Voter Fraud, It needs to be addressed

Falsified registrations become votes

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Early voters in Alaska.

Early voters take to the ballot boxes in Alaska on Oct. 31.
Photo: AP


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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 GOP 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 of 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.”

The office of Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner responded to Fund’s article. Fund, in turn, replied to the criticism.

Excerpt: 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.

Brunner’s response: First, this information has
always been available to Ohio’s boards of elections, just not in the
form that plaintiffs like the Ohio GOP have requested. In fact, the
Bush Department of Justice has praised our office’s cooperation and
implementation of the database, and the US Supreme Court ruled against
the Ohio GOP in their legal efforts. Second, we have not received a
single request from a board of elections for this information. Only the
Ohio GOP has requested it. A Republican county prosecutor did attempted
to subpoena the office for that information, but a court squashed the
subpoena.

Fund’s response is forthcoming.

Excerpt: 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.

Brunner’s response: First, Secretary Brunner did
not receive any support from any ACORN or ACORN-allied organization in
her successful run for secretary of State. As a result, it is false to
claim that she was elected in 2006 with any support from ACORN. Second,
Karyn Gillette worked as a consultant on the campaign for 5 months. At
some point after leaving the campaign, Ms. Gillette apparently took a
job working for Project Vote. We cannot speak to any duties she might
have had at Project Vote, as Secretary Brunner has not been in contact
with Ms. Gillette for a very long time. Lastly, this sentence is
clearly intended to distort the truth and misrepresent the facts in
such a way as to create a link between Secretary Brunner and ACORN that
simply does not exist.

Fund’s response: I thought I had made it clear that Ms.
Gillette was first Ms. Brunner’s consultant and was then development
director for ACORN’s Project Vote in 2007, the next year after she
served as consultant to Ms. Brunner’s Ohio campaign. In other words,
she did not hold two jobs at the same time. I should have made it more
clear by adding the word “later” to that sentence.

Excerpt: 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. 

Brunner’s response: This is a blatant attempt to
conflate two different issues. While 13 people did misunderstand Ohio’s
residency requirements, they all withdrew their ballots. And they had
nothing to do with voter registration fraud or ACORN.

Fund’s response: My point was very simple and still
stands. Cases are cropping up in Ohio in which people have registered
illegally and then cast illegal early or absentee votes. Secretary
Brunner does not dispute that. She just wishes to quibble about what
crime was committed. The prosecutor’s office in Franklin County viewed
the crime as quite serious and it is very concerned there could be
similar examples that will come to light later.

 

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