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By Scott Tibbs, January 12th, 2004

Talk about "much ado over nothing"

Political commentator Bob Novak has been criticized for a "racist" remark about the legitimacy of a 2002 South Dakota U.S. Senate election. Novak alleged that there was voter fraud on Indian reservations for the seat won by Democrat Tim Johnson by a razor-thin 524-vote margin.

First of all, it is sad that the race card has been played by South Dakota Democrats in response to Novak's remark. Racial tensions are a serious issue and should not be exploited to score cheap political points against an adversary. Such race-baiting can be as bad as hateful racist remarks, because both enflame racial tensions. Race-baiting should be condemned whether done at the national, state or local level. (For example, one prominent local Democrat activist alleged on the defunct Hoosier Talk message board two years ago that local Republicans shunned the Republican Party Vice Chairperson because she is black.)

What exactly was "racist" about Novak's claim? Saying that voter fraud may have occurred on Indian reservations in South Dakota is not in and of itself a racist claim. Novak did not say all Indians cheat in elections, nor that being an Indian makes one more likely to engage in voter fraud. South Dakota Democrats are simply engaging in an ad hominem attack to distract from the possibility of voter fraud.

South Dakota Democratic Party chairwoman said "I can't conceive of anyone making that debasing statement about anyone in the human race." What an inane remark. If there was indeed voter fraud, there is nothing wrong about pointing that out. Voter fraud itself is far worse that pointing out that it may have occurred.

The issue, despite the wishes of those who cynically exploit racial tensions for political purposes, should not be whether the remark was "racist" (it wasn't) but whether or not the claim was accurate. The credibility of our electoral process hinges on the integrity of elections. The possibility of voter fraud requires (indeed, it demands) a thorough investigation to make sure every vote counts. Cheers to Novak for keeping this issue alive.