It must be October before a presidential election again because Republicans are into full voter suppression and intimidation mode once again. Filled with pretend rage against supposed “voter fraud” they are attacking the groups which register the poor, disenfranchised, poverty stricken populations.
Of course poor people are most likely to vote Democratic so the GOP goes on their soapbox every four years to try and frighten them into staying home. We witnessed this in Berks County in October 2004. Republican Commissioner Mark C. Scott (now the Commissioner’s Chair thanks to a smear campaign by Democratic committee people against our own) led the charge. He was joined by V. Kurt Bellman the Elections Commissioner.
Reading is about 50% Hispanic and the climate was so toxic the Justice Department monitored elections for several years to insure fairness. The County was fined for refusing to print ballots in Spanish even though they’d been printed in German for several hundred years. People suddenly objected to bi-language ballots when it was people of color voting.
Scott and Bellman went on a voter suppression rampage in the three weeks preceding the 2004 election accusing voter registration groups of committing massive fraud. Headlines in the Reading Eagle claimed there were 7000 fraudulent forms submitted and that people would be going to jail if they voted.
After the election 25, count them 25, voter registration forms were submitted by V. Kurt Bellman for investigation. None were deemed worthy of prosecution by the then GOP District Attorney. None. Zilch. Nada. Zero.
Fast forward four years and we’re seeing the same, identical hysteria over voter registration efforts by minority groups. How long will we keep allowing this nonsense and believing these fools? Why do we keep giving them attention for their ludicrous claims?
The rate of actual voter fraud in this country is negligible. Especially compared with the voter intimidation and suppression which is the real issue. This is the Republican Party engaging in very real intimidation tactics. Fliers were actually distributed around Philadelphia this fall telling Blacks they’d be subject to arrest warrant searches if they voted.
Now ACORN is being vilified as a voter fraud operation. I’m familiar with ACORN. I attended their presidential forum (which Barack Obama did NOT attend, mind you) and have covered their myriad good works. ACORN was in the forefront of warning about predatory lenders, sub prime mortgage lending practices, the need for affordable housing and many other issues adversely affecting the poor being perpetrated by Republicans in Washington.
ACORN is a strong advocate for the poor and the GOP wants to destroy the organization. They are doing so with non stop coverage on their propaganda network Fox News. Here’s what happened in Nevada…
ACORN ran a successful voter registration operation and registered 80,000 new voters. They submitted the forms and kept aside a group bundled separately which they suspected may be problematic. In fact, what ACORN did was segregate suspicious forms and submit them with the caveat that they might not be good.
ACORN employs minority and poor people to do voter registration work. Many of those working the poor neighborhoods cannot afford to volunteer to do this work so ACORN pays them per registration form. Some of these people, as have some Republicans on Wall Street, got greedy and milked the system. ACORN weeded out what they thought might be suspicious documents and told the Clark County officials to examine them for fraud.
What happened? The Republicans saw this as an opportunity to engage in voter intimidation, get sensational headlines and engage in voter suppression tactics. They raided the ACORN office! Yes, they conducted a raid after ACORN told them some of the forms may be fraudulent.
When you conduct a voter registration drive you are required, by law, to submit every form and register every voter who wished to complete a form. Election service departments then sift through the forms and check them for duplicates (if people aren’t sure they are registered you have them resubmit to be absolutely sure they can vote), and check to be sure those wishing to vote are eligible.
Yes, there are always duplicate registrations. The GOP has such a history of purging voter lists these days one never takes a chance and has a voter resubmit a voter registration form if they have any doubt about their status. Republicans are actually purging voters all across the country but this doesn’t seem to get headlines. Florida purged 50,000 African Americans in 2000 because they had the same surname as convicted felons. If a “Smith” or “Johnson” had a felony and you were another “Smith” or “Johnson” in a minority neighborhood you lost your right to vote.
Where was that story?
Instead we have this hysteria on Fox News over ACORN. Here are several statements on this from ACORN and the Pennsylvania Democratic Party:
Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairman T.J. Rooney made the
following statement in response to the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s
latest attempt to distract voters from the disastrous Bush-McCain economic
“Senator Barack Obama’s call for change has prompted thousands of
Pennsylvanians to join the voting rolls, eager to participate in this
historic election. The campaign, working with the Pennsylvania Democratic
Party, has built an unprecedented ground operation – and we’ve done it
without the help of outside groups. We will continue our fight to ensure
that Pennsylvanians can exercise their right to vote.
“This clearly frightens the McCain-Palin campaign and the Pennsylvania
Republican Party. These lies and smears are just another desperate attempt
to distract Pennsylvania voters from the disastrous Bush-McCain economic
policies that have led to the greatest financial crisis since the Great
Advocates say that voter registration drives have come under recent partisan attack due to their success in helping to register new voters this year, including 1.3 million through ACORN¹s joint effort with Project Vote.According to these experts, spreading fears of fraudulent voting which happens less often in the U.S. than death by lightning is done to discredit voter registration efforts and justify restrictive laws that place additional barriers to full participation for all Americans.
