A Sunday report from Charles Bethea in The New Yorker suggested that when former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said the 2020 presidential election would be marred by mail-in ballot fraud, he was telling on himself.
According to that report, Meadows and his wife, Debbie, were left without a North Carolina residence after they sold their Sapphire home in March 2020. That September, according to the magazine, they registered to vote using a mobile home in Scaly Mountain that they didn’t own, where they didn’t live and where Meadows may never have set foot. Then, Meadows voted by mail.
Though the mobile home has since been purchased by a Lowe's manager, and though the Meadowses have since bought a home in South Carolina, Bethea wrote that the director of the board of elections in Macon County, North Carolina, said the couple’s registration remained linked to the mobile home.
Meadows didn’t respond to The New Yorker or other outlets, including The Washington Post, that sought his comment.
Is what Meadows is alleged to have done hypocritical, given his baseless accusation that widespread dishonesty robbed former President Donald Trump of a second term? Yes, but people acting in bad faith don’t care if they’re accused of hypocrisy. Team Trump is shame-deficient, so it won’t be chastened by a report that a chief disseminator of the "big lie" lied to vote.
The Meadows story is outrageous because there are people who’ve been sentenced to prison for what might have been innocent misunderstandings of their voting eligibility and because it’s impossible to conceive of a scenario where Meadows, who hasn’t been charged with a crime, gets the same treatment.
Pamela Moses, a Black Lives Matter activist, was sentenced to six years of imprisonment last month for trying to register to vote in Tennessee, a state that perversely denies the vote to people convicted of certain felonies. Moses said she was given inaccurate information by officials and that she thought she was eligible. She’s been granted a new trial, but justice demands that her charges be dropped.
Crystal Mason, a Texas woman who was on supervised release after a federal conviction, was convicted after she submitted a provisional ballot during the 2016 presidential election and is appealing her five-year prison sentence. Her ballot wasn’t counted, and Mason said she didn’t know being on supervised release disqualified her.
Meadows and his wife could not have mistakenly registered to vote in Scaly Mountain. Not only was it not their domicile; its owner had it on the market to sell. That former owner told The New Yorker that Debbie Meadows had once reserved the house for a two-month stretch, but Mark Meadows “did not come. He’s never spent a night in there.” The Meadowses never expressed an interest in buying the property, she said.
“I'm one of the few people here on the White House complex that actually has worked in the precincts,” Meadows told reporters on Sept. 2, 2020. “I know the problems that it presents. I know the difficulties that there are with registered voters and the rolls being inaccurate.”
That was 17 days before he reportedly registered using the mobile home address. If the allegations are true and Mark and Debbie Meadows knowingly falsified their voter registration, it’s impossible to imagine them — white, wealthy Republicans connected to power — missing a beat.
A scan of notable voting fraud cases across the country shows that white Republicans caught in flagrant dishonesty have been punished less severely than Black people who may have been honestly confused about their registration status. Reserving the worst punishment for people in the second group can suppress their vote by discouraging the participation of those who are less than 100 percent sure about their eligibility.
Add to the stories of Mason and Moses the story of Hervis Rogers, a Black man who talked to CNN in March 2020 after waiting six hours to vote at his Houston polling place. He faces up to 20 years in prison because he was on parole and — unbeknownst to him, he said — barred from the ballot box.
Donald Kirk Hartle, a white Republican who voted twice in November 2020 after forging his dead wife’s signature and voting under her name, got a year of probation. Edward Snodgrass, a white Republican official in his Ohio township, forged his dead father’s name on an absentee ballot. He pleaded guilty and got three days in jail.
Pennsylvania’s Bruce Bartman used his mother’s driver’s license to register her to vote even though she’d died when George W. Bush was president. Bartman also signed up (but didn’t cast a ballot) for his dead mother-in-law. He got five years of probation.
To be sure, not even these anecdotes constitute widespread voting fraud. There is no widespread voting fraud. But Republicans, taking their cues from former Trump staffers such as Meadows, have made a belief in massive voting fraud from the other side an article of faith — an article of faith that has led to noxious and targeted voting restrictions.
Meadows predicted there’d be cheating during the 2020 election. If he and his wife used an address that wasn’t theirs to register, we now know why he was so sure.