On May 8, Peter Waldron got the Christian Newswire to publish a press release in which he claimed, “A wealth of evidence, to include, sworn affidavits, that document an effort by a Republican-controlled State government to suppress Christian voters is now in our possession.”
It is May 18. Waldron has not produced that newsworthy wealth of evidence. That delay is the surest proof that Waldron was lying. If I received a document dump that showed Mike Rounds, Marty Jackley, or any other leading light of South Dakota politics was engaged in voter suppression, I would not just say, “I’ve got documents!” to generate buzz (although note that if you Google Waldron’s story, you’ll find it got almost no buzz). If I was sure enough of my evidence to publish a claim about what it said, I would publish the evidence itself to prove my point and get the scoop.
The voter suppression claim is nothing new. Since her arrest for petition perjury last June, Annette Bosworth and her medicine show hangers-on (of whom Waldron is just the latest snake-oil taster) have been peddling the claim that the DCI’s investigation of her bogusly signed petitions constituted harassment of Hutterites. In nearly a year, Bosworth has produced no documents proving that any Hutterites were harassed, only fundraising letters making this claim to enrich herself.
Waldron’s claim fails to cohere with the reality of South Dakota politics, where the Chamber of Commerce Republicans just barely hold at bay the theocratic urges of the Christian Right. American Christians in general have a problem with overstating their persecution complex, but South Dakota Christians have the least to fear of some liberal plot to quash their freedom of religion. If Waldron were serious about voter suppression in South Dakota, he’d be talking about the suppression of all voters the SDGOP has attempted to carry out through Senate Bill 69 (which we are now trying to refer), and Senate Bill 166 (which showed the SDGOP’s desire to quash the initiative and referendum process). He should be talking about long-standing efforts to suppress the American Indian vote. Waldron could easily claim that those documented efforts have suppressed voters, many of whom happen to be Christian, but to say that those efforts have “suppressed Christian voters” misleads as surely and speciously as if in my coverage of those issues I had said, “Statistically, some of those suppressed voters must be female; therefore, South Dakota Republicans are suppressing women voters!”
Todd Epp agrees that these baseless accusations of voter intimidation are absurd:
…[J]ust how does one intimidate Republican voters in a thoroughly Republican state? If the Rounds campaign did this—and I am about 99.99 percent sure they didn’t—how would you go about doing it?
…[T]he Rounds campaign would need such precise polling information so they would know the exact precincts where Rounds was losing and the other candidates were strong. Then they would need to recruit a group of Brown Shirts to go and intimidate non-Rounds voters there yet not scare away the pro-Rounds voters.
Then they would have to do all this so they could escape discovery from election officials, the public and the media. Finally, they would have to suppress any later reports of such intimidation from leaking to authorities or the media.
Plus, factor in that while the primary was closer than many of us thought it would be, Rounds won comfortably and knew he would win comfortably. He didn’t need to go all Nixon on us and break into the South Dakota equivalent of the Watergate Hotel.
The accusations deny common sense and how elections are conducted in South Dakota [Todd Epp, “Howie’s Accusations That Rounds Intimidated and Suppressed GOP Voters Prior to the Bosworth Trial Is the Equivalent of Yelling “Squirel” at Your Dog,” KSOO Radio, 2015.05.17].
Auxiliary evidence that Peter Waldron doesn’t know what he is talking about lies in his statement that Annette Bosworth, on whose behalf he has made robocalls to tamper with her jury pool, is “a popular Christian missionary and physician.” No writer without an agenda could defend the use of the word “popular” to describe the manager of a private clinic who can’t draw enough customers to make payroll reliably, or a Senate candidate who spent over two million dollars to get a margin-of-error vote in the primary.
Waldron is probably waiting to release his “evidence” later this week to push the “Bosworth Guilty” headline below the fold. Alas, Gordon Howie falls for this tease, as he has fallen for Bosworth’s entire medicine show. Epp dismisses Howie’s propaganda on Bosworth’s behalf as sour grapes against Senator Rounds, against whom Howie could gain no traction in last year’s election. Rule #1 for former candidates trying to speak with credibility is not to get sucked into the Bosworth medicine show. Rule #2 for such candidates (and bloggers!) is not to run with the story unless you can publish the documents.