Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Progress Report: Voter Fraud

The Truth About Voter Fraud

As the 2008 election process draws near — and with early voting in many states having already begun — conservatives are raising a great hue and cry about the threat of voter fraud. Attacks have centered on the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), the “nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people,” whose workers have registered 1.3 million new voters this year. Conservatives like Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL) and former Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell have seized on reports of improperly filled-out forms as evidence of “lawlessness” and “voting fraud,” which will lead to “the kind of chaos you expect from a category-five hurricane.” But mass voter fraud is just a conservative myth used to justify increasing the difficulty of the voting process. In an interview with Salon, Lori Minnite, a professor of political science at Barnard College who investigated allegations of widespread voter fraud, explained, “From 2002 to 2005 only one person was found guilty of registration fraud. Twenty people were found guilty of voting while ineligible and five people were found guilty of voting more than once. That’s 26 criminal voters — voters who vote twice, impersonate other people, vote without being a resident … Meanwhile thousands of people are getting turned away at the polls.”

COMPLEX AND ONEROUS RULES: Although the United States has a long and dark history of voter disenfranchisement and voter suppression, recent laws passed at the state and federal level have focused instead on the vaporous threat of voter fraud. These laws particularly discourage the poor and the young. Because voting, even for federal elections, is regulated by state law and administered at the local level, there is no consistent standard for voting machines, ballot design, the counting of provisional ballots, or voter identification. The 2002 Help America Vote Act (HAVA) requires that “any voter who has not previously voted in a federal election” must provide a form of ID.  But “twenty-four states have broader voter identification requirements than what HAVA mandates” — seven require photo ID for all voters, and 17 more require some form of ID. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Indiana’s draconian photo ID law that could disenfranchise as many as 400,000 voters, although Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita “conceded the state has never presented a case of ‘voter impersonation.’” In his dissent, Justice David Souter compared Indiana’s unjustified regulations to a poll tax, “because it correlates with no state interest so well as it does with the object of deterring poorer residents from exercising the franchise.”

MASS DISENFRANCHISEMENT AND INTIMIDATION: Last week, the New York Times reported that “[t]ens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law.” Last Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy issued a scathing order Wednesday “lambasting the Montana Republican Party for challenging the registrations of thousands of Montana voters,” writing, “The timing of these challenges is so transparent that it defies common sense to believe the purpose is anything but political chicanery.” On Sunday, the Ohio Republican Party “requested information on voters who registered to vote and cast an early ballot on the same day,” not long after Greene County Sheriff Gene Fischer requested registration information — including driver’s license and Social Security numbers — “for the 302 voters who took advantage of the window in that county, which has five colleges and universities, including two historically black colleges.” In Indiana, state NAACP president Barbara Bolling said voters in three northern cities “are being disenfranchised each day they can’t cast ballots at their local clerk’s offices,” after “two Republicans on the Lake County Election Board voted against the sites last month, contending in-person absentee voting makes vote fraud easier.” In Colorado, the El Paso county clerk Bob Balink has engaged in an “emerging and consistent pattern” of purging voter rolls and challenging inaccurate registration information as “election fraud.”

ROVE’S FINGERPRINTS: The Department of Justice, whose responsibilities include ensuring the right to fair elections, was subverted by the Bush administration to pursue the false threat of voter fraud. In 2002, former attorney general John Ashcroft announced an initiative that required “all components of the Department” to “place a high priority on the investigation and prosecution of election fraud.” The 2006 purge of eight U.S. attorneys — all lifelong Republicans — at the behest of the Bush White House exposed the depths of this politicization. The White House justified the dismissals by telling reporters, “President Bush mentioned to Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in October that he had heard complaints from Congress that some federal prosecutors were lax in pursuing voter fraud.” As the Washington Post reported last year, “Nearly half the U.S. attorneys slated for removal by the administration last year were targets of Republican complaints that they were lax on voter fraud, including efforts by presidential adviser Karl Rove to encourage more prosecutions of election-law violations,” Rove has made it his specialty to raise the specter of vote fraud throughout his political career, from his days working on state races in Alabama.

(This information from The Center For American Progress. People for The American Way is currently collecting in their campaign lobbying against the efforts to turn people away from the polls mentioned in this post. I reposted this since many people seemed unaware of the issues I mentioned in the last post. – Ian)

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 1:52 am  

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