By Keith Darling-Brekhus on 12/1/2012, 10:52am PT  

Why isn't the FBI or the Justice Department investigating the "widespread voter fraud" that a number of Rightwingers are claiming enabled Barack Obama to win the 2012 election?

The simplest answer is that there is nothing to investigate --- at least no evidence to suggest as much at this time. Lacking such evidence, such fishing expeditions are a waste of taxpayer money, particularly when the evidence of "fraud" forwarded by Republicans to date is easily dispatched with little more than a Google search and a few clicks of the mouse.

All existing evidence suggests that President Obama soundly defeated Mitt Romney by an electoral vote margin of 332-206, and a popular vote margin of 50.9-47.4 percent. Yet, the myth that "widespread voter fraud" swung the election for Obama continues to persist on Rightwing web sites and blogs. These myths are usually divorced from the facts altogether or grounded in baseless speculation.

Let's take a look at four of the most popular myths currently being trumpeted by the Rightwingers...

MYTH #1: Obama got 108 percent of the vote in Wood County, OH!

One such myth, that has gained currency and has been cited in a petition demanding a recount, is the myth that Obama won one Ohio county with 108 percent of the vote. The petition alleges that in Wood County, OH "President Obama received 106,258 votes...but there were only 98,213 eligible voters. It's not humanly possible to get 108% of the vote!"

However, this information is patently false. A look at the Wood County Board of Elections web page reveals that, contrary to the petition's outrageous claim, Barack Obama only received 31,596 votes in the county to Mitt Romney's 28,997 and that voter turnout was reportedly a rather mediocre 58 percent, dispelling any notion that an inordinate number of ballots were stuffed on behalf of the President.

MYTH #2: St. Lucie County, FL had 141 percent turnout!

A second popular myth, is that Democrats stuffed the ballot boxes in St. Lucie County, Florida, where 141 percent turnout helped Barack Obama carry the county. This myth was circulated by Free Republic, Town Hall and Kyle Rogers at the Examiner. Each of these sites went apoplectic when they jumped to the conclusion that 247,000 ballots were cast in a county with only 175,000 registered voters.

The myth appears to have been started during Republican Rep. Allen West's short-lived challenge to the results of his race in that county, when the first page of the 11/11/12 St. Lucie County's Election Summary Report [PDF] said there were 175,554 "Registered Voters" in the county and 247,383 "Cards Cast" in this year's election. The result was what appeared by the incurious to be a 140.92% turnout.

Naturally, that number was taken as a clear sign of voter fraud on a massive scale.

Of course, there was a simple explanation. The ballot was printed on two pages and 247,000 ballots cast actually meant about 123,500 people had voted.

The front page of the St. Lucie County Elections website even explains, in all caps:


Beyond that, a simple look at the election results page, which no right wing blogger apparently bothered to check, would have revealed that in fact only 123,301 votes were reportedly cast in the Presidential race, and that turnout was 70.49 percent instead of 141 percent.

When confronted with the truth, rather than recanting his allegations of fraud Kyle Rogers, writing for the Examiner, doubled down arguing that 70% turnout still suggested that more votes were counted than were actually cast, because the 70% turnout in St. Lucie County was well above the national average. What Rogers failed to mention is that the 70% figure was lower than the statewide average in Florida of 71.15% turnout. Since Florida was a crucial swing state and since St. Lucie County had the nation's most competitive and most expensive House race (the Allen/Murphy race) on the ballot, the fact that the turnout was higher than the national average is unsurprising.

The surprise, if there was one, may have been that turnout in the county was actually slightly below the state average. Incidentally, four counties in Florida had turnouts that exceeded 80%. However, since Mitt Romney carried three of those four counties by margins of 30 points or greater, they do not lend a very convenient data point for arguing that high turnout in the counties meant Obama stole the election. Nobody has suggested that Baker County, where Romney reported won 79-21 and where turnout was apparently 82 percent of registered voters, was guilty of ballot stuffing. Yet St. Lucie County's 70 percent turnout and narrow victory for Obama is, for some reason, supposed to raise eyebrows?

MYTH #3: Turnout in many CO counties exceeded 100 percent!

Rightwing sites also alleged, without evidence, that turnout in ten Colorado counties was above 100 percent. However, according to the Secretary of State's web site no county exceeded 85 percent turnout. In addition the three counties that reported the highest turnout were all low population Republican counties that went heavily for Romney. Mineral, Hindsdale and Sedgewick Counties went for Romney 53-44, 59-38, and 66-31, respectively. They were the only counties in the state with above eighty percent voter turnout.

MYTH# 4: Romney getting zero votes in Cleveland and Philadelphia Precincts proves fraud!

