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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

ACORN Smear Shows GOP Hypocrisy

You have to give the Republicans credit for having a lot of raw nerve. How does a political leader who professes to have enough integrity to ask for public support get in front of national TV cameras and rail against a non-profit organization for turning in some fraudulent voter registration forms, when his/her political party is the worst purveyer of vote theft in the history of democracy?
At the 3rd presidential debate at Hofstra on Wednesday night John McCain said that ACORN was “on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.” In Westchester Ohio, GOP VP nominee Sarah Palin told a rally “In this election, especially here in Ohio, you’re going to be asked to choose between a candidate who will not disavow a group committing voter fraud and a leader who will not tolerate it.”
This from the standard-bearers of the party that gave us the Brooks Brothers Riot and other electoral atrocities in the 2000 and 2004 elections. For a good history of Republican “ballot security” campaigns going back several decades, click here.
Since the smear ACORN campaign began, ACORN workers have experienced death threats, racist insults and their offices have been vandalized in at least two cities, according to this report by Greg Gordon of McCatchy Newspapers.
How accurate are the McCain-Palin attacks on ACORN? According to an October 16th New York Times editorial,

The group concedes that some of its hired canvassers have turned in tainted forms, although they say the ones with phony names constitute no more than 1 percent of the total turned in. The group also says it reviews all of the registration forms that come in. Before delivering the forms to elections offices, its supervisors flag any that appear to have problems.

In his ABC News web page article, “McCain Acorn Fears Overblown: Charges of Voter Fraud Are Out of Proportion to Reality, They Say,” Justin Rood explained:

But McCain’s voter fraud worries – about Acorn or anyone else – are unsupported by the facts, said experts on election fraud, who recall similar concerns being raised in several previous elections, despite a near-total absence of cases.
“There’s no evidence that any of these invalid registrations lead to any invalid votes,” said David Becker, project director of the “Make Voting Work” initiative for the Pew Charitable Trusts…Becker should know: he was a lawyer for the Bush administration until 2005, in the Justice Department’s voting rights section, which was part of the administration’s aggressive anti-vote-fraud effort.

There have been a few phony voter registration applications submitted by ACORN canvassers. But there has only been one documented case of actual voter fraud attributed to ACORN. Vote suppression, however, is a far more common form of vote theft, and it has been practiced on a massive scale by Republicans. As M.S. Bellows, Jr. put it in his HuffPo article on the topic:

…When I and other reporters pressed RNC communications director Danny Diaz and RNC chief counsel Sean Cairncross to name specific instances of ACORN-registered voters who had actually cast fraudulent ballots, they could name just one: a single Ohio man who was caught yesterday trying, unsuccessfully, to cast a fraudulent ballot. Even Florida’s Republican governor says that his fellow Republicans may be exaggerating the problem.
…Voter suppression practices are the flip side of such efforts. Suppression efforts can appear innocuous, such as requiring voters to show photo I.D.s – a requirement that excludes a surprising number of poor, minority, very young and very old voters and kept several elderly nuns from voting in Indiana’s Democratic primary this year. Suppression can pose as false righteousness, such as Fox News’s 342 negative mentions of a single voter-registration group in just four days (casting the group’s efforts to register underrepresented demographics as a threat to democracy, and frightening voters registered by that group into thinking that their registrations might be unlawful), or the past Republican practice of stationing armed, uniformed “Ballot Integrity” personnel in minority polling places (again, tamping down turnout). And there is no lack of flatly illegal suppression schemes, such as vote “caging” (in which voter resident status is challenged merely because their house is in foreclosure or because a piece of direct mail was returned by the post office), robo-calls falsely telling voters their polling places have changed, and deceptive flyers (like the ones posted in Pennsylvania’s inner-city and college neighborhoods, warning of police plans to arrest voters for unpaid child support or parking tickets).
The parties argue every year over whether vote suppression or vote fraud is the greater threat to democracy, but the numbers suggest that it’s no contest: about six people are convicted each year of actually casting ballots fraudulently, while hundreds of thousands of people who are entitled to vote fail to do so because of misinformation, intimidation, deception, or bureaucratic hurdles.

Bellows also links to an illuminating interview with with Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Greg Palast on the sordid history of massive vote suppression by the GOP.

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