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Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Are we ever going to clean up voter fraud?

Elections, Voter fraud

http://www.mlive.com/us-politics/index.ssf/2008/11/falsified_registrations_become.html

Falsified registrations become votes, Nov. 2, 2008 

The liberal "community organizing" group ACORN became a campaign issue last month after Nevada's Democratic attorney general and its Democratic secretary of state teamed up to conduct a highly visible raid of the group's Las Vegas offices. They seized files on what could be thousands of fraudulent voter registrations.

After ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, complained the raid was a "stunt" designed to hinder its efforts at minority registration, Larry Lomax, the chief elections officer in Las Vegas, responded that the group's claims it had extensive quality controls to catch fraudulent registrations were "pathetic." He noted that ACORN had hired 59 inmates from a work-release program at a nearby prison and that some inmates who had been convicted of identity theft had been made supervisors. That led some local wags to joke that at least ACORN was hiring specialists to do their work.

ACORN's second line of defense has been that fraudulent registrations can't turn into fraudulent votes, as if the felony of polluting voter lists was somehow not all that serious. But that defense goes only a short distance. "How would you know if people using fake names had cast votes in states without strict ID laws?" says Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, who this year won a major Supreme Court case upholding his state's photo identification law. "It's almost impossible to detect and once the fraudulent voter leaves the precinct or casts an absentee ballot, that vote is thrown in with other secret ballots there's no way to trace it."

Anita MonCrief, an ACORN whistle-blower who worked for both it and its Project Vote registration affiliate from 2005 until early this year, agrees. "It's ludicrous to say that fake registrations can't become fraudulent votes," she told me. "I assure you that if you can get them on the rolls you can get them to vote, especially using absentee ballots." MonCrief, a 29-year old University of Alabama graduate who wanted to become part in the civil rights movement, worked as a strategic consultant for ACORN as well as a development associate with Project Vote and sat in on meetings with the national staffs of both groups. She has given me documents that back up many of her statements, including one that indicates that the goal of ACORN's New Mexico affiliate was that only 40 percent of its submitted registrations had to be valid.

MonCrief also told me that some ACORN affiliates had a conscious strategy of flooding voter registration offices with suspect last-minute forms in part to create confusion and chaos that would make it more likely suspect voters would be allowed to cast ballots by overworked officials. Nate Toller, who worked on ACORN registration drives and headed an ACORN campaign against Wal-Mart in California until 2006, agrees. "There's no quality control on purpose, no checks and balances," he told me.

There are already documented examples of fraudulent registrations being converted into fraudulent votes in Ohio, where ACORN and other groups were active. Darrell Nash, an ACORN registration worker, submitted an illegal form for himself and then cast a paper ballot during the state's "early voting" period.

Franklin County prosecutor Ron O'Brien also cracked down in the case of 13 out-of-state registrants who came to Ohio to register voters in Columbus for the group Vote From Home. The group all lived out of the same rented 1,175-square-foot house in Ohio, registered to vote and then most of them either cast early voting ballots or submitted applications for absentee ballots before leaving the state. They have agreed to have all of their ballots canceled in exchange for the prosecutor's decision not to file charges.

The Columbus Dispatch reported last month that "none of them seems to have ties to Ohio" — and apparently had no intention of staying there. One has even moved back to England, where he is a student. It is illegal in almost all states to vote somewhere that is not your permanent residence.

The owner of the house the fraudulent voters stayed at is also under investigation. He has voted in Ohio even though he has lived and worked in New York for the past four years.

Many are concerned that other fraudulent votes could be cast in Ohio. 

Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner admits that some 200,000 newly registered Ohio voters have been flagged by her office because their names, addresses, driver's license numbers, and/or Social Security numbers don't match other state or federal records. She is refusing to release the information on those registrants to county election boards that have requested them for the purpose of running further checks. Ms. Brunner was elected in 2006 with the support of ACORN, and indeed her campaign consultant that year was Karyn Gillette, who happened to be MonCrief's immediate superior at ACORN's Project Vote.

"I'd be very suspicious of what is going on in Ohio," MonCrief told me.

