[Updated & Bumped]
So the right wing is in a tizzy over ACORN, a group of community organizers who have registered more than a million new voters this election cycle. There have apparently been some problems with some of the voter registration forms ACORN has collected and–as expected–the right has taken the issue and run off the deep end with it.
They’re accusing ACORN of perpetuating voter fraud in order to swing the election toward Democrats. What are some of the ridiculous arguments conservatives are making?
“ACORN is filing duplicate voter registration forms–they even registered this one guy 72 times!”
But, see, it doesn’t matter how many times someone registers—people are only allowed to vote once. It doesn’t matter if you submit 7 or 70 or 700 applications—they only register you once. If you’re already registered then the registrar’s office looks you up, sees that you’re already registered with that information, and they (obviously) don’t register you again.
And on election day, when you show up to vote you give them your ID and they only let you cast one vote.
Now, it’s possible you could register with a bunch of different addresses and try to cast different votes in different precincts. But on voter registration forms you have to provide your Social Security Number, which kinda makes it hard for you do file a bunch of different forms with different information on them. At some point, someone notices.
Plus, when you show up to vote, they’re gonna ask you for ID with your address on it. ID that’s impossible for you to get for an address you don’t actually live at.
Is the GOP so tinfoil-hatted they think that, on November 4th, roving bands of Democrats will travel from polling place to polling place with stacks of forged IDs, casting enough fraudulent votes to swing the election?
“But they’re also filing fake registration forms with fake names and addresses!!”
Again—when you show up to vote they’re going to ask you for ID, complete with your name and address on it.
So it doesn’t matter if you file voter registration forms for Donald Duck or John Wayne or John Hancock, living at address 123 Fake Street, Social Security Number 123-45-6789. If you’re a newly-registered voter, federal law mandates that you show ID at your polling place on election day. ID that, again, is impossible for you to get for an address you don’t actually live at or for a name that isn’t yours.
So, again, is the GOP so tinfoil-hatted they think Democrats are filing registration forms with fake names and addresses and intending to forge millions of IDs, so that on election day they can roam from precinct to precinct casting enough fraudulent votes to swing the election?
[New Addition] “But ACORN registered a 7-year-old to vote!”
Well, actually, the registration card was forged and submitted to ACORN by a relative of the girl who has a history of drug abuse. And, as is said below, ACORN is required by law to turn in every voter registration card they collect.
But, again, unless that 7-year-old shows up and tries to cast a vote on election day, this isn’t voter fraud.
And I can’t imagine that any poll worker, anywhere, would let a 7-year-old vote, even if they’re on the rolls and even if she somehow showed up and demanded to vote. So why is this being portrayed as a scandal instead of just a clerical oversight?
[New Addition] “In Lake County, Indiana, every single voter registration form filed by ACORN was forged!”
Exactly. The forms were collected and then submitted to the county registrar. It’s the registrar’s job to sort through them and determine their veracity. And that’s exactly what happened here–that’s how they found out that the voter registration cards were fraudulent. And as a result of their findings, none of those voters were subsequently registered.
So, what’s the problem? Doesn’t this just prove that the system works? Even if fraudulent registrations are submitted, the registrar catches them and keeps those registrations from being processed. Isn’t that how it’s all supposed to work?
In fact, that’s partially the reason why organizations like ACORN are required by law to submit every voter registration form they collect to the registrar–because sorting the real forms from the fake ones is the registrar’s duty, not the duty of outside organizations (who might have a political interest in throwing certain voter registration forms out).
In fact, if ACORN did go through the registrations they collected and started throwing out the forms they thought were fraudulent, how much would you bet that the conservative talking point would be something along the lines of ‘Democrat-leaning group ACORN is committing voter fraud, preventing American citizens from voting by throwing out thousands of voter registrations!!“
It’s the same old ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ trap Republicans love to build around Democrats at every opportunity.
I mean, on its face this story sounds scandalous—duplicate registrations! Fake names!! 7-year-olds registered to vote!!!
But when you try to figure out how it’ll affect the election, well, it’s hard to see how this will make any difference.
But we all know why the right is in hysterics over ACORN—when the Republicans lose the election, this story will give them enough cover to cry that they didn’t actually lose, that it was big bad ACORN who stole the election!!
Of course, when we accused the Republicans of stealing an election back in 2004—when the CEO of the company that made the touch-screen voting machines promised “to [help] Ohio deliver its electoral votes to the President”—these same right-wingers couldn’t call us tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theorists fast enough. And now that they’re going to legitimately lose the election, they can’t point the finger and yell “stolen election” fast enough. But that’s how it goes when you’re dealing with Republicans.
Just be ready for a lot more of this garbage after the election, because the hysteria over ACORN is the first shot in the right’s first post-election anti-Obama offensive. Because come November 5th, Republicans are going to be on the TV 24-7 whining that ACORN stole the election and Barack Obama is an illegitimate President. You could bet your life on it.
UPDATE: Some good points:
– Fraudulent registration forms do not constitute voter fraud.