The "turnout exceeding one hundred percent" myths can be dismissed as factually inaccurate by simply looking at official results county by county, an exercise that is quite simple if you have enough intelligence to operate a search engine. However, the claims that Romney received zero votes in large urban swing state precincts in Ohio and Pennsylvania require a more detailed analysis to determine if these urban enclaves are suspicious national anomalies, or if the pattern also holds true in non-swing states.

It is true that nine Cleveland precincts and 59 Philadelphia precincts recorded zero votes for Romney. A few of these precincts were quite large, totaling 400 or more votes cast. To the casual observer, the idea that one candidate could shut out the other throughout an entire precinct may seem implausible. However, an understanding of history and demographics puts that concern to rest.

For example, when pundits remarked that Romney was shut out in 59 Philadelphia precincts, they failed to point out the relevant historical information that John McCain did nearly as poorly, getting shut out in 57 Philadelphia precincts.

In his 2004 victory, George W. Bush received zero votes in just five Philadelphia precincts. However, few people may remember that according to exit polls George W. Bush fared reasonably well among black voters compared to both Romney and McCain. Bush managed to secure 11 percent of the black vote nationally, almost double Romney's performance, and he did even better in Ohio and Pennsylvania where he scored 16 percent of the African-American vote. This modestly strong support (by Republican standards at least) enabled him to scrape up a vote or two in even the most hostile precincts, but even with his relatively strong performance among black voters he was still shut out in five of Philadelphia's inner city precincts.

In Cleveland, where Romney getting zero votes in nine precincts raised red flags among the GOP, he actually fared better than his predecessor John McCain. McCain was blanked in thirteen of Cleveland's voting precincts.

Although these precincts have a history of delivering zero or near zero votes for Republican candidates, the fact that they have been in crucial swing states may lead some to question whether fraud has always been present in those places, situated as they are in pivotal electorally decisive swing states. The skeptic might ask if there are any such precincts in safe "red" or "blue" states, where the incentive for defrauding a national election might be limited or non-existent. For example, in Illinois, a safe "blue" state, Mitt Romney failed to secure any votes in 37 of Chicago's precincts. Since Chicago has many predominately African-American precincts and it is Obama's home town, these results may not be surprising. However, given that the city of Chicago has a documented history of election fraud and machine politics, this example alone is unlikely to be persuasive.

Fortunately, it need not be, because several other urban precincts also show Mitt Romney unable to muster a single vote. In states where Obama had no chance to win and Romney coasted to victory, Obama still was able to shut out Mitt Romney. For example in one precinct in Little Rock, Arkansas, Barack Obama managed 474 votes and Mitt Romney zero. Two additional votes were cast for other candidates.

Romney also is shown to have received zero votes in 22 precincts in Dallas, 22 precincts in New Orleans, 9 precincts in Birmingham, Alabama, 7 precincts in Gary, Indiana (adjacent to Chicago), 6 precincts in Louisville, Kentucky and 3 precincts in Baton Rouge.

Even in the deepest red states, there were precincts (predominately urban and African-American) where Romney's message fell so flat that it appears he was not even able to scrape up a single vote. Even in Oklahoma, one of Obama's worst states, one precinct reportedly went 606-3 for Obama and he carried several other large precincts with over 97 percent of the vote.

Not all of these precincts went unanimously for Obama, however. Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Virgil Goode were able to scrounge up a few votes in these areas, but then none of those minor candidates had been as thoroughly dismissive towards black voters' concerns as Mitt Romney and the Republican Party were.

On the other side of the ledger, Barack Obama received zero votes in several mostly white precincts in Utah, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Mississippi. Although admittedly none of these precincts was as large as the biggest urban precincts where Romney appears to have been shut out, they nevertheless suggested that unanimity is not strictly an inner city phenomenon.

Quite simply put, if people are going to argue that Barack Obama's four million vote popular vote margin and his decisive 332-206 electoral vote margin were achieved because of fraud, they are going to have to do better than to continue to promote fake reports of exaggerated turnout and real reports of Romney's colossal failure to secure the votes of urban African-American voters. They are going to need compelling evidence, of which to date, there is none.

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Keith Darling-Brekhus is a sociologist who specializes in observing and analyzing the FBI and other law enforcement agencies. He was a Green Party candidate for US Congress in Missouri's 9th Congressional District in 2002, has worked as a labor organizer, political consultant and a public outreach coordinator for a non-profit peace organization. He holds a Master's Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri in Columbia. His thesis was entitled "Internal Colonialism and Social Control in an Age of Terror: The FBI's War on Islamic Charities Following the September 11th Attacks of 2001". Follow him on Twitter: @KeithBrekhus

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