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.
Take Pennsylvania's Robert Richard Lynn, for example. The Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre reported yesterday:
A man from Forty Fort said he used "poor judgement" and regrets using his deceased mother's name on an application for an absentee ballot for the 2020 presidential election. Robert Richard Lynn, 68, of Center Street, pleaded guilty to a third-degree misdemeanor charge of violations relating to absentee or mail-in ballots during a court proceeding before Luzerne County Judge Michael T. Vough on Monday.
The recent pattern is pretty amazing. Revisiting our earlier coverage, we learned in May, for example, about Pennsylvania's Bruce Bartman, who cast an absentee ballot in support of 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.
About a month later, Edward Snodgrass, a local Republican official in Ohio, admitted to forging his dead father's signature on an absentee ballot and then voting again as himself. NBC News noted at the time that Snodgrass struck a deal with prosecutors and was sentenced to three days in jail and a $500 fine.
This new example is notable in part because of the amount of effort the Republican voter in Pennsylvania invested in his scheme. This guy used a typewriter to complete an absentee ballot application -- pretending to be his deceased mother, Lynn claimed to be "visiting great grand kids" around the time of the election -- before signing the dead woman's name.
It wasn't long before election officials flagged the ballot, when a database showed that the voter in question died six years ago.
The defendant faced up to two years behind bars. He instead received a sentence of six months' probation.
As we've discussed, there are a handful of ways to look at incidents like these. My first thought is 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 Robert Richard Lynn, Edward Snodgrass, and Bruce Bartman received vastly more lenient sentences, despite the fact that they knowingly hatched schemes to cast illegal ballots on behalf of dead relatives.
My second thought is of Republicans who might 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 Forty Fort 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.
This has long appeared to be unwise: 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 Republican 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) has 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.