For the past several weeks, Republican operatives have been stepping up their efforts in critical swing states claiming voter registration groups have been engaged in a massive voter fraud effort in an attempt to influence the outcome of November’s presidential election.
The allegations took on a new sense of urgency Tuesday when law enforcement authorities in Nevada raided the offices of The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), an organization that advocates voter registration and participation among low-income people and minorities.
ACORN members denied any wrongdoing and claimed the probe is politically motivated by Republicans to suppress voter turnout for Barack Obama.
"Today's raid by the Secretary of State's Office is a stunt that serves no useful purpose other than discredit our work registering Nevadans and distracting us from the important work ahead of getting every eligible voter to the polls," said Bertha Lewis, ACORN's interim chief organizer.
No concrete evidence of systemic voter fraud in the United States has ever surfaced. Many election integrity experts believe claims of voter fraud are a ploy by Republicans to suppress minorities and poor people from voting.
Historically, those groups tend to vote for Democratic candidates. Raising red flags about the integrity of the ballots, experts believe, is an attempt by GOP operatives to swing elections to their candidates as well as an attempt to use the fear of criminal prosecution to discourage individuals from voting in future races.
In March, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration held a hearing and heard testimony from election integrity experts who said voter fraud is a “myth” and voter identification laws actually disenfranchise legitimate voters.
Indeed, in a column published in the Washington Post last year, Justin Levitt, an attorney and expert on voting issues who teaches at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, and Jeff Milyo, a professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia department of economics, said "the notion of widespread voter fraud... is itself a fraud. Evidence of actual fraud by individual voters is painfully skimpy."
ACORN has long been a target of Republican Party operatives dating as far back as the 2004 presidential election. But the accusations of malfeasance have never been supported by evidence.
Last weekend, investigative reporter Brad Friedman and former Justice Department official and GOP operative Hans Von Spakovsky engaged in a heated debate over voter fraud in a segment on the Tavis Smiley radio show. [Full disclosure: Friedman is a contributor to The Public Record].
Von Spakovsky, Friedman wrote on his blog Wednesday, "was...instrumental in bringing phony "voter fraud" charges, such as those against ACORN workers in Missouri, filed just days before the razor-thin 2006 Senate election, in violation of the DoJ's own written rules against bringing such indictments just prior to elections where they are likely to affect the race."
ACORN and U.S. Attorney Firings
In fact, two of the nine U.S. Attorneys who were fired in 2006 were targeted because they refused to bring criminal charges against individuals affiliated with ACORN, according to interviews and a Justice Department report issued last week on the circumstances behind the federal prosecutor firings. The firing of another U.S. Attorney was due, in large part, to his refusal to convene a grand jury and secure an indictment against individuals for voter fraud.
But it’s the firing of former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias and the accusations of voter fraud leveled against ACORN by GOP operatives in that state that appeared to be the most egregious case of partisan politics, according to the DOJ report.
Even President George W. Bush said he was concerned about widespread voter fraud, despite the fact that evidence of such crimes was virtually non-existent. Bush, according to the DOJ report, “spoke with Attorney General Gonzales in October 2006 about their concerns over voter fraud in three cities, one of which was Albuquerque, New Mexico.”