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A Mighty Hoax from ACORN Grows October 18, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Electoral Fraud, John McCain, U.S. Election 2008.
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by: Michael Winship, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

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Michael Winship sees the ACORN “election fraud” story as one of the urban legends that come up every election cycle.

   

 

 ACORN and election fraud. Hang on. As soon as I can get the alligator that crawled out of my toilet back into the New York City sewers where it belongs, I can turn my attention to this very important topic.

    You see, the ACORN “election fraud” story is one of those urban legends, like fake moon landings and alligators in the sewers, and it appears three or four weeks before every recent national election with the regularity of the swallows returning to Capistrano. First, the basics: ACORN, which stands for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is an activist group working with low- and moderate-income families to, among many other things, register voters. To do this, they hire people to go around signing up the unregistered, killing two birds with one stone – giving employment to people who need it (some with criminal records) and providing the opportunity to vote to members of minority communities whose voices all too often go unheard.

    What happens is that some of those hired to do the registering, who are paid by the name, make people up. As a result, you’ll discover that among the registrants are such obvious fakes as Mickey Mouse and the starting line-up of the Dallas Cowboys, among others.

    This is where the Republican meme kicks in. As they have in past elections (although now louder and more angrily than ever), the G.O.P. has made ACORN the red flag du jour as the party tries to mobilize its conservative base and, allegedly, attempts to suppress the vote and distract attention from accusations of election tampering made against them, too.

    The charge is that these fake registrations will create havoc at the polls. On Tuesday morning, former Republican Sens. John Danforth and Warren Rudman, chairs of Senator McCain’s Honest and Open Elections Committee, held a press conference and described the results of the bad seeds in ACORN’s registration program as “a potential nightmare.” Danforth said he was concerned “that this election night and the days that follow will be a rerun of 2000, and even worse than 2000.”

    John McCain raised it at Wednesday night’s final debate and went further, adding, “We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama’s relationship with ACORN, who [sic] is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy É”

    Obama replied, “ACORN is a community organization. Apparently, what they have done is they were paying people to go out and register folks. And apparently, some of the people who were out there didn’t really register people; they just filled out a bunch of names. Had nothing to do with us. We were not involved.”

    Which is not to say Obama has not been associated with ACORN in the recent past. He has. As he said in the debate, as a lawyer, he joined with the group in partnership with the US Justice Department to implement a motor voter registration law in Illinois – allowing folks to register to vote at their local DMV. His work as a community organizer bought him into contact with ACORN, the organization received money from the Woods Fund while he was a board member there, and his presidential campaign gave ACORN more than $800,000 to help with get-out-the-vote campaigns during the primary season – but not, apparently, for registration drives.

    All of this distracts from several important points. ACORN has registered 1.3 million voters and maintains that in virtually every instance it is ACORN that has reported the incidents of fraud.

    As the organization asserted in a response to Senator McCain, “ACORN hired 13,000 field workers to register people to vote. In any endeavor of this size, some people will engage in inappropriate conduct. ACORN has a zero tolerance policy and terminated any field workers caught engaging in questionable activity. At the end of the day, as ACORN is paying these people to register voters, it is ACORN that is defrauded.”

    Arrests have been made, as well they should be.

    Add to this the simple fact that registration fraud is not election fraud. Seventy-five made-up people who are registered as, say, “Brad Pitt,” are not likely going to show up at some polling place on November 4 to vote in the election. Because they don’t exist. (Besides, Angelina would never give them time off from babysitting duties.)

    Granted, there are ways to mail in an absentee ballot under a fake name and, too, from time to time some joker is going to come to the polls and try to bluff his or her way in. But despite the charge that thousands and thousands of fakes will flood the machines and throw off the count, it does not happen very often. And according to ACORN, “Even RNC [Republican National Committee] General Counsel Sean Cairncross has recently acknowledged he is not aware of a single improper vote cast as a result of bad cards submitted in the course of an organized voter registration effort.”

    Not that this has stopped the G.O.P. from banging the same drum every national election. And amnesiac members of the media and some government agencies from buying into it every time. Last year, The New York Times reported that the federal Election Assistance Commission, created by the Help America Vote Act, legislation enacted after the Florida debacle, was told by a pair of experts – one Republican, the other described as having “liberal leanings” – that there was not that much fraud to be found. But their conclusions were downplayed.

    As per the Times, “Though the original report said that among experts ‘there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud,’ the final version of the report released to the public concluded in its executive summary that ‘there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud.'”

    Which raises the ongoing investigation of the Justice Department’s firing of those eight US attorneys shortly after President Bush’s re-election. It shouldn’t be forgotten that despite official explanations, half of them were let go after refusing to prosecute vote fraud charges demanded by Republicans. The attorneys had determined there was little or no evidence of skullduggery; certainly not enough to prosecute.

