enjoyed the best of both worlds: A headline-grabbing show of Trump sycophancy wrapped in a safe bet.

In fact, in the year since Patrick announced the bounties, not a single penny had been paid out. Until last week.

A poll watcher from Pennsylvania finally turned up a legitimate example of voter fraud -- just not the type Patrick expected.

Poll worker Eric Frank reported seeing a Chester County resident named Ralph Thurman vote twice on Election Day (the second time under his son’s name). Thurman pled guilty last month. So: A small but substantive example of the fraud Trump supporters have been clamoring about, right?

Not exactly.

Tipster Frank is a Democrat; the fraudulent voter, a Republican.

“It’s my belief that they were trying to get cases of Democrats doing voter fraud. And that just wasn’t the case,” Frank told The Dallas Morning News. “This kind of blew up in their face.”

What’s new? These allegations have been blowing up in Republicans’ faces for a year now. In courtrooms. In official recounts. In unofficial “audits.” None of this has stopped conservative partisans in Pennsylvania and other states from continuing to make a show of uncovering (nonexistent) discrepancies — the better to justify the wave of voting restrictions that, in conjunction with newly drawn political districts, are seen as the best path to maintaining political power.

Frank received a check for $25,000 (not the $1 million ceiling, which, Frank said, the campaign told him is being reserved for “bigger fish”). In collecting the bounty, he turned the tables on Republican voter-irregularity claims. But more importantly, he pointed up, yet again, an exceedingly vital point: The very few cases of fraud that have emerged, including this one, involve individuals who cast (or attempted to cast) a single illegal ballot. The mass troves of fraudulent votes alleged by Trump and those too spineless or brainless to contradict him — including the Republican leadership in Pennsylvania — simply do not exist.

Continued GOP insistence to the contrary undermines trust in the electoral process, fuels voter-suppression efforts and endangers democracy.

More:GOP wants personal voter data to root out fraud. Pa. already uses a more secure system

It shouldn’t be too much to ask for honest Republicans to simply acknowledge reality. In Pennsylvania, that would mean pulling the plug on the costly, privacy-threatening, amateurish “audit” of the 2020 election.

After all, everyone knows these theatrics aren’t about the last election; they’re about the next one.