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Tis the Season for Voter Fraud Accusations…

By Brian | October 20, 2008 | Share on Facebook

As long as we’re discussing seasonal issues, it’s starting to feel like every two years (but especially every four years) since 2000, we’ve been discussing the voter fraud that’s going to allow <insert name of whomever’s winning> to steal the election from <insert name of whomever’s losing>, and to allow <insert name of whomever’slosing> to delegitimize the sweeping mandate indicated by the overwhelming victory of <insert name of whomever’s winning>.

Here’s a pretty good summary of this phenomenon for 2008. The headlines are daunting, but if you dig into just about any of them, you find that they’re not nearly as sinister as they’re made to sound. In most cases, they reflect the push and pull between over-registering (i.e., registering people who might not be eligible to make sure we catch everyone who is eligible) and registration verification (i.e., requiring registrations with known errors to be corrected before allowing the voter to vote).

Here’s one example: Mickey Mouse tries to register in Florida. Now first of all, at least it was Florida. Anywhere else (except maybe California) would have been a clear case of voter fraud. Kidding aside, though, on the surface this smacks of someone preparing to stuff the ballot box in November. It also has the added attraction of the ACORN seal (ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is an organization that has received money from the Obama campaign, and has been implicated in several instances like this). Digging into the details, though, we see this:

This year, ACORN signed up 1.3-million voters nationwide and about 152,000 in Florida, mostly in Orange, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. ACORN estimates it flagged 2 percent of its Florida registrations as problematic because they were incomplete, duplicates or just plain bogus.

“This is part of a widespread and systemic effort … to undermine the election process,” says Republican National Committee chief counsel Sean Cairncross, who describes ACORN as a “quasi-criminal organization.”

No, [says Brian Kettenring, ACORN's head organizer in Florida], it’s more like Wal-Mart. “Some percentage of Wal-Mart workers try to get paid without doing their work or steal from their employer,” he said. Some ACORN workers, he said, have simply made up names.

ACORN said it terminates canvassers who forge applications. In Broward County, it fired one worker after he turned in applications with similar handwriting and brought the matter to the attention of the Supervisor of Elections Office.

Pay to gather registrations started at $8 an hour, and the goal was 20 signups per day. The organization did not pay by the signature or pay bonuses for volume. The organization also tried to follow up on each registration, calling the person listed to confirm that the form is accurate.

In most states, ACORN must turn in every form that is filled out. “We must turn in every voter registration card by Florida law, even Mickey Mouse,” Kettenring said.

Well, not yet, said Jennifer Krell Davis, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of State. Florida does have a law saying third-party voter registration groups must turn in every form without regard to things like party affiliation, race, ethnicity or gender. So far, however, the state has not written the rules to implement it.

Others may read more into this, but I see this simply as ACORN being sloppy, not nefarious. Helping people to register is, overall, a good thing, and they seem to be making a half-hearted effort to weed out obviously incomplete/disingenuous registrations, but are then sending the rest of them on for processing, under the assumption that more is better. Hence, you get the occasional Mickey Mouse in the bunch.

Obviously, this process is too important to be run in such an ad-hoc manner. We certainly have the technology to button this down, but the logistics of it immediately raise privacy and other political concerns.

For example, let’s say we required everyone who wanted to vote in November to be registered by July 4th. We could provide various ways to register – post office, mail, Internet, phone, etc. and then spend between July 4th and, say, September 30th verifying the list. People who’s registrations were in question could be mailed letters, called, e-mailed, etc. to correct the errors by another deadline (October 15th?). We could even have a second round of checking/fixing leading right up to the election.

The problem? This implies a centralized voter registration database and some form of national identifier (social security number doesn’t work for everybody). Once these things are in place, they become useful for other purposes (surveillance, for example) that raise the hackles of various civil rights and privacy groups.

Unfortunately, our inability/unwillingness to solve this problem, coupled with the somewhat hysterical rantings of the partisan punditry, will continue to erode voter confidence in the election process. Basically, this will have to become a real (not merely a perceived) emergency before anything is actually done about it.

Topics: Political Rantings | 2 Comments »

2 Responses to “Tis the Season for Voter Fraud Accusations…”

  1. Tis the Season for Voter Fraud Accusations… at Voter Fraud On Best Political Blogs says at November 18th, 2008 at 3:24 am :
    [...] Tis the Season for Voter Fraud Accusations… Here’s one example: Mickey Mouse tries to register in Florida. Now first of all, at least it was Florida. Anywhere else (except maybe California) would have been a clear case of voter fraud. Kidding aside, though, on the surface this … [...]

  2. Comment on Tis the Season for Voter Fraud Accusations… by Tis the… at Voter Fraud On Best Political Blogs says at December 7th, 2008 at 6:42 pm :
    [...] Comment on Tis the Season for Voter Fraud Accusations… by Tis the… Tis the Season for Voter Fraud Accusations… Here’s one example: Mickey Mouse tries to register in Florida. Now first of all, at least it… [...]

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