October 13, 2008, Miami, FL – U.S. Senator John McCain’s recent attacks on the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), are puzzling given his historic support for the organization and its efforts on behalf of immigrant Americans. As recently as February 20, 2006, Senator McCain was the keynote speaker at an ACORN-sponsored Immigration Rally in Miami, Florida at Miami Dade College – Wolfson Campus.
The rally, co-sponsored by ACORN in partnership with the New American Opportunity campaign (NAOC), Catholic League Services – Archdiocese of Miami, Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Miami Dade College, People for the American Way/Mi Familia/Vota en Accion, the Service Employees International Union, and UNITE/HERE, was intended to call attention to the need for comprehensive immigration reform.
Senator McCain spoke at the rally attended by hundreds of ACORN members, most of whom were dressed in the red shirts typical of its members. Senator McCain’s speech focused on the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, a bipartisan, comprehensive reform bill, which McCain sponsored with Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA).
Bertha Lewis, Chief Organizer of ACORN, said, “It has deeply saddened us to see Senator McCain abandon his historic support for ACORN and our efforts to support the goals of low-income Americans. Maybe it is out of desperation that Senator McCain has forgotten that he was for ACORN before he was against ACORN; he was for immigration reform before he was against immigration reform; and he was a maverick before he became erratic. We were thrilled to partner with him to help reform the outdated immigration laws in this country, and were pleased to work closely with him on this issue.”
Lewis continued, “We expected Senator McCain to support our efforts to give voice to millions of American’s who have never participated in an election before. We are surprised at his efforts to vilify an organization that, until recently, he saw as an ally. Maybe this surprise attack and change of heart is indicative of his state of mind, and the way he would govern.”
Senator McCain and his campaign have recently launched a series of coordinated attacks on ACORN, the nation’s largest community organization of low-and middle-income families.
Ms. Lewis went on to say that, “We are sure that the extremists he is trying to get into a froth will be even more excited to learn that John McCain stood shoulder to shoulder with ACORN, at an ACORN co-sponsored event, to promote immigration reform.”
Senator McCain was joined at the rally by Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL), Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), leaders from both political parties, immigrant communities, and members of labor, business, and religious organizations.
Isn’t it odd that John McCain is now attacking ACORN after attending an ACORN event?
ACORN responded to McCain’s smear campaign with this statement:
“For almost a decade, ACORN, a community organization of 400,000 families in neighborhoods across the country, has been fighting against the predatory lending practices that have robbed our members of their homes, destabilized neighborhoods, and roiled the global economy.”
“In his newest ad, John McCain’s campaign bizarrely claims, “ACORN forced banks to issue risky home loans, the same types of loans that caused the financial crisis we’re in today.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, ACORN has worked successfully to help working class families get good home loans on fair terms from legitimate banks and has fought vigorously against predatory lenders who have ripped off families in our communities. These predatory loans caused the crisis.”
“For more than a decade, ACORN members have held protests, released reports, and advocated for regulations to protect homeowners from predatory lenders. ACORN organizers and volunteers have been working day and night to help victims of the GOP economic meltdown to save their homes from foreclosure. In fact, ACORN has brought class action lawsuits against several predatory lenders, and has lobbied the Federal Reserve and Congress in support of regulations against predatory lending. ACORN has even been successful in convincing many lenders to treat homeowners more fairly and help families be able to make their mortgage payments and save their homes.”
“Unfortunately, the Bush administration and Congressional Republicans like John McCain have blocked the sensible regulations that ACORN and others proposed that would have averted the mortgage meltdown. If John McCain thinks that community organizers caused the foreclosure crisis, he knows even less about the economy than previously thought.”
“John McCain and the Republicans are desperately trying to shift the blame for the economic crisis they caused with a philosophy of deregulation and indifference to homeowners. All the grainy footage and creepy music in the world can’t cancel out some simple, basic facts, and the facts about the economy are not on John McCain’s side.”
Some fact checking:
Bogus “Voter Fraud Charges” Aim to Camouflage Voter Suppression
ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) has just completed the largest, most successful nonpartisan voter registration drive in US history. We helped 1.3 million low-income, minority and young voters across the country register to vote.
Unfortunately, just as in 2006, that success in bringing people into the democratic process, have been greeted with unfounded accusations to disparage our work and help maintain the status quo of an unbalanced electorate.
After a similar spate of charges against ACORN in 2006, we learned that then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had fired Republican US Attorneys because they refused to prosecute ACORN and other voter assistance groups on trumped up fraud charges. This was the heart of the US Attorney-gate scandal that led Karl Rove, Gonzales and other top Department of Justice officials to resign. Because the press didn’t catch on until long after the election, it was part of a successful strategy to create an unfounded specter of voter fraud and to suppress voting.
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.
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.
ACORN will not be intimidated, we will not be provoked, and in this important moment in history we will not allow anyone to distract us from these vital efforts to empower our constituencies and our communities to speak for themselves.
Yes, it is silly season once again and Republicans like Mark Scott and V. Kurt Bellman are in voter intimidation mode all over the country. After the election it will all disappear except that then the GOP will claim we need to pass legislation to eliminate the poor and elderly from the polls under the rubric of voter fraud.
Isn’t it time we got smart to these tactics and exposed the real story here? This isn’t about voter fraud it is about vote suppression and voter intimidation.