Every election, Republicans claim that there is voter fraud occurring that benefits Democrats. This year, Republican ire is focused on Acorn. Republicans know that these claims are false and that the charges against Acorn make no sense, but there is a strategic function this obfuscation serves.
First, let's dispense with the nonsensical voter fraud charges. Every election year, many organizations of which Acorn is only one, hire people to register voters. Those hired are paid by the amount of applications they are able to have completed by new voters. Finding people who are not registered is difficult work and some of the hired want to be paid for not working so they forge applications and turn them in. By law in almost every state, organizations such as Acorn MUST submit every application they receive from their workers. The reasons for this are obvious. If your organization has a political bent, you could decide to submit only those from voters who intend to register as a member of the party of your preference. The law is designed to prevent this from happening.
Thus, when Acorn received back registration forms that were suspect, they had to submit them. That is the end of that story... except for a few things. In every case in counties where Acorn was having registration efforts, Acorn told election officials which batch of voter registrations it suspected of being fraudulent, but there is something more basic than that preventing voter fraud.
For voter fraud to work and have an impact, not only to the registrations have to be submitted, someone has to be at an address indicated by the forged application to receive the voter ID card and then use that card at an actual polling station and present some sort of identification showing the registered name and that address. The identification doesnt have to be sophisticated, it can be a utility bill or something similar, but the chances of someone voting as Tony Romo (besides the real Dallas Quarterback) or Mickey Mouse are slim to none.
The crime of voter fraud is a serious felony in every state and people who are caught spend time in jail. Those perpetrating this crime would be doing so without any monetary or other possible compensation, i.e. little reward for serious risk. For Republicans to assert that this happens and happens in numbers enough to affect an election is preposterous in the extreme. No one should accept that assertion without proof. There are two additional points I would make about this.
First, in the last two elections, if voter fraud had occurred, you would expect to see a 'blue shift' in affected counties and states. That is to say, that there would be a discernable difference between how those counties and states polled prior to the election and the actual result and this difference would benefit Democrats. However, in virtually every instance in swing states and their counties, when over the last several election cycles there are differences between the pre-election polling and the results, you see red shifts, not blue shifts. Republicans seem to be the beneficiaries of any discrepancies, not Democrats.
Second, looking at this logically, one cannot imagine that in rural or suburban areas you would have enough fraudulently registered people show up and not seem out of place to the people who live there ("Hey you, I've never seen you before, where do you live again? I know where that is supposed to be and that isn't a real address" or, "I know who really lives there and you don't"). The risk would be too high to do this in rural or suburban areas, so we would have to assume that if this were occurring, it would be happening in major cities. The problem is that in large cities we have been seeing issues with long lines of voters spending hours in line trying to vote. The implication of this should be obvious. For voter fraud to have an impact, one would have to vote more than once using multiple voter IDs. How many times, in a major city, could one do this if one has to wait in lines for hours to vote?
Two days ago, The New York Times released an article after having examined the claims McCain and the Republican Party were making against Acorn and found them to be completely unfounded. See http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/17/opinion/17fri1.html
The more you look at the allegations of voter fraud, the more ridiculous they seem. Now let's look at what these charges against Acorn are meant to hide or obfuscate. For that, let's start back at the 2000 election.
This article http://archive.salon.com/politics/feature/2000/12/04/voter_file/index.html describes one instance of Republican Election Fraud. In this article, it is described how Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris hired a company with strong ties to the Republican Party to provide a voter purge list from the list of felons from various states. The state then purged from the voter rolls anyone who had a name even remotely similar to that of a felon:
If Vice President Al Gore is wondering where his Florida votes went, rather than sift through a pile of chad, he might want to look at a "scrub list" of 173,000 names targeted to be knocked off the Florida voter registry by a division of the office of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. A close examination suggests thousands of voters may have lost their right to vote based on a flaw-ridden list that included purported "felons" provided by a private firm with tight Republican ties.
