Voter ID

Is Voter Fraud a Fraud?

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The still-simmering U.S. Attorneys scandal started when Karl Rove (and other Bush political allies) urged the DOJ and its attorneys to wage war on voter fraud before the 2006 elections. A long, exhaustive report by Greg Gordon shows that the voter fraud issue in Missouri was a white elephant—Republicans often had no evidence of actual fraud when they launched public accusations against voters or voter registrars. And attorneys didn't have much more evidence when they started indicting.

Last fall, with Missouri's new voter-ID law thrown out by the court, allegations of fraud arose over registration drives among Democratic-leaning minorities in St. Louis and Kansas City by the Democratic-leaning Association of Community Organizations for Reform (ACORN).

Brian Mellor, a Boston lawyer for ACORN, said many of the accusations surrounded the submission of duplicate or multiple registration forms for the same voters. Such duplication would be caught by election officials and wouldn't enable anyone to vote twice, he said.

But officials at St. Louis' Board of Elections took the unusual step of alerting the FBI to those and other irregularities, Mellor said, and he wound up turning over copies of 40,000 St. Louis-area registration forms to bureau agents.

Facing the FBI scrutiny, Mellor said, ACORN reviewed its forms in Kansas City and found several with similar handwriting, suggesting that they were bogus. He said the group turned over evidence involving four workers to a county prosecutor in mid-October.

That same month, at the initiative of a Republican appointee, the St. Louis Board of Elections sent letters warning 5,000 people who'd registered through ACORN that their voting status was in question. They were given one week to return signed copies of the letter and confirm personal identifying information or they'd lose their registration status.

ACORN attorneys charged that the notice "appears to be an unlawful attempt to suppress and intimidate voters of color." The board sent another mailing withdrawing the threat.

Meanwhile, the evidence against the four ACORN workers ended up with the FBI.

Five days before the election, U.S. Attorney Schlozman got another voter-fraud headline, announcing the indictments of the four workers. The indictments charged that six applications that ACORN had submitted were fraudulent.

The gap between the headlines and the crime was Grand Canyon-sized. The difference between handing in forged voter registrations and actual voter fraud is the difference between sending in a credit card application with a forged signature (llegal but harmless) and using someone else's credit card to cruise eBay.

Is the GOP gaining as much as it's losing for pushing this issue? Probably not. As Jim Harper at Cato noticed, "voter fraud" is one of the rationales the party uses for national ID cards, which are tremendously unpopular. Every two or four years the GOP rounds up a team of African-American candidates to run for high-profile jobs; meanwhile, the party apparatus is scoring headlines by scraping black voters off the rolls and alleging their roles in massive fraud schemes. The party simply can't do that and expect to win the black vote.

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  1. Agreed, and you would think that the GOP of all groups would be able to recognize actual voter fraud since they are so good at it themselves.

  2. many of the accusations surrounded the submission of duplicate or multiple registration forms for the same voters. Such duplication would be caught by election officials and wouldn’t enable anyone to vote twice, he said.

    What is the nature of these duplicates? I can easily see somebody registering twice under the same name and address, because they aren’t sure that the first one got through. The thought process would probably be something like “Yeah, I sent a registration form in last month, but I never heard anything back. I hope they got it. Oh, there’s a booth with forms. Maybe I should send another one, just to be sure.”

    In that scenario, the person isn’t trying to vote twice, or register under multiple identities, he or she just wants to make sure that his or her name is indeed on the list. Maybe not the best way of doing it (the best way would be to call the elections office and check if they got it first), but obviously not an attempt at fraud either.

    Tell the truth: Has anybody here every done some sort of paperwork twice because you weren’t sure it went through the first time. I know I have.

  3. 2000: Highly contested election, Bush narrowly wins. Cries of fraud abound.

    2004: Seeking to minimize all chances of fraud, the election is observed as if under a microscope. Everything is checked, double-checked, anything suspicious is carefully monitored. Not a chance of stuffing the ballot box, voting twice, using fake ssns, deceased ssns, etc. International agencies report no problems, no conspiracies, no fraud. In the “most important election of our time”, the Reps win in an upset. So who has been cheating all this time?

  4. Nope. Never have duplicated an effort.

    Nope.