    (In an interview with Talking Points Memo on Thursday, one of those fired attorneys, David Iglesias, reacted to reports that the FBI has launched an investigation of ACORN: “I’m astounded that this issue is being trotted out again. Based on what I saw in 2004 and 2006, it’s a scare tactic.”)

    What’s equally if not more scary are continued allegations of Republican attempts at “caging” minority voters – making challenge lists of African- and Hispanic-Americans registered in heavily Democratic districts. Just this week, a federal judge in Michigan ruled that voters could not be purged from the rolls in that state simply because their mailing address was invalid – this followed a failed attempt by a Michigan Republican county chairman to use a list of foreclosed homes as the basis of voter challenges.

    This comes on the heels of a recent report from the Brennan Center at New York University documenting how state officials – often with the best of intentions – purge huge numbers of perfectly legal voters from the rolls.

    As my colleague Bill Moyers reported, “Hundreds of thousands of legal voters may have been dumped in recent years, many without ever being notified.” The report describes a “process that is shrouded in secrecy, prone to error, and vulnerable to manipulation.”

    Hardly reassuring words if you want democracy to work, and sadly, not an urban legend, but the simple truth.

Who Gets to Vote? October 17, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Electoral Fraud, John McCain, Sarah Palin, U.S. Election 2008.
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By Amy Goodman

October 16, 2008/truthdig.com

The 2008 presidential election may see the highest participation in U.S. history. Voter-registration organizations and local election boards have been overwhelmed by enthusiastic people eager to vote. But not everyone is happy about this blossoming of democracy.

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has become a lightning rod for the right wing. ACORN’s Web site notes that “the electorate does not reflect the citizenry of the United States of America. It skews whiter, older, more educated and more affluent than the citizenry as a whole.” Bertha Lewis, ACORN’s lead organizer, told me: “We organize low- and moderate-income people, usually folks who are minorities—African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and working-class white people. And most of these folks have always been disenfranchised out of the electoral process. … We’ve registered 1.3 million new voters across the country over an 18-month period of time. We had over 13,000 hard-working voter-registration workers. And we may have had a few bad apples, but I don’t know any organization that didn’t.”

Barack Obama himself was questioned about ACORN’s problematic registrations. He said: “Having run a voter-registration drive, I know how problems arise. This is typically a situation where ACORN probably paid people to get registrations, and these folks, not wanting to actually register people, because that’s actually hard work, just went into a phone book or made up names and submitted false registrations to get paid. So there’s been fraud perpetrated on probably ACORN, if they paid these individuals and they actually didn’t do registrations. But this isn’t a situation where there’s actually people who are going to try to vote, because these are phony names.”

ACORN has seen some clearly fraudulent registrations submitted, with names like “Mickey Mouse” turned in. ACORN says it reviews all the registration forms. However, it does not serve as the ultimate arbiter of which registrations are fraudulent. In fact, ACORN cannot legally throw away any voter-registration cards. It flags suspicious cards and submits them to the appropriate state election authority to make the judgment.

Republicans are increasingly alarmed at the shifting demographics of the United States. Minorities tend to vote Democratic, and the United States is slowly becoming a majority minority country—by 2050, whites will no longer represent a majority in the U.S. As right-wing commentator Patrick Buchanan lamented in 2004: “In 1960, when JFK defeated Nixon, America was a nation of 160 million, 90 percent white and 10 percent black, with a few million Hispanics and Asians sprinkled among us. We were one nation, one people. We worshiped the same God, spoke the same English language.” Buchanan’s xenophobia highlights a political reality: Immigration and mobilization of the urban poor are shifting the electorate to the Democrats, especially in key swing states like New Mexico, Colorado, Florida and Ohio.

The federal Help America Vote Act was passed in 2002 in response to the electoral crisis of 2000. But it requires new voters to present identification at the polling place, which critics allege is a modern-day Jim Crow law. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (the son of the assassinated 1968 presidential candidate) said recently: “I have an ID, and most Americans have an ID. But one out of every 10 Americans don’t have a government-issued ID, because they don’t travel abroad, so they don’t have passports, and they don’t drive a car, so they don’t have driver’s licenses. The number rises to one in five when you’re dealing with the African-American community.” The online Michigan Messenger revealed that Michigan Republicans were planning to use a list of people with foreclosed homes to purge voter rolls. And a federal judge in Detroit has just ordered that 1,500 people be restored to the Michigan voter rolls, based on “voter caging”—purging people if mail to them is returned as undeliverable. The scandal around the firing of U.S. attorneys, which ultimately led to the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, was based largely on the refusal of the Republican prosecutors to pursue unfounded voter-fraud cases.

