Dispatches from the Creation Wars

I’m going to cut and paste a factsheet that ACORN has put out about the allegations of voter fraud. Let me say up front that every statement made here was confirmed by my investigation of the group for the article I wrote at the Michigan Messenger, not just by ACORN but by independent and non-partisan voter rights experts.

Key Facts:

1. In order to help 1.3 million people register to vote, we hired more than 13,000 registration assistance workers. As with any business or agency that operates at this scale, there are always some people who want to get paid without really doing the job, or who aim to defraud their employer. Any large department store will have some workers who shoplift.

2. Any large voter registration operation will have a small percentage of workers who turn in bogus registration forms. Their goal clearly is not to cast a fraudulent vote. It is simply to defraud their employer, ACORN, by getting a paycheck without earning it. ACORN is the victim of this fraud – not the perpetrator.

3. In nearly every case that has been reported, it was ACORN that discovered the bad forms, and called them to the attention of election authorities, putting the forms in a package that identified them in writing as suspicious, encouraging election officials to investigate, and offering to help with prosecutions. We are required by law to turn in all forms, but instead of just turning them in and figuring that it is the responsibility of the board of elections to figure out which are valid, we spend millions of dollars verifying that forms are valid, and then separate out those that are suspicious.

4. This has nothing to do with “voter fraud” – nothing at all to do with anyone trying to cast an extra vote. There has never been a single reported instance in which bogus registration forms have led to anyone voting improperly. To do that, they would have to show up at the polls, prove their identity as all first-time registrants must, and risk jail. The people who turned in these forms did so not because they wanted an extra vote, but because they didn’t care enough to make sure eligible people got to vote at all.

5. When a department store calls the police to report a shoplifting employee, no one says the department store is guilty of consumer fraud. But for some reason, when ACORN turns voter registration workers over to the authorities for filling out bogus forms, it gets accused of “voter fraud.” This is a classic case of blaming the victim; indeed, these charges are outrageous, libelous, and often politically motivated.

6. Similar attacks were launched against ACORN and other voter registration organizations in 2004 and 2006. The bogus charges were at the heart of the U.S. Attorney-gate scandal that led to the resignations of Karl Rove, Attorney General Ablerto Gonzales and other top Justice Department Officials. It turned out that it was the charges that were fraudulent, and that they were part of a systematic partisan agenda of voter suppression. Republican US Attorneys David Iglesias (NM), Todd Graves (MO), and John McKay (WA) all were fired primarily because they refused to prosecute similar bogus charges of “voter fraud.” Another US Attorney, Bradley Schlozman, who did politicize prosecutions against former ACORN canvassers, was forced to acknowledge under cross examination by the Senate Judiciary Committee that ACORN was the victim of fraud by its employees and ACORN had caught the employees and had identified them to law enforcement.

7. The goals of the people orchestrating these attacks are to distract ACORN from helping people vote and to justify massive voter suppression. That’s the real voter fraud; the noise about a small fraction of the forms ACORN has turned in is meant to get the press and public take their eyes off the real threat, while those hurling the charges are stealing people’s right to vote in broad daylight. They have already tried to prevent Ohio from registering voters at its early voting sites. In Michigan, they planned to use foreclosure notices to challenge thousands of voters. And if this year is like past years, they are preparing to use this so-called voter fraud to justify massive challenges to voters in minority precincts on Election Day.

The Details:

Fact: ACORN has implemented the most sophisticated quality-control system in the voter engagement field but in almost every state we are required to turn in ALL completed applications, even the ones we know to be problematic.

Fact: ACORN flags in writing incomplete, problem, or suspicious cards when we turn them in,. Unfortunately, some of these same officials then come back weeks or months later and accuse us of deliberately turning in phony cards. In many cases, we can actually prove that these are the same cards we called to their attention.

Fact: Our canvassers are paid by the hour, not by the card . ACORN has a zero-tolerance policy for deliberately falsifying registrations, and in the cases where our internal quality controls have identified this happening we have fired the workers involved and turned them in to election officials and law-enforcement.

Fact: No criminal charges related to voter registration have ever been brought against ACORN or partner organizations. Convictions against individual former ACORN workers have been accomplished with our full cooperation, using the evidence obtained through our quality control and verification processes — evidence which in most cases WE called to the attention of authorities

Fact: Most election officials have recognized ACORN’s good work and praised our quality control systems. Even in the cities where election officials have complained about ACORN, the applications in question represent less than 1% of the thousands and thousands of registrations ACORN has collected.

Fact: Our accusers not only fail to provide any evidence, they fail to suggest a motive: there is virtually no chance anyone would be able to vote fraudulently, so there is no reason to deliberately submit phony registrations. ACORN is committed to ensuring that the greatest possible numbers of people are registered.

There are four really important facts here. First, that in the very few instances where actual fraud takes place (as opposed to duplicate voter registration applications or applications with portions that are illegible or have mistakes in them), ACORN is the victim of that fraud, not the perpetrator.

Second, that in almost every case where canvassers have turned in fraudulent applications, they were caught because ACORN turned in both the fraudulent card and the identity of the canvasser, and they do so separate from all the applications that they have no reason to believe are bad.

Third, that none of this has anything to do with anyone actually voting twice or anyone being registered to vote that is not a legal voter. When fraud does take place, it’s because a canvasser decides to take a short cut rather than do their job and register voters. ACORN fires people for that and turns them in.

Fourth — and this is very important — the law requires ACORN to turn in every single registration card that they take, even if it’s fraudulent. They cannot, by law, discard ANY voter registration application, they must turn them in to election officials. And bear in mind that they have little means of knowing if someone is turning in a duplicate application because they don’t have access to the state’s central voter file. If someone who is already registered fills out a card, either because they figure maybe their registration has lapsed and it won’t hurt to make sure they’re registered or because they feel sorry for a canvasser, by law those cards must be turned in to the county election officials.

We know beyond any doubt that the GOP has an active strategy of trumping up these voter fraud charges against ACORN. How do we know that? Look at the DOJ Inspector General’s report on the US Attorneys scandal, especially the section about New Mexico’s David Iglesias. Republican political operatives, including Karl Rove himself, put pressure on Iglesias to bring voter fraud charges against ACORN based on a single canvasser who turned in some fraudulent applications in that state.

When he refused to do so because there was no evidence, he was put on the list of attorneys to be fired. The report contains emails and memos from Rove and from Republican activists throwing a fit over the fact that Iglesias – a man who ran for office as a Republican, so he hardly has any reason to be biased in favor of ACORN – would not do their bidding and bring a fraud case against them.

Iglesias had nothing but excellent reviews of his work by his superiors at the DOJ and the excuses that they offered for why they wanted him fired were found by the Inspector General to be dishonest justifications invented later. The evidence reveals that he was targeted because he would not bring a corruption charge against a Democratic official before the 2004 election in order to undermine the Democrats during the campaign (and by the way, charges were eventually brought and the official was acquitted).

This is politics, plain and simple. The GOP cannot come up with a single documented example of someone voting twice or voting fraudulently, but they continually raise the specter of voter fraud in order to cover up their longstanding voter suppression efforts. And those efforts, unlike the allegations of voter fraud, have been documented and proven in court many times. Multiple courts have found the RNC and various Republican state committees guilty of illegal voter suppression and issued injunctions against their voter caging programs. And that is the sole purpose of these voter fraud allegations, to distract attention away from all of that.