"We did run some number stats and the number of blacks [on the list] was higher than expected for our population," says Chuck Smith, a statistician for the [Hillsborough] county. Iorio [Then Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections] acknowledged that African-Americans made up 54 percent of the people on the original felons list, though they constitute only 11.6 percent of Hillsborough's voting population.
Smith added that the DBT computer program automatically transformed various forms of a single name. In one case, a voter named "Christine" was identified as a felon based on the conviction of a "Christopher" with the same last name. Smith says ChoicePoint would not respond to queries about its proprietary methods. Nor would the company provide additional verification data to back its fingering certain individuals in the registry purge. One supposed felon on the ChoicePoint list is a local judge.
The article goes on to make a strong case that at least 7000 voters were inappropriately disenfranchised in Florida by this list and the majority of them were black. Let's say that means 3500 inappropriately disenfranchised voters were black. Gore got 90% of the black vote in Florida in 2000 so that number equates to 3150 votes for Gore and 350 votes for Bush. Since the certified difference in Florida was a 537 margin for Bush, the Katherine Harris purge gave Bush the White House regardless of any recount or chads or butterfly ballots.
A more personal account of people who could not vote in Florida in 2000 due to being inappropriately purged by this list is located here --> http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/vote2000/report/ch2.htm
Finally, regarding election 2000, there is a good NY Times article on its results. The NY Times, like several other news agencies, were given the right to examine all of the ballots and studied them for several months and then issued its conclusions here --> http://www.nytimes.com/2001/11/12/politics/12VOTE.html . I say the article is odd because the title is "Study of Disputed Florida Ballots Finds Justices Did Not Cast the Deciding Vote" but the paragraph that matters is:
But the consortium, looking at a broader group of rejected ballots than those covered in the court decisions, 175,010 in all, found that Mr. Gore might have won if the courts had ordered a full statewide recount of all the rejected ballots. This also assumes that county canvassing boards would have reached the same conclusions about the disputed ballots that the consortium's independent observers did. The findings indicate that Mr. Gore might have eked out a victory if he had pursued in court a course like the one he publicly advocated when he called on the state to "count all the votes."
Greg Palast and Robert Kennedy Jr. recently published this article http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/story/23638322/block_the_vote in Rolling Stone describing a Republican effort to block Democrats from voting. Here are some excerpts:
In state after state, Republican operatives — the party's elite commandos of bare-knuckle politics — are wielding new federal legislation to systematically disenfranchise Democrats. If this year's race is as close as the past two elections, the GOP's nationwide campaign could be large enough to determine the presidency in November. "I don't think the Democrats get it," says John Boyd, a voting-rights attorney in Albuquerque who has taken on the Republican Party for impeding access to the ballot. "All these new rules and games are turning voting into an obstacle course that could flip the vote to the GOP in half a dozen states."
To justify this battery of new voting impediments, Republicans cite an alleged upsurge in voting fraud. Indeed, the U.S.-attorney scandal that resulted in the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales began when the White House fired federal prosecutors who resisted political pressure to drum up nonexistent cases of voting fraud against Democrats. "They wanted some splashy pre-election indictments that would scare these alleged hordes of illegal voters away," says David Iglesias, a U.S. attorney for New Mexico who was fired in December 2006. "We took over 100 complaints and investigated for almost two years — but I didn't find one prosecutable case of voter fraud in the entire state of New Mexico."
There's a reason Iglesias couldn't find any evidence of fraud: Individual voters almost never try to cast illegal ballots. The Bush administration's main point person on "ballot protection" has been Hans von Spakovsky, a former Justice Department attorney who has advised states on how to use HAVA to erect more barriers to voting. Appointed to the Federal Election Commission by Bush, von Spakovsky has suggested that voter rolls may be stuffed with 5 million illegal aliens. In fact, studies have repeatedly shown that voter fraud is extremely rare. According to a recent analysis by Lorraine Minnite, an expert on voting crime at Barnard College, federal courts found only 24 voters guilty of fraud from 2002 to 2005, out of hundreds of millions of votes cast. "The claim of widespread voter fraud," Minnite says, "is itself a fraud."
