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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Show me the fraud.

Show me the hordes of college students using fake IDs to cast votes for president.

Show me the poor people boarding buses and trains or walking for miles so they can cast a vote in the wrong precinct using somebody else’s name.

Show me throngs of citizens spending entire days traveling from precinct to precinct to cast their votes over and over in the same election.

Until Republicans can produce these felons, any attempt to restrict voters’ rights by conjuring such mythical malefactors is partisanship of the ugliest and most dangerous kind.

Last week, U.S. Rep. John Lewis — a civil rights hero who earned his stake in this debate with his own blood — wrote an op-ed for The New York Times about the wave of Republican-backed voting restrictions in state legislatures. The title of his piece, “A Poll Tax by Another Name,” is enough to send chills up the spine of anyone who remembers a time when African-Americans risked their lives to vote.

Lewis took aim at the slew of photo ID mandates passed to prevent voter fraud that no one can prove exists.

“Indiana was unable to cite a single instance of actual voter impersonation at any point in its history,” he wrote. “Likewise, in Kansas, there were far more reports of U.F.O. sightings than allegations of voter fraud in the past decade. These theories of systematic fraud are really unfounded fears being exploited to threaten the franchise.”

In the battleground state of Ohio, where I live, the far-right extremists in the state Legislature took a breather in their march across women’s bodies to pass a slew of voting restrictions.

The voting law’s sponsor, state Rep. Robert Mecklenborg, said last March the legislation was necessary “to combat voter fraud and the perception of fraud.” No one — not county boards of elections, the League of Women Voters or former secretaries of state — could cite a single instance of voter impersonation in Ohio.

This did not deter Mecklenborg and his fellow Republicans from plowing right over the voting rights of potentially hundreds of thousands of Ohio voters.

“I believe it happens, but it’s proving a negative,” Mecklenborg told reporters after the March vote. “It’s impossible to prove a negative. How do you prove that fraud doesn’t exist there?”

The law has sparked a petition drive to repeal it through a ballot referendum.

We won’t be hearing Mecklenborg pontificate anymore about nonexistent voter fraud, because he’s no longer a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. He resigned last month after he made headlines across the country for driving while intoxicated.

Mecklenborg, who also sponsored the most radical anti-abortion legislation in the country this year, was arrested in the wee hours of the morning in Indiana, where he was driving with an expired license in a car with temporary Kentucky plates in the company of a young woman who was not his wife. He managed to hide this arrest from the public for a whole two months.

What does any of this have to do with voter fraud? Absolutely everything when you’re claiming to be the standard-bearer for authenticity.

The Republican majority in the Ohio Legislature wanted to pass a photo ID mandate, too, but one of its own — Secretary of State Jon Husted — publicly opposed it.

Husted paid a price for this independence.

GOP leadership punished him by removing a provision for online voter registration. Republicans also worked the refs at The Wall Street Journal, which ran an opinion piece about Husted, titled “Ohio’s Pro-Fraud Republican.”

Husted has more plans to buck his party’s leadership. Ohio’s new voting law eliminates the requirement for poll workers to help voters find their right precinct. Husted said he will instruct poll workers to offer help to any voter who needs it.

Imagine that. Issuing an order to defy your own party just so voters can find the right place to vote.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and an essayist for Parade magazine. To find out more about Connie Schultz ([email protected]) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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