Doesnít Voter Fraud Require Actual Voting?

Posted by Bobbi Murray on October 23, 2008

John McCain’s peculiar, over-the-top attacks on ACORN were initially a little hard to take seriously. Even when he kept on, it just left us asking, “Where is he going with this?”

But when McCain slurred the grass-roots group during the October 15 presidential debate, it upped the stakes — why twice raise ACORN as a threat in such a venue?

Listening to his barely coherent statements that night — you can read them below — the rough equation looks like this: Barack Obama’s friend William Ayers! And ACORN equals voter fraud equals terrorism!

As we see this week with the RNC’s noxious mailing with the phrase “Terrorists don’t care who they hurt!” with a picture of Obama on the inside, the terrorism canard is certainly one unsubtle thread in the GOP’s fear-and-hate-mongering patchwork strategy.

But some suggest that the McCain campaign attacks on ACORN is laying the groundwork for a contingency endgame — to cry foul if he loses and contest the election.

It goes like this:

  • They insist ACORN cheated on a massive scale, and
  • registered millions (maybe!) of voters that don’t exist or who aren’t eligible, so
  • the whole thing is so crooked that millions of votes donít count.

Our friends at TPM Cafe’s Bademus blog connected the dots as well as bringing us the BBC reports from veteran investigative reporter Greg Palast about potential voter suppression.

Note that anchor Peter Marshall intros the story by saying a GOP campaign operative told him “it was inevitable that his people would contest any Democratic victory. They claim the registration procedure is open to abuse.”

Oh, paranoia. Since when did the GOP ever challenge the election, call out the lawyers, encourage mobs to bully vote-counters. Oh, yeah, wait — Florida, 2000.

This year’s tweaked-up crowds yelling “terrorist!” and “kill him!” at McCain/Palin rallies might be easily mobilized along those lines.

Would you put it past the GOP to keep such a strategy in their hip pocket?

Read this McCain debate excerpt — warning — it requires you supply your own grammar and punctuation to understand it:

It’s not the fact that Senator Obama chooses to associate with a guy who in 2001 said that he wished he had have bombed more, and he had a long association with him. It’s the fact that all the — all of the details need to be known about Senator Obama’s relationship with them and with ACORN and the American people will make a judgment.

Then again mentioning “terrorist” before moving on to attack ACORN :

I don’t care about an old washed-up terrorist. But as Senator Clinton said in her debates with you, we need to know the full extent of that relationship. We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama’s relationship with ACORN, who 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.

“One of the greatest frauds in voter history,” and “Destroying the fabric of democracy”! Jeepers, John.

Read the entire debate transcript here.

The GOP’s purpose may not necessarily be to snatch the election — but, then, it may. What’s clear is the GOP is purposefully pushing the line that registration irregularities are the same as voter fraud.

To reframe this — and please forgive the lack of subtlety here:

Voter fraud involves VOTING.

Hinky voter registrations do not equal voter fraud. Voter fraud means someone actually turns up and votes using a phony name. But that almost never happens.

As ABC’s Jim Avila reported last week:

ACORN says the furor over a few bad workers is a smoke screen. It’s doubtful anyone will show up at the polls in Election Day trying to vote as Mickey Mouse or Jimmy Johns.

In fact, according to the Department of Justice, since 2002, only 150 people have been charged with actual voter fraud and 115 convicted.

The GOP-ers set up the discussion about voter fraud because they got nothin’. They have to throw everything against the wall to see what sticks. The polls don’t look great for them, Sarah Palin is proving to be a liability beyond the die-hard base. And it’s a good bet their ground game is worth damn all.

It’s possible, as suggested in the ABC report, that ACORN did foul up in monitoring its paid registrars and maybe even pushed them to meet a quota so that a few thought — sign up Mickey Mouse, why not?

But ACORN was obligated to turn in every registration form even if they looked peculiar, and seems to have done due diligence in flagging the questionable ones for the authorities.

There’s for sure something to discuss about ACORN’s workforce practices here. But voter fraud is not in that conversation.

Here at Rooflines, John Atlas, founder and president of the National Housing Institute, discussed a Republican Party voter suppression strategy to challenge the right to vote of those whose homes have been foreclosed, and cited and posted ACORN’s report.

That’s one dimension of potential voter suppression —there’s also concern in some quarters about the effects of the HAVA, the Help America Vote Act of 2002, passed in response to the abuses of the 2000 election in Florida, but hijacked by the Republican majority.

HAVA puts the fate of voter participation in the hands of often partisan secretaries of state. Some have taken the opportunity to purge voters from local rolls if an individual’s name doesnít match the one on the state database.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow reports that some 19 percent in the swing state of Colorado have been purged. Donít miss the segment.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.‘s Rolling Stone piece about the 2004 election’s, er, irregularities also make you worry about whatís in store this go-round:

The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush’s victory in the electoral college.

Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency.

The whole piece is here.

But wait! This just in as I write. McCain has conceded the election.

Okay — not in so many words. But McCain has announced that he won’t address supporters at the Biltmore Hotel in Phoenix, but, rather, will address reporters and some heavyweight GOP-ers on the lawn, with remarks piped in to the hall where the base parties.

Doesn’t look like a conquering hero’s appearance, although one observer in this AP story suggested that the smaller venue may be more suitable if McCain is playing to a TV national audience.

What, for the next time he runs for President? Or is he assuming he will be the President-elect? Or does he plan on announcing he doesnít accept the results?

McCain might skip his own election-night party

That last seems far-fetched. It’s hard to believe the GOP would try to use the ACORN fabrications to contest election results — and I couldn’t reach election law experts for this post to find out if itís plausible — too many queries ahead of mine in the queue this season, I’d guess.

But the GOP manuveurs of the 2000 election also seemed beyond belief as they unfolded. It would take some kind of brass for McCain to follow through on the ACORN accusations to stall a whole election. And it’s not, alas, completely unimaginable.

The voter rolls purges may prove more of a threat. One thing, though — this ain’t Florida 2000. This time there’s a deeply involved base, mobilized by the Obama campaign, poised to react if the GOP uses any of these methods to either steal or contest the election.

Hang on — it ain’t over till it’s over.

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