Actually, the data cited in the Rolling Stone article seems to be a bit off regarding the amount of voter fraud but the differences are not significant. According to this article http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/12/washington/12fraud.html in the New York Times:
Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews.
Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year.
Republican Election Fraud is the Real Issue in 2008
The big Election Fraud issue in 2008 is that Republicans are pushing the envelopes of the HAVA or Help America Vote Act in ways never intended and that includes purging someone's registration if the name or address is in any way different from that on any other public record such as their drivers license or registration. If John Smith has a Drivers license that says John N. Smith and registers to vote as John N Smith (Note the lack of a period after the 'N' middle initial) this is being used by Republican officials to purge John Smith's registration. The GOP is using the accusations against Acorn as a cover for this effort. Read more about it in this http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/10/17/AR2008101703360.html Washington post article which describes lawsuits in many states including Ohio and Montana designed to purge new voters from the rolls using the comparisons to other public records. Republicans have lost several of these suits already with some embarrassing quotes from the judges involved including this one from the above linked article:
Several of the battles over registration lists have taken on a partisan tinge, including in Montana, where a state GOP official challenged nearly 6,000 voters over apparent discrepancies in their addresses. He dropped his challenge after Democrats went to court, but not before one county sent letters to hundreds of voters informing them that their registrations were in jeopardy. Now the county is trying to let them know they are eligible to cast ballots after all.
The Republicans filed the case "with the express intent to disenfranchise voters," a federal judge said.
Another area of concern as a vulnerability for GOP election fraud is described by Bev Harris, one of the people who got involved with examining the voting process for the last eight years. She has been examining the role of middlemen and the 2008 election and has some concerns that she reports here:
http://www.opednews.com/articles/New-results-middleman-spot-by-Bev-Harris-081016-741.html and here http://www.opednews.com/articles/2008-election-results-to-b-by-Bev-Harris-080929-93.html . As Bev so aptly puts it:
WHAT'S A MIDDLEMAN AND WHY THE CONCERN?
A middleman entity is an entity that sits in between the votes first counted and the results finally reported. Visualize it this way: If you hand count votes at a polling place, then give the results sheet to a courier, who then drives the results and ballots somewhere else before publicly reporting them, that courier is inserted between the original results and the reported results. Middlemen are in a position to see the results before they are officially reported, and may be in a position to alter results before they are officially reported.
Another example of a middleman is the central tabulator computer, which aggregates results. Whoever operates that computer is in a position for "first look" and alteration. Another middleman is the company that provides the server which hosts the results when they are posted publicly. As results stream into the server, the owner of the server can get access to the results for first look or alteration.
DO MIDDLEMEN MEAN THE ELECTION WILL BE COMPROMISED?
No. They are in a position to cheat, and they are privatized so it is not possible to learn much about what they do. It is important to know who they are.
For example, the Smartech firm that served as a results middleman for Ohio is extremely partisan and a highly inappropriate choice. The LEDS LLC middleman is involved in an ethics scandal in Colorado right now. The GBS/Fidlar middleman in Illinois is also highly partisan.
I have not yet looked up more information on SOE Software, but have pulled its corporate documents from the State of Florida. It's officers include:
SCHNEIDER, MARK A
MARC, FRATELLO J
MICHAEL, HATCH L
Because it has access to sensitive information and acts as an election results middleman it will be a good idea to learn more about this firm.