Citizen groups like Election Protection and Video the Vote are organizing to document and report problems at the polls on Nov. 4. It is more likely that they will see honest people denied the right to vote, purged from the voter rolls, than an attempt by Mickey Mouse to vote Obama.

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column.
© 2008 Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She has been awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and will receive the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

Justices Rules Against Ohio G.O.P. in Voting Case October 17, 2008

Posted by rogerhollander in Electoral Fraud, John McCain, U.S. Election 2008.
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by: Adam Liptak and Ian Urbina, The New York Times

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Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner attends a hearing in Columbus. (Photo: Kiichiro Sato/AP)

    Washington – The Supreme Court on Friday overturned a lower court’s order requiring state officials in Ohio to supply information that would have made it easier to challenge prospective voters. The decision was a setback for Ohio Republicans, who had sued to force the Ohio secretary of state, a Democrat, to provide information about database mismatches to county officials.

    The decision has the potential to affect as many as 200,000 of the 660,000 new voters who have been registered in Ohio since Jan. 1, according Social Security Administration and state election officials.

    The Supreme Court, in a brief, unsigned decision, said lower federal courts in Ohio should not have ordered the secretary of state, Jennifer Brunner, to turn over the information. The court acted just before a deadline requiring Ms. Brunner to act set by a federal judge in Columbus.

    A 2002 federal law, the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA, requires states to check voter registration applications against government databases like those for driver’s license records. Names that do not match are flagged. Ohio Republicans sought to require Ms. Brunner to provide information about mismatches to local officials.

    Those officials could use information to require voters to cast provisional ballots rather than regular ones. They could also allow partisan poll workers to challenge people on the lists. Given Democratic success in registering new voters this year, those actions would probably affect that party’s supporters disproportionately.

    The court said it expressed “no opinion on the question whether HAVA is being properly implemented.” But it said that Congress probably had not intended to allow private litigants like political parties to sue to enforce the part of the law concerning databases.

    Ms. Brunner welcomed Friday’s ruling from the Supreme Court.

    “Our nation’s highest court has protected the voting rights of all Ohioans, allowing our bipartisan elections officials to continue preparing for a successful November election,” Ms. Brunner said. “We filed this appeal to protect all Ohio voters from illegal challenges and barriers that unfairly silence the votes of some to the advantage of others.”

    Edward B. Foley, a law professor at Ohio State, said the Supreme Court’s action in letting state authorities handle matters in the face of a late challenge was consistent with a general premise of election law. “Federal court intervention is a last resort, even if it’s not at the last minute,” Professor Foley said.

    A federal judge in Columbus ordered Ms. Brunner to supply the information on Oct. 9, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, affirmed that decision on Tuesday by a vote of 10-to-6.

    The majority decision in the Sixth Circuit acknowledged that the question about whether private parties may sue under the 2002 law was a close one. But Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton said that question could be deferred, as what the Republican party sought was just information.

    No one argues, Judge Sutton wrote, “that a mismatch necessarily requires a voter to be removed from the rolls.” A mismatch may merely prompt further investigation, he said, one that may be satisfied with an explanation as simple as a recent address change.

    Voting experts and state election officials added that many voters were likely to be flagged erroneously because the databases used to check voter registrations were prone to errors. Most non-matches are the result of typographical errors by government officials, computer errors, use of nicknames or middle initials, not voter ineligibility, they said.

    In one audit of match failures in 2004 by New York City election officials, more than 80 percent of the failures were found to have resulted from errors by government officials; most of the remaining failures were because of immaterial discrepancies between the two records.

    Ms. Brunner had also argued that requiring so many voters to cast provisional ballots would raise tensions at the polls and worsen lines and confusion on Election Day in a year when she is expecting unprecedented turnout.

    The state Republican Party rejected those arguments.

    “Secretary Brunner has fought every effort to validate hundreds of thousands of questionable registrations,” said Ohio Republican Party Chairman Robert Bennett. “As far as I’m concerned, Secretary Brunner is actively working to conceal fraudulent activity in this election.”

    The Ohio Republican Party had said it wanted the list so that local election officials could clear up any discrepancies before Election Day and in cases where that was not possible, those voters should vote using a provision ballot. Provisional ballots in Ohio are held for 10 days before being counted while workers check eligibility, and they are often subject to partisan wrangling and legal fights.

    Friday’s decision also means that the Ohio Republican Party will not be able to make public information requests to get the data so that poll workers can raise voter challenges at the polls.

    In 2004, President George W. Bush won Ohio by a margin of about 118,000 votes. During that race, litigation over Republican plans to challenge about 35,000 voters went to Justice John Paul Stevens on the eve of the election. Justice Stevens said it was too close to the election to intervene, but he added that he expected both sides to act in good faith. The Republicans dropped plans for their challenges.

    Polling in the state shows Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, with a slight lead on his Republican challenger, Senator John McCain.

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