When in Doubt, Cry "Voter Fraud"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 8 2010 8:25 AM

When in Doubt, Cry "Voter Fraud"

Republican congressional candidate Ed Martin has lost the race for Missouri's 3rd district by 4,418 votes, a close but not razor-thin margin out of the 193,604 votes cast for him and incumbent Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.). This is not the sort of result candidates usually contest. For example, Colorado Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Ken Buck conceded to Sen. Michael Bennet in fairly short order after trailing by by 15,646 out of 1,582,498 votes cast for the two of them.

But Martin is crying "fraud."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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Ed Martin, the Republican nominee for the 3rd District congressional seat,  has a new spokeswoman as he continues to mull his options regarding his apparent loss Tuesday to Democratic incumbent Russ Carnahan. Martin has yet to concede... Among other things, Martin has alleged irregularities in the city's votes and in the hiring of a security firm at the city Election Board headquarters to help out on Election Day. Martin particularly has raised questions about the final bloc of city votes that went heavily for Carnahan.

On Wednesday, a group of Martin allies picketed outside the downtown Election Board headquarters, shouting that vote fraud had been committed.

What are Martin and his supporters concerned with? They claim that massive fraud in St. Louis city and county may have happened and may have swung the election.

[J]ust before midnight seven precincts within the city and county delivered an astounshing (sic) late night dump of votes. In such a hotly contested race and with so many voters concerned it only makes sense to make sure in fact every vote counts. Since Missouri’s Secretary of State is in fact Congressman Carnahan’s sister it is suggested she recuse herself from the investigation and appoint an independent investigator...

What's the evidence for this? There isn't any. There is nothing that suggests that the late counts from St. Louis weren't in line with every other late count from St. Louis. There are no local Republicans backing him up; they won a lot of races in the state while he was losing, and the vote patterns don't point to anything unusual in a district that's voted Democratic since the 1940s. But when you spend six years informing your base that urban Democrats are untiring agents of voter fraud, that's a hard lesson to unteach.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.