  5. Nope. Never have duplicated an effort.

    Nope.

  6. BTW, I was once a poll worker in a student neighborhood, and we got a whole bunch of students who had filled out registration forms with some organization that totally flaked and forgot to submit them. So all these students showed up, having conscientiously filled out their paperwork, hoping to vote. We had to ask them to do provisional ballots instead.

    Given that sort of flakiness, I can totally see why somebody might say “You know, I don’t know if that form went through. I’d better register again, just to make sure they have my name and address on file.”

    And if the Elections Office people have half a brain (yeah, I know), when the second form arrives for “John Smith, 123 North Main Street, Anytown, USA, 54321” they’ll call Mr. Smith and ask whether it’s one of those “John Smith Jr./John Smith Sr.” situations, and if so ask for more documentation. If he says no, they’ll tell him that his first form was received, and in the future call first to see if it was received before sending a second form.

  7. [keed keed]

    Dr.T speaks clear minded!

    🙂

  8. 2004: Seeking to minimize all chances of fraud, the election is observed as if under a microscope. Everything is checked, double-checked, anything suspicious is carefully monitored. Not a chance of stuffing the ballot box, voting twice, using fake ssns, deceased ssns, etc. International agencies report no problems, no conspiracies, no fraud. In the “most important election of our time”, the Reps win in an upset. So who has been cheating all this time?

    Eh, there were plenty of reports of problems in the swing state of Ohio. Read RFK Jr’s infamous Rolling Stone piece.

  9. I am sure that I have double registered before.

    When I was in college I used to move every year when my lease was up, so there was the registration that came in the mail that I would always fill out, even though I never voted. In addition there was usually a “get-out-the-vote” type of campaign to register people on campus. If I ever got cornered by one the activists I would always fill out that registration too (why not right, I am young and pissed off maybe I will vote this time?).

    Anyway I rarely voted, but I was always registered, a lot.

  10. It’s completely impossible that 2% of voters nationwide could change their party preference over the course of four years!

  11. “Read RFK Jr’s infamous Rolling Stone piece.”

    Is this an attempt at self-parody? The word “infamous” is certainly appropriate when applied to anything to do with RFK, Jr. because it means “having an exceedingly bad reputation.”

    Isn’t RFK, Jr. the guy who blamed the governor of MS for hurricane Katrina? (“Now we are all learning what it’s like to reap the whirlwind of fossil fuel dependence which Barbour and his cronies have encouraged.”) We all know how hysteria-free RFK, Jr. is on other issues (“We are injecting our children with 400 times the amount of mercury that FDA or EPA considers safe.”), so I guess we should take his word for it on voter fraud.

  12. I probably shouldn’t have said “infamous” but I meant it in the sense of “stirred up a lot of controversy”.

  13. You need a credit card to cruise Ebay? I guess I’ll do that even less in the future.

    Narr

  14. I knew a couple that moved a few months before an election, registered in the new location, and then proceeded to vote in both places without getting caught. (The two locations were less than an hour apart. These two were Chomsky leftists, FWIW)

  15. The thing is, unless you’re participating in a very small election, it makes no sense to vote twice.

  16. Dan T. — Actually, extend that logic and it actually doesn’t even make sense to vote once…

  17. Dan T. — Actually, extend that logic and it actually doesn’t even make sense to vote once…

    From a numbers standpoint it really doesn’t, but at least if you vote once you can take the approach that you’re fullfilling a civic duty and thus your vote is for the common good.

    Voting twice is illegal and unethical so you can’t really say that.

  18. I think you could make an argument that ever since the embrace of the Southern Strategy by Nixon, the GOP has pretty much given up on black votes. It’s highly likely that they parade their handful of black candidates around to help soften their image as the party of rich old white dudes, not to win over more black folks. (Not that they’d mind winning them, but they’re not willing to spend any political capital in order to do so.)

  19. Uncanny, DannyK, I just came by to make the same remark.

    The GOP isn’t trying to “win the black vote;” they’re trying to help african american voters who DO vote GOP justify their vote, and appease “diversity-minded” non-minorities, strictly for PR purposes.

  20. I think you could make an argument that ever since the embrace of the Southern Strategy by Nixon, the GOP has pretty much given up on black votes.

