Alabama election chief steps up rhetoric against 'voter fraud'

With Tea Party and Republican claims of widespread "voter fraud" at a fever pitch, Alabama's secretary of state Beth Chapman (R) is taking it to another level: She's promised a $5,000 reward for "information reported to her office that leads to a felony conviction of voter fraud" in the state.

Chapman, who is running for re-election in 2010 and launched the state-run website in 2008, claimed in a press release that the cash-for-crime-tips approach was needed to combat growing fraud:
"Since establishing the voter fraud unit in my office two years ago, more concerned citizens have stepped up and reported voter fraud than ever before," said Chapman. "Alabamians are fed up with voter fraud and have decided that enough is enough. They want to protect democracy from those who are destroying it. I hope that people with information will come forward so that justice can be served."
Chapman gained internet notoriety in 2003 when, as state auditor, she told a Stand Up for America rally "[W]e should support the President of the United States and the U.S. military and tell the liberal, tree-hugging, hippy, Birkenstock wearing, tie-die liberals to go make their movies and music and whine somewhere else."

This year, she was endorsed by Sarah Palin and has campaigned with the former Alaska governor.

Her office has also had its share of election controversies. In 2008, when the Alabama Democratic Party wanted to get a list of state registered voters, Chapman said it would cost them over $28,000 -- the highest fee per voter in the country.

Unlike other states, Alabama actually has had documented cases of voter fraud; at least two Democrats were successfully prosecuted in recent cases involving fraudulent absentee votes. The was the inspiration, Chapman said, for launching the voter fraud unit in her office in 2008.

But critics charge Chapman hasn't been as vigilant about other threats to voting integrity in the state. In a 2009 special election, conservative radio commentator Dale Jackson of WVNN inHuntsville read a phony news release on air falsely stating that Democrats were to vote a day after Republicans, which he also posted on his website with a copy of the Alabama state seal.

Chapman's office chose not to act on Democratic complaints when the host said it was just a "prank."