The Skinny is Joel Roberts' take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.
After a five-year effort, the Bush administration has turned up "virtually no evidence" of widespread, organized voter fraud around the country, according to a New York Times investigation.
While Republicans have long claimed that voter fraud is a major problem that has skewed the results of federal elections and cost the party victories, the Times says only 120 people were charged with election-related crimes and 86 convicted between 2002 and 2005.
Most of those charged were Democrats, records show, and many of them appear to have "mistakenly filled out registration forms or misunderstood eligibility rules," rather than committed serious voting infractions.
The Times says some of the convictions involved people who voted twice, and more than 30 stemmed from small vote-buying schemes, usually involving sheriff's or judge's races. But no major, concerted efforts to skew national or statewide elections were found.
"If they found a single case of a conspiracy to affect the outcome of a Congressional election or a statewide election, that would be significant," said election law expert Richard L. Hasen. "But what we see is isolated, small-scale activities that often have not shown any kind of criminal intent."
The push to prosecute alleged voter fraud cases has been cited as the cause for the controversial firings of at least two of the U.S. attorneys dismissed last year.
On Wednesday, the Times reported that a federal panel had played down experts' conclusions on the rareness of voter fraud to more closely reflect the Republican position.
Extended Troop Tours
Despite a prosecutor's decision to drop all charges against the Duke lacrosse players and the lingering stench surrounding Don Imus, most of the nation's major newspapers led their Thursday editions with a story that will have far more impact on far more Americans: the Pentagon's decision to lengthen the tours of all active-duty U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from 12 to 15 months.
The move puts added strain on a military already stretched thin, but, according to the Los Angeles Times, it "will allow the Bush administration to continue its troop buildup in Baghdad well into next year."
The Washington Post says the extensions will impact more than 100,000 troops, "and will result in the longest combat tours for the Army since World War II."
The Wall Street Journal, looks at the political fallout from the announcement, which it says "comes at an awkward time for the administration in its struggles to maintain both public and congressional support for the Iraq war."
The move, the Journal adds, is certain to "ratchet up tensions with lawmakers" as Congress and the White House head towards a showdown over an emergency war-spending bill.
And what do the troops who'll be forced to prolong their tours think of the decision? At the U.S. military command post in Juwayba, Iraq, the New York Times reports the news was met "with a mixture of anger and resignation."
"We're just laughing," said an Army captain, whose unit was scheduled to leave Iraq in June, but will probably now remain in country until September. "It's so unbelievable, it's humorous."
Said another soldier: "I'm fixing to lose my girlfriend."
Remembering Kurt Vonnegut
In an era dominated by television and the Internet, serious novelists seldom earn a front-page obituary. But the late, great Kurt Vonnegut, who died Wednesday at the age of 84, was awarded that honor Thursday by most of the major dailies.
The Los Angeles Times hailed Vonnegut an "American cultural hero celebrated for his wry, loonily imaginative commentary on war, apocalypse, technology, materialism and other afflictions."
The New York Times said Vonnegut's "dark comic talent and urgent moral vision in novels like 'Slaughterhouse-Five,' 'Cat's Cradle' and 'God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater' caught the temper of his times and the imagination of a generation."
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