Voter fraud only occurs if someone tries to improperly cast a vote. “It’s not voter fraud unless someone shows up at the voting booth on election day and tries to pass himself off as ‘Tony Romo.’ And who would try to do that?” wrote Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-IL). The Brennan Center for Justice noted that “there are no reports that we have discovered of votes actually cast in the names of [false] registrants.”
– In many states, organizations like ACORN are required by law to turn in every registration card they receive.
As the Wall Street Journal reported, “New Mexico law requires Acorn to turn in all applications, no matter how suspicious-looking, within 48 hours. Elections officials do their own quality control on registrations.” In fact, “under most state laws, voter registration organizations are required to turn in all the forms they receive.” Furthermore, ACORN explained in a statement that “for the past 10 months, any time ACORN has identified a potentially fraudulent application, we turn that application into election officials separately and offer to provide election officials with the information they would need to pursue an investigation or prosecution of the individual.”
UPDATE II: Of course, if the right is complaining about something, you can be pretty sure they’re doing exactly what they’re complaining about. And as it turns out, they are:
Tens 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, according to a review of state records and Social Security data by The New York Times.
Still, because Democrats have been more aggressive at registering new voters this year, according to state election officials, any heightened screening of new applications may affect their party’s supporters disproportionately. The screening or trimming of voter registration lists in the six states — Colorado, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina — could also result in problems at the polls on Election Day: people who have been removed from the rolls are likely to show up only to be challenged by political party officials or election workers, resulting in confusion, long lines and heated tempers.
Some states allow such voters to cast provisional ballots. But they are often not counted because they require added verification.
And don’t forget this:
There was still one taped to a table, and I was pretty shocked to read it. It was clearly an attempt at voter intimidation targeted at members of the Drexel community.
It is written as a friendly letter relaying how an “Obama supporter” explained to the author that at the polls this year, police will be checking IDs and license plates to “catch criminals” in and around the polls, including “traffic ticket offenders.” This is a disgusting and offensive attempt to provide false information to citizens to keep them from voting. People aren’t arrested in this country for voting, no matter how many traffic tickets they get. In fact, in PA, police officers arne’t allowed within 100 feet of a polling place on election day, except when they vote as private citizens, or when required to protect the peace.
Or this old standby:
An anonymous flier circulating in African-American neighborhoods in North and West Philadelphia states that voters who are facing outstanding arrest warrants or who have unpaid traffic tickets may be arrested at the polls on Election Day.
Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison, who learned of the flier last week, said that the message is completely false.
“The only thing that police officers are going to do that we’ll be encouraging that day is that they’ll be exercising their own individual right to vote,” Gillison said.
If anyone needs me, I’ll be (patiently) waiting for screams of outrage coming from the right over this voter intimidation (what with their sudden, newfound respect for democracy and all).
UPDATE III: Ben Smith brings a big bowl of common sense to the party:
The key distinction here is between voter fraud and voter registration fraud, one of which is truly dangerous, the other a petty crime.
The former would be, say, voting the cemeteries or stuffing the ballot boxes. This has happened occasionally in American history, though I can think of recent instances only in rare local races. Practically speaking, this can most easily be done by whoever is actually administering the election, which is why partisan observers carefully oversee the vote-counting process.
The latter is putting the names of fake voters on the rolls, something that happens primarily when organizations, like Acorn, pay contractors for new voter registrations. That can be a crime, and it messes up the voter files, but there’s virtually no evidence these imaginary people then vote in November. The current stories about Acorn don’t even allege a plan to affect the November vote.
I’ll make you a deal, conservatives–if Mickey Mouse shows up and votes on November 4th, or that guy who submitted 72 registrations is allowed to cast 72 votes, or that 7-year-old girl ends up voting, I’ll cede this issue to you guys.
UPDATE IV: Ben Smith brings us a photograph of John McCain attending an ACORN-sponsored event in March, 2006.
Actually, John McCain didn’t just attend the ACORN event–he was the headliner.
So I guess you could say John McCain was for ACORN before he was against them, huh?
UPDATE V: Actually, it turns out that a lot of Republicans used to love ACORN–Mike Bloomberg, Rick Perry, Arnold Schwarzenegger. I guess they all were for ACORN before they were against them.
FINAL UPDATE: I’ll let Josh Marshall have the last word on this post:
Let’s be clear about what this is. These are random stories about fake vote registrations. The Drudges and Fox scoundrels of the world seem to think that if someone fills out a voter registration card for Mickey Mouse, that Mickey Mouse might show up and cast a vote they’re not entitled to cast. It doesn’t and there is zero evidence of any voter fraud or anything that would make voter fraud more likely. The level of lying, bad faith or at best ignorance of the people making these claims is really beyond imagining. This isn’t vote fraud. There’s no evidence of vote fraud. Nothing. This is an effort of a losing political party to a) lay the groundwork for challenging their defeat at the polls b) lay the groundwork to pass laws to make it harder for poor people and minorities to vote.