    Actually I think you could say that the GOP gave up on the black vote when Woodrow Wilson was elected and federalised Jim Crow with practically no protest.

    I think at that point that they realized that working for Civil Rights for blacks was a dead end politically and they might as well go with the flow if they wanted to maintain anything like a semblance of power.

  21. “””When I was in college I used to move every year when my lease was up, so there was the registration that came in the mail that I would always fill out, even though I never voted. “”””

    If you move, you suppose to fill out a new registration because you may not be in the same voting district. If you change your party, you suppose to fill a new one out.

    As far as the black vote. Hispanic brown is the new black. That’s one of the reasons why they see immigration as a threat.

    “””The GOP isn’t trying to “win the black vote;” they’re trying to help african american voters who DO vote GOP justify their vote, and appease “diversity-minded” non-minorities, strictly for PR purposes.”””

    You know it!!! The same goes for the so called “gay Republicans”. That’s gotta be a self-hating bunch of people.

  22. ACORN attorneys charged that the notice “appears to be an unlawful attempt to suppress and intimidate voters of color.”

    How does anyone know they’re voters of color? Seriously curious.

  23. The difference between handing in forged voter registrations and actual voter fraud is the difference between sending in a credit card application with a forged signature (llegal but harmless) and using someone else’s credit card to cruise eBay.

    What? That’s the worst analogy ever. Did you copy and paste that from the Huffington Post?

  24. “The difference between handing in forged voter registrations and actual voter fraud is the difference between sending in a credit card application with a forged signature (llegal but harmless) and using someone else’s credit card to cruise eBay.”

    I must have missed something because I thought it was wrong to forge voter registrations. But Weigel seems to think it’s not a big deal? Is he objecting that the ACORN folks shouldn’t have been indicted? Is it that six forged registrations is a low number?

  25. What I find most amusing is that the charges — the falsified registration forms — weren’t a felony committed by ACORN — but a crime committed against ACORN.

    It seems the bulk of the duplicate or suspicious registrations were the result of field workers faking them in an effort to make money. Perhaps they thought ACORN was going to fire low performers or had some sort of quota. (They might — I’ve never worked for them).

    The problem with ‘voter fraud’ like this is, well, it doesn’t amount to jack. It’s difficult to vote twice, not to mention fairly pointless.

    Voter supression, on the other hand, works so much better.

  26. Yeah, no voting fraud… none…

    I’m from Milwaukee, and voting fraud in the city is egregious there.

    Take for example this story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

    Investigators said Tuesday they found clear evidence of fraud in the Nov. 2 election in Milwaukee, including more than 200 cases of felons voting illegally and more than 100 people who voted twice, used fake names or false addresses or voted in the name of a dead person.

    Officials said charges will be filed in coming weeks, as individual cases are reviewed and more evidence is gathered.

    Nonetheless, it is likely that many – perhaps most – of those who committed fraud won’t face prosecution because city records are so sloppy that it will be difficult to establish cases that will stand up in court.

    And even now, three months after the investigation, officials have not been able to close a gap of 7,000 votes, with more ballots cast than voters listed. Officials said the gap remains at 4,609.

    U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic likened it to trying to prove “a bank embezzlement if the bank cannot tell how much money was there in the first place.”

    Keep in mind that John Kerry won Wisconsin by 11,384 votes.

  27. What the hell kind of acronym is ACORN?

    ‘Brian Mellor, Agent of C.H.E.S.T.N.U.T.!’

  28. And, in what is surely a coincidence of galactic magnitude, the conservative press was full of accusations of Democratic voter fraud in the months before the elections, even as United States Attorneys (who are both completely independent in their efforts to uphold the law AND politicall appointees of the President who are supposed to help advance his political agenda, both at the same time!) were being leaned on to prosecute voter fraud cases that, somehow, keep turning out to be complete bullshit.

  29. Of course none other than Missouri Senator Kit Bond was a primary instigator of the allegations of ‘voter fraud’. But then Mr Bond is one of the most polarizing political figures in government. One has to wonder if the termination of former U.S. Attorney Todd Graves (Missouri) by Gonzales could be linked to Mr Bond. Todd Graves was reportedly terminated because he would not sign a voter fraud statement requested by the Justice Department. Very suspicious.

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