Every election, Republicans claim that there is voter fraud occurring that benefits Democrats. This year, Republican ire is focused on Acorn. Republicans know that these claims are false and that the charges against Acorn make no sense, but there is a strategic function this obfuscation serves.
First, let’s dispense with the nonsensical voter fraud charges. Every election year, many organizations of which Acorn is only one, hire people to register voters. Those hired are paid by the amount of applications they are able to have completed by new voters. Finding people who are not registered is difficult work and some of the hired want to be paid for not working so they forge applications and turn them in. By law in almost every state, organizations such as Acorn MUST submit every application they receive from their workers. The reasons for this are obvious. If your organization has a political bent, you could decide to submit only those from voters who intend to register as a member of the party of your preference. The law is designed to prevent this from happening.
Thus, when Acorn received back registration forms that were suspect, they had to submit them. That is the end of that story... except for a few things. In every case in counties where Acorn was having registration efforts, Acorn told election officials which batch of voter registrations it suspected of being fraudulent, but there is something more basic than that preventing voter fraud.
For voter fraud to work and have an impact, not only to the registrations have to be submitted, someone has to be at an address indicated by the forged application to receive the voter ID card and then use that card at an actual polling station and present some sort of identification showing the registered name and that address. The identification doesnt have to be sophisticated, it can be a utility bill or something similar, but the chances of someone voting as Tony Romo (besides the real Dallas Quarterback) or Mickey Mouse are slim to none.
The crime of voter fraud is a serious felony in every state and people who are caught spend time in jail. Those perpetrating this crime would be doing so without any monetary or other possible compensation, i.e. little reward for serious risk. For Republicans to assert that this happens and happens in numbers enough to affect an election is preposterous in the extreme. No one should accept that assertion without proof. There are two additional points I would make about this.
First, in the last two elections, if voter fraud had occurred, you would expect to see a 'blue shift' in affected counties and states. That is to say, that there would be a discernable difference between how those counties and states polled prior to the election and the actual result and this difference would benefit Democrats. However, in virtually every instance in swing states and their counties, when over the last several election cycles there are differences between the pre-election polling and the results, you see red shifts, not blue shifts. Republicans seem to be the beneficiaries of any discrepancies, not Democrats.
Second, looking at this logically, one cannot imagine that in rural or suburban areas you would have enough fraudulently registered people show up and not seem out of place to the people who live there ("Hey you, I've never seen you before, where do you live again? I know where that is supposed to be and that isn't a real address" or, "I know who really lives there and you don't"). The risk would be too high to do this in rural or suburban areas, so we would have to assume that if this were occurring, it would be happening in major cities. The problem is that in large cities we have been seeing issues with long lines of voters spending hours in line trying to vote. The implication of this should be obvious. For voter fraud to have an impact, one would have to vote more than once using multiple voter IDs. How many times, in a major city, could one do this if one has to wait in lines for hours to vote?
Two days ago, The New York Times released an article after having examined the claims McCain and the Republican Party were making against Acorn and found them to be completely unfounded. See http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/17/opinion/17fri1.html
The more you look at the allegations of voter fraud, the more ridiculous they seem. Now let's look at what these charges against Acorn are meant to hide or obfuscate. For that, let's start back at the 2000 election.
This article http://archive.salon.com/politics/feature/2000/12/04/voter_file/index.html describes one instance of Republican Election Fraud. In this article, it is described how Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris hired a company with strong ties to the Republican Party to provide a voter purge list from the list of felons from various states. The state then purged from the voter rolls anyone who had a name even remotely similar to that of a felon:
If Vice President Al Gore is wondering where his Florida votes went, rather than sift through a pile of chad, he might want to look at a "scrub list" of 173,000 names targeted to be knocked off the Florida voter registry by a division of the office of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris. A close examination suggests thousands of voters may have lost their right to vote based on a flaw-ridden list that included purported "felons" provided by a private firm with tight Republican ties.
"We did run some number stats and the number of blacks [on the list] was higher than expected for our population," says Chuck Smith, a statistician for the [Hillsborough] county. Iorio [Then Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections] acknowledged that African-Americans made up 54 percent of the people on the original felons list, though they constitute only 11.6 percent of Hillsborough's voting population.
Smith added that the DBT computer program automatically transformed various forms of a single name. In one case, a voter named "Christine" was identified as a felon based on the conviction of a "Christopher" with the same last name. Smith says ChoicePoint would not respond to queries about its proprietary methods. Nor would the company provide additional verification data to back its fingering certain individuals in the registry purge. One supposed felon on the ChoicePoint list is a local judge.
The article goes on to make a strong case that at least 7000 voters were inappropriately disenfranchised in Florida by this list and the majority of them were black. Let’s say that means 3500 inappropriately disenfranchised voters were black. Gore got 90% of the black vote in Florida in 2000 so that number equates to 3150 votes for Gore and 350 votes for Bush. Since the certified difference in Florida was a 537 margin for Bush, the Katherine Harris purge gave Bush the White House regardless of any recount or chads or butterfly ballots.