Feature

Voter fraud: How real a threat?

In 13 states, officials are investigating ACORN for possible voter registration fraud and the GOP has unleashed its own efforts to intimidate poor and minority citizens who vote Democratic.

In Ohio, voters have registered under suspicious names like Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy, and Jive Turkey. In Florida, one person signed up to vote 21 times. In Indiana, a single individual apparently filled out 2,100 voter registration cards. These are just some of the electoral “shenanigans” being perpetrated by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, aka ACORN, said Deroy Murdock in National Review Online. The group is ostensibly devoted to affordable housing, social equality, and other liberal causes. It may also be bent on “systematically subverting” this election, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. The 1.3 million new voters that ACORN claims to have registered this election cycle are mainly low-income, nonwhite, and lean strongly toward Barack Obama. “The big question is how many are real.” In 13 states, including swing states, officials are investigating ACORN for possible voter registration fraud. Their concern is justified; last year, five ACORN officials pleaded guilty to submitting bogus voter applications. “It’s about time someone exposed this shady outfit.”

Don’t look to Obama for that, said National Review Online. ACORN isn’t just his “full-time ally”; it’s his “sometime employer.” In 1992, Obama was director of Project Vote, ACORN’s voter registration arm. In 1995, he represented ACORN in a lawsuit against the state of Illinois. He’s even conducted training events for ACORN leaders. And during the Democratic primaries, his campaign paid the organization $800,000 for get-out-the-vote efforts. Yet now, he’s distancing himself from the group and its shady activities. Why isn’t that surprising? 

This is a tempest in a teapot, said Alex Koppelman in Salon.com. Only a tiny percentage of registrations obtained by ACORN have turned out to be bogus, and phony registrations filled out by workers to earn more money won’t affect the election. No one using obviously “fake names” like Jive Turkey and Mary Poppins would be likely to “show up and vote,” or be allowed to if they did. ACORN, furthermore, is completely cooperating with authorities, said Juan Gonzalez in the New York Daily News. The group concedes that some of its more than 13,000 canvassers have indeed turned in “sloppy or duplicate registrations.” ACORN officials also say they have  alerted authorities to irregularities, and fired canvassers who presented them with “too many mistakes or problems.” Republicans don’t mention this, of course. They’d rather conjure up scary images of “hordes of poor people, immigrants, and felons preparing to overrun the polls for Obama.” 

Crying “Voter fraud!’’ is “a strategic ruse,” said Andrew Burmon in Salon.com, designed to distract us from the GOP’s own efforts to intimidate poor and minority citizens who vote Democratic. In Michigan, one county GOP chairman says he’ll use lists of foreclosed homes to “make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses.” The Montana Republican Party is challenging the eligibility of voters in “heavily Native American counties.” In Florida and Pennsylvania, fliers are circulating in black districts warning that if a voter’s driver’s license doesn’t exactly match his voter registration card, he’ll be turned away—or arrested. It’s all part of “the Republicans’ concept of democracy,” said Joel McNally in the Madison, Wis., Capital Times. “The original idea of our Founding Fathers was to limit voting to white, male property owners.” The GOP, it seems, still resents that those halcyon days are over.

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