Other states provide other examples. Marybeth Brehany of Sioux City, Iowa, filed a sworn affidavit stating that she has discovered that several individuals unknown to her had registered to vote at her address. One of them, a David Loepp, had already requested and received an absentee ballot at his new address in, of all places, Rome, Italy. A 2005 Tennessee state Senate race was voided after evidence of voting by felons, nonresidents and the deceased who had been registered illegally. A Washington State Superior Court judge found that the state's 2004 gubernatorial race, which Democrat Christine Gregoire won by 133 votes, had included at least 1,678 illegal votes.

Perhaps the clearest look at how fraudulent registrations can be converted into votes comes from Wisconsin. Earlier this year, the Milwaukee Police Department's Special Investigation Unit released a stunning 67-page report detailing an "illegal organized attempt to influence the outcome" of the 2004 presidential election. 

It noted many documented cases of staffers for a presidential campaign and an allied 527 group who illegally voted. Those involved in the scheme "represent multiple levels of both the organizations, from upper management to the street level canvassers." The task force report found many ineligible voters had cast ballots, ineligible felons not only had voted but also worked at the polls, transient college students had cast illegal votes along with day-trippers from nearby Chicago, and homeless voters may well have voted more than once.

The Milwaukee police report explained just how easy it is to cast an illegal vote without ever being detected., "Michael A. Smith can become Mike Smith, M.A. Smith, or Mickey Smith, depending on the person reviewing the Same Day registration card, and unless a specific allegation is made against one of those name variants, the new name would just be added to the overall database. Even if the new system were capable of discerning the differences in recorded names, the finding would not be discovered until after any multiple ballots had been cast and recorded." Indeed, the task force found that 1,100 registration cards filled in by voters were declared invalid or untraceable by election officials.

Another way that fraudulent registrations can be converted into illegal votes is when groups like ACORN either purposely or recklessly sign up visitors from out-of-state or felons who are ineligible to vote. The New York Daily News reported in August, 2004 on how some 46,000 New Yorkers are registered to vote in both the city and Florida, what it called a "shocking finding" because it "found that between 400 and 1,000 registered voters have voted twice in at least one election, a federal offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine," and noted that "efforts to prevent people from registering in more than one state rely mostly on the honor system."

Last month, the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel reported that some 5,000 felons who do not have the right to vote have apparently voted in recent elections in Florida. Their illegal registrations turned into actual votes. The Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post had similar findings in May 2001 on the presidential election held the year previously. Reporters have found that that the number of illegal felon registrations that were cast that year was greater than the number of valid voters dropped from the voter rolls and thus blocked from voting. The Florida presidential vote — and the presidency — was decided in 2000 by only 537 votes.

Even if the problem of voter fraud caused by voter impersonation isn't as serious as some fear, Stuart Taylor of the National Journal notes that "polls show voters increasingly distrust the integrity of the electoral process." He also cites a 2006 NBC/Wall Street Journal nationwide poll which found that, by 80 percent to 7 percent, those surveyed supported voters showing "a valid photo identification." The idea had overwhelming support among all races and income groups.

That sweeping support helps explain why, in 2005, 18 of 21 members of a bipartisan federal commission headed by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker came out in support of photo ID requirements more stringent than Indiana's. "Voters in nearly 100 democracies use a photo identification card without fear of infringement on their rights," the commission stated.

Carter feels strongly about voter fraud. In his book, "Turning Point," he wrote of his race for Georgia state Senate in 1962, which involved a corrupt local sheriff who had cast votes for the dead. It took a recount and court intervention before Carter was declared the winner.

He and other supporters of stricter safeguards to protect voter integrity recognize there are two civil rights in play here. One is the right to cast a ballot without fear or intimidation or artificial barriers. We fought a great struggle in the 1960s to eliminate poll taxes, literacy tests and pass a Voting Rights Act to protect the right to vote. But all Americans have another civil right — the right not to have their ballot canceled out by someone who shouldn't be voting, is voting twice or may not even exist. You can be just as surely disenfranchised by someone canceling out your vote as if someone blocked your entry into a courthouse door where a polling place was located.

As Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, puts it: "From voter fraud to election chicanery of all kinds, America teeters on the edge of scandal every November. Unless we take serious steps at reform, sooner or later we're headed for more disasters as bad or worse than what we saw in Florida in 2000."

That's why the activities of groups like ACORN have to be taken seriously, and why a robust debate needs to be held on how we can protect both the civil right to vote and the civil right to be protected from voter fraud.

John Fund is a columnist with the Wall Street Journal's website and the author of "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy."

 

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