In the wake of Donald Trump's defeat last fall, Republicans launched a desperate search for illegally cast ballots to help justify the GOP's conspiracy theories. But as regular readers know, despite all the hysterical rhetoric, only a handful of legitimate allegations have been raised -- and some of the most notable examples involve Republicans casting illegal ballots on behalf of dead relatives.
We learned in early May, for example, about Pennsylvania's Bruce Bartman, who cast an absentee ballot in support of Donald Trump for his mother -- who died in 2008. Bartman pleaded guilty to unlawful voting, conceded he "listened to too much propaganda," and was sentenced to five years' probation.
A week later, the public learned of a stunning story out of Colorado, where Barry Morphew allegedly cast a pro-Trump ballot on behalf of his dead wife -- whom he's also accused of murdering. According to the arrest affidavit, asked why he submitted the illegal ballot, Morphew said, "Just because I wanted Trump to win." He added that he believed "all these other guys are cheating."
This week, NBC News reported on the latest example, this time out of Ohio.
Edward Snodgrass, who is a Porter Township trustee, has admitted to forging his dead father's signature on an absentee ballot and then voting again as himself, court records and other sources revealed. Snodgrass was busted after a Delaware County election worker questioned the signature on his father's ballot. A subsequent investigation revealed the ballot had been mailed to H. Edward Snodgrass on Oct. 6 — a day after the 78-year-old retired businessman died.
Snodgrass told NBC News he'd made "an honest error" by "trying to execute a dying man's wishes."
The report added that Snodgrass, as part of a plea agreement, "is expected to plead guilty to a reduced charge of falsification and [will] receive a sentence of three days in jail and a $500 fine."
Circling back to our earlier coverage, I think there are a handful of ways to look at incidents like these.
My first thought after seeing this news was to remember the case of Crystal Mason, who cast a provisional ballot in the 2016 while on supervised release for a federal conviction. She didn't know she was ineligible to vote, and her ballot was never counted, but Mason -- a Black woman -- was convicted of illegal voting and sentenced to five years in prison.
It's hard not to notice that White men like Edward Snodgrass and Bruce Bartman received vastly more lenient sentences, despite the fact that they knowingly cast illegal ballots on behalf of dead relatives.
My second thought was the expectation that Republicans may try to seize on news like this. "See?" I assume they'll say. "Voter fraud is real after all, which means sweeping new voter-suppression laws are fully justified."
But that remains the wrong response. What the Snodgrass story actually helps show is that when would-be criminals try to cheat, the existing system is strong enough to catch them, charge them, and convict them. This doesn't prove the need for voter-suppression laws; it helps prove the opposite.
As important as these details are, let's also not forget a related question: Wasn't a reward offered for this kind of information?
A couple of days after Joe Biden was declared the president-elect, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) announced that he'd be willing to pay up to $1 million as a reward to those who could produce proof of voter fraud.
At the outset, this appeared to be unwise. As we've discussed, the Texas Republican was effectively arguing that he and his party assumed there was widespread fraud, but they couldn't prove it, so he hoped financial rewards would produce evidence Republicans couldn't find on their own. Patrick was basically telling the public, "We can't back up our talking points, so I'll pay you to help."
But now there's a related problem: now that there's real-world evidence of Trump voters committing fraud, will Patrick pay up? If I sent him a copy of this MaddowBlog post, would he send me a check that I'd promise to apply to a good cause?
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) tried to get his Texas counterpart to follow through on his offer, but as best as I can tell, the Democrat hasn't yet received any of the reward money. I wonder why that is.