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Key voter-fraud claim unravels for Republican conspiracy theorists

For much of the right, Rosemarie Hartle's ballot wasn't just an instance of voter fraud; it was the foundation upon which a broader attack was built.


Over the course of the year, the public has learned of a handful of instances in which Donald Trump supporters were caught trying to cast ballots on behalf of dead relatives. In each instance, the Republicans were caught; the fraudulent ballots were not counted; and the cases were referred for prosecution. Several perpetrators have already pleaded guilty.

But the story surrounding Rosemarie Hartle's ballot in Nevada is something else altogether.

In the other documented instances, GOP voters quietly tried to get away with an illegal scheme. When they got caught — cheating is extremely difficult — those who tried and failed to pull off their schemes pleaded for mercy in court.

In Nevada, however, Rosemarie Hartle's ballot became a rallying cry and a lynchpin to a larger partisan strategy. Hartle died of cancer in 2017, but someone nevertheless tried to cast a ballot in her name in the 2020 election cycle.

The Nevada Independent reported late last week on the man who's been charged in this case.

A man who once described a ballot being cast in his dead wife's name as "sickening" and was cited by the Nevada Republican Party last November as evidence that massive voter fraud swayed the results of the 2020 presidential election has been charged by prosecutors with voter fraud. According to a lawsuit filed in the Las Vegas Justice Court this month, the man, Donald Kirk Hartle, voted his deceased wife Rosemarie Hartle's ballot.

In other words, Donald Kirk Hartle expressed outrage that someone tried to cast a ballot on behalf of his late wife. According to Nevada prosecutors, that someone was Donald Kirk Hartle.

It's important to emphasize for context that for much of the right, this wasn't just an instance of voter fraud; this was the instance of voter fraud. It was the foundation upon which a broader attack was built.

As Rachel explained on Friday's show, Nevada Republicans seized on the Hartle case as proof that the state's balloting had been compromised. Here, for example, is what Fox News' Tucker Carlson told his viewers last November:

"So was there voter fraud last week? That's a question we've been working on since election night. We have tried to be careful and precise as we report this out. In moments like this truth really matters more than ever. False allegations of fraud can cause as much damage as the fraud itself.... So we want to be accurate. What we're about to tell you is accurate. It is not a theory. It happened and we can prove it."

The host was referring to the controversy surrounding Rosemary Hartle's ballot, which Carlson said the "news media" is "hiding" in order to help then-President-elect Joe Biden.

The Fox News anchor was hardly alone. Dinesh D'Souza, a far-right provocateur, published a tweet last November that read, "[Donald Kirk Hartle] was SHOCKED when he found out his wife, who died in 2017, just voted in the 2020 election. Are you really going to tell me voter fraud doesn't exist?"

The Nevada Republican Party also seized on the case — and admonished news organizations for not doing the same. Even Donald Kirk Hartle himself made media appearances, saying he found it "sickening" that someone would try to cast a ballot for his late wife.

But if Nevada prosecutors are correct, he couldn't have been too surprised, since he's the one who allegedly sent in the ballot.