In Defense (Believe It Or Not) of James O’Keefe
January 30, 2012 2 Comments
It’s disappointing to see progressive groups calling for James O’Keefe and his “voter fraud” colleagues to be prosecuted. The doofuses didn’t intend to vote with their illegally obtained ballots. As Scott Keyes writes at Think Progress:
O’Keefe’s men insisted on returning to their car to retrieve their ID and returned the ballot(s).
Is O’Keefe a liar who should be discredited?
Obviously he is. When, long before his crew had obtained enough fraudulent ballots to influence the election, a colleague had to flee from law enforcement, O’Keefe released a video that ignored this, pretending to have proven voter fraud easy and safe.
Did he break the law?
Yes. Fraudulently obtaining a ballot is illegal whether or not that ballot is cast.
We should be careful about pushing for enforcement of the letter of the law, rather than its spirit. Necessarily, laws are often written with manageable enforcement in mind. Laws against “public displays of afffection,” for instance, allow us to prosecute couples fornicating on elementary school playgrounds without having to prove details. (Did you actually witness the penetration, Mrs. Smith?) The downside, of course, is that many laws are open to abuse. Where public displays of affection are illegal, couples can be harrassed for holding hands; an important obstacle to such harrassment is the very tool some are now trying to use against O’Keefe: the weight of public opinion.
The reason it should be illegal to fraudulently obtain a ballot is to let us prosecute people whom we prevent from voting illegally. O’Keefe and his cohorts, though, voluntarily returned their ballots. They never intended to vote.
O’Keefe’s intention (dishonestly as he went about it) was to raise doubts about our electoral system. Prosecuting people for raising doubts about the systems under which we live isn’t in the long-term interests of progressives.
Flashback Post: James O’Keefe Debunks Critics