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Hullabaloo


Saturday, October 11, 2008

 
The Fraud Of Fraud

by digby


It's becoming clear that the fraudulent GOP "vote fraud" project is up and running at full speed and will likely be a huge story for well beyond the election. Rick Perlstein had an interaction with John Fund recently, who said right out that Democrats didn't believe in election law and would try to count illegal votes. He's selling books so perhaps his hyperbole is just salesmanship, but his prediction that a close election will be thrown into doubt because of Republican efforts to challenge every provisional ballot sounds quite plausible to me.

The process of turning ACORN into a terrorist sleeper cell has begun and I see little hope that they aren't going to be successful. The press is clearly fascinated by the right wing caricature of a group of shiftless "community organizers" trading crack for Obama votes in the inner city and have done exactly zero research into the issue, so the reporting has been hysterical.

I have written many times about this report (pdf) from 2004 about the history of Republican vote suppression efforts and I urge you to take the time to read the whole thing if you haven't. This has been a tool of conservatives of all parties since the beginning of the Republic, but it's only been since the 1980s that the Republicans professionalized it with the formation of the Republican National Lawyers Association. The report shows that the Jesse Jackson campaign's successful new voter registration efforts was a particular impetus for GOP efforts to promote the false allegation that there is systematic voter fraud in the land.

This is the first election where we may see the full effect of this project. The Republican National Lawyers association were a vital part of the Florida recount (they even give out an award to certain lawyers featuring some of the famous Florida chads) but this may be where the true genius of the project lies. We are going to have what appears to be a substantial Democratic victory by an African American with a strong minority constituency. The totals may not be close. But by ratcheting up this spectre of "voter fraud" in advance, they are helping to lay the groundwork for delegitimizing a president Obama in the eyes of a large number of Americans.

That the media is running after this story like a bunch of toddlers gleefully chasing puppies is typical, but still disheartening. It was only a couple of weeks ago that a special prosecutor was named in the US Attorney firings after the Inspector General found that that some of them, notably David Iglesias, were fired because they failed to prosecute bogus voter fraud cases. In light of that you would think that the press would be a bit skeptical of voter fraud allegations by Republicans.

Instead you have this:

CNN's Drew Griffin took his network's Special Investigations Unit to Lake County, IN yesterday in an attempt to document election problems in the area. Did he discuss the active and legitimate voter suppression campaign taking place there, in which local Republicans are blocking early voting in three Democratic leaning cities? Not at all. Instead, he focused on faulty registration cards submitted by the current bete noir of the conservative movement, the community organizing group ACORN. What's worse, his report (and most other media accounts) grossly misrepresented the intent and professionalism of ACORN's registration efforts. (video at the link)

In the report, Ruthann Hoagland, a Republican member of the Lake Co. Board of Elections, tells Griffin that ACORN submitted 5,000 new registrations in the past two weeks. But during the verification process, employees found that about half were fraudulent, including multiple forms turned in with the same handwriting, one signed "Johns, Jimmy" using the address of a Jimmy John's sandwich shop in Crown Point, and others with the name of registrants that are now dead. Nationwide, registrar's offices have come across similar problems in recent days.

What Griffin fails to note, however, is that ACORN made very clear that some registrations they gathered from canvassers in Lake County may have been faulty. An ACORN spokesmen explained this in an October 7 press release:

ACORN flags and turns in three kinds of cards, those that it can verify, those that are incomplete, and those that it flags as problematic. It turns those in labeled in a special way and are very conservative in terms of what it flags as problematic. It has stacks of problematic cover sheets. [...]

The Lake County Board knew about the questionable registrations today because ACORN flagged them for the board. For example, the Jimmy John’s card is one that a caller had flagged and labeled as problematic. ACORN can get that caller to talk to the press.

According to Regina Harris, the Director of Registrations for Lake County, this claim checks out. "It's certainly true. They did have three batches separated." she told me this morning. "There was a pile they knew were good, there was some they said had missing info -- like no voter ID number or a missing birthday -- and another batch they called 'suspicious.' "

Why would ACORN submit registration forms it had deemed "suspicious"? Because under most state laws, voter registration organizations are required to turn in all the forms they receive. In a phone conversation today, ACORN press coordinator Charles Jackson confirmed that this is the case in Indiana.

So what explains all the faulty registration forms? There are two probable causes. One is that some registration forms can contain simple errors. That means the registrant didn't intend to subvert the election process, but rather just made an honest mistake.

The other scenario involves the canvassers themselves. If employees want to boost their performance in the eyes of their boss or simply don't want to do the work of finding legitimate new voters, they could turn in forged or faulty registration forms.* This is illegal and can wreak havoc on registrar's offices, but there's no evidence these imaginary people turn around and vote in November. Given Indiana's strict voter ID law, it would actually be next to impossible for anyone to cast a ballot under the name of a submarine sandwich chain or a dead person.

But these facts haven't stopped conservative critics and some in the media from incorrectly implying that ACORN's faulty registrations prove the organization is trying to forge votes and steal the election in November. An editorial in the Investor's Business Daily said, "[John] McCain would be wise to start preparing a challenge to voter registration rolls should he lose the race in a close contest." CNN even set up Griffin's segment with a graphic that read “Voter Fraud?"


I think it's pretty clear at this point that he is.

McCain's ad featuring ACORN (which dday discussed yesterday) has been removed from Youtube. But here's the script:

JOHN MCCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

ANNCR: Who is Barack Obama?

A man with "a political baptism performed at warp speed."

Vast ambition.

After college, he moved to Chicago.

Became a community organizer.

There, Obama met Madeleine Talbot, part of the Chicago branch of ACORN.

He was so impressive that he was asked to train the ACORN staff.

What did ACORN in Chicago engage in?

Bullying banks.

Intimidation tactics.

Disruption of business.

ACORN forced banks to issue risky home loans.

The same types of loans that caused the financial crisis we're in today.

No wonder Obama's campaign is trying to distance him from the group, saying, "Barack Obama Never Organized with ACORN."

But Obama's ties to ACORN run long and deep.

He taught classes for ACORN.

They even endorsed him for President.

But now ACORN is in trouble.

REPORTER: There are at least 11 investigations across the country involving thousands of potentially fraudulent ACORN forms.

ANNCR: Massive voter fraud.

And the Obama campaign paid more than $800,000 to an ACORN front for get out the vote efforts.

Pressuring banks to issue risky loans.

Nationwide voter fraud.

Barack Obama.

Bad judgment. Blind ambition.

Too risky for America.

It looks right now as if the election might not be close enough for the Republicans to make a plausible case for outright theft of the election through voter fraud. But as I said, they are certainly laying the groundwork for a propaganda campaign to delegitimize Barack Obama. The beauty of the voter fraud fraud is that they win even when they lose.

The conservatives' long term goal is to make citizens so cynical about the electoral system that they just don't vote. the fewer people who participate in democracy the easier it is for the aristocracy to maintain control.

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