SOE Software, owns ClarityElections.com, which acts as an election results middleman, as you can see here:
This Middleman issue reminds me that in elections there is a strong public perception bias in favor of the person who is initially termed the winner. We saw this in election 2000 with the public sentiment turning against Gore once Katherine Harris certified the results. It doesn't matter what fraud occurred to produce the initial result, the person on the wrong side of that result faces a difficult and uphill battle fighting to get the issues examined, let alone corrected. The way this relates to the 'middleman' issue is that it is easy to foresee in a close election that a Middleman could alter the results of one or more counties that would result in an initial declaration or certification for the wrong candidate. Getting that result changed would involve the apparent 'loser' fighting against public opinion as they tried to correct the results. A recount would probably uncover the erroneous results sent in by a middleman, but would the public sit still long enough to let that process play itself out before demanding the person initially termed the 'loser' concede?
Are Electronic Voting Machines the Cure alls we have been promised?
Issues concerning the integrity of the election machines and software coding have been raised since electronic voting machines were first used. Several experiments have been conducted that show that compromising election machines and their results is not difficult to do. In the 2004 election, there were many reports of election machines where you could not vote for John Kerry or other Democratic candidates. If you selected John Kerry's name, the machine displayed that you had chosen Bush or a third party candidate. We have started to see this in early voting in 2008 as this http://www.wvgazette.com/News/200810170676 article from West Virginia's Charleston Gazette shows:
Virginia Matheney and Calvin Thomas said touch-screen machines in the county clerk's office in Ripley kept switching their votes from Democratic to Republican candidates. "When I touched the screen for Barack Obama, the check mark moved from his box to the box indicating a vote for John McCain," said Matheney, who lives in Kenna. When she reported the problem, she said, the poll worker in charge "responded that everything was all right. It was just that the screen was sensitive and I was touching the screen too hard. She instructed me to use only my fingernail."
On her third try, Matheney managed to cast votes for both Menis Ketchum and Margaret Workman, Democratic candidates for the two open seats.
Calvin Thomas, 81, who retired from Kaiser Aluminum in Ravenswood in 1983 and now lives in Ripley, experienced the same problem. "When I pushed Obama, it jumped to McCain. When I went down to governor's office and punched [Gov. Joe] Manchin, it went to the other dude. When I went to Karen Facemyer [the incumbent Republican state senator], I pushed the Democrat, but it jumped again. "The rest of them were OK, but the machine sent my votes for those top three offices from the Democrat to the Republican," Thomas said.
"When I hollered about that, the girl who worked there said, 'Push it again.' I pushed Obama again and it stayed there. Then, the machine did the same thing for other candidates.
When you do the research on reports like these over the past six to eight years, you almost never see instances of this where choices for Republican candidates are changed to Democratic or third party candidates. Again, these reports are verified issues with the machines where local poll workers verified that the voter was pushing the buttons indicating choices for Democrats and the voters' choice was altered by the machine.
What if you encounter problems on Election Day?
What should voters do who are presented with challenges on Election day? Whether you are informed that you have been purged or had your registration questioned, or you have problems with an election machine or any other issue, there are some steps you should take. First, have the phone number for the local Obama campaign office on hand and call immediately. Second, have the phone number for your top local newspaper and local CBS or NBC television station handy and call them to let them know what has happened. Third, if despite your best efforts you will not be able to cast a regular ballot, insist on a provisional ballot. Fourth, take down all of the names of the poll workers involved and ask them how you will know whether your provisional ballot will be counted.
What Republicans do not want the American public to know is that they are conducting a coordinated, widespread and very sophisticated election fraud effort to try to ensure that Republican Party candidates win regardless of the will of the voters. The cornerstone of this effort is voter disenfranchisement. Using the voter fraud red herring, Republicans are using every possible loophole to invalidate the voting rights and registration of people in Democratic leaning areas or new voters (who tend overwhelmingly to be Democrats). Beyond coordinated disenfranchisement, there are a myriad of other schemes being run by the GOP in various states including, apparently, altering the way electronic voting machines record votes. The Republican Party is hoping that focusing the American people on non-existing voter fraud issues will hide what the GOP is doing regarding election fraud. Don't be fooled by the disinformation efforts.