When I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, I argued that voter fraud “simply doesn’t exist”. Mea maxima culpa. Unsurprisingly, the right has, yet again, beat the opposition to the punch, and have done so quite cleverly. They have framed the issue of Voter ID legislation in easily digestible language that is difficult to refute with equal parsimony, knowing full well that the impact will be distributed asymmetrically across SES categories. Furthermore, by deploying an army of “volunteers”, organisations such as True the Vote, motivated solely by a concern for the crumbling integrity of American elections, have succeeded in harassing legitimate voters predominantly in precincts that vote Democratic.
Simultaneous to playing defense, the right is also playing offense. The RNC and various state Republican parties had hired Strategic Allied Consulting to lead a registration drive in Florida, Colorado, North Carolina, Nevada, and Virginia. Over the past week or so, allegations of fraud in these registration efforts have surfaced in 10 Florida counties and in Colorado, leading the RNC to sack the firm from its registration drive.
The numbers are small; adding the instances discussed in the NYT article amount to little more than 100. As I argued before, the incentives required to induce somebody to vote once, let alone often, is high enough on an individual basis that to swing even a relatively minor election requires considerable investment. However, this article also lists two occasions where those registering voters on behalf of SAC dispose of Democratic registrations. This might be a larger problem. One notably dim witted employee of SAC lacked the presence of mind required to forgo honesty about the process:
In Colorado, a young woman employed by Strategic Allied was shown on a video outside a store in Colorado Springs recently telling a potential voter that she wanted to register only Republicans and that she worked for the county clerk’s office.
The owner of Strategic Allied Consulting, a Nathan Sproul, has been suspected of systematic fraud in the past. In 2004, he was investigated by the Justice Department and the Attorneys General of Oregon, Arizona, and Nevada for “widespread” voter fraud. He was previously Executive Director of the Arizona Republican Party. It is inconceivable that neither the RNC nor the various state parties were unaware of his history when they hired him to do the very job that triggered investigations in the past. SAC tops the Florida State Republican Party expenditure list for 2012. They had to know what they were buying.
Balloon Juice sums it up rather nicely, complete with puppies and kittens:
I’ll admit my first thought was that animal shelters and rescues groups keep carefully updated “Do Not Adopt” lists of individuals known to be hoarders, abusers, and/or generally unfit to have pets. You’d think political organizations would have an equivalent “Do Not Hire” list for people previously convicted of voter fraud and other chicanery… unless, of course, that’s exactly the kind of behavior the GOP/RNC/Romney campaign is hiring Sproul to commit?
Righteous defender of Democratic integrity Sproul was also hired by the Romney campaign in June as a consultant.
The story here isn’t that there’s voter fraud in Florida or other places, which requires the perfect storm to have an effect on an electoral outcome beyond insignificant. Nor is it the ongoing destruction of Democratic registration forms, which if systematic and methodical, could have a larger impact, but still negligible. The story, of course, is that while the right are deeply suspicious that the left will stop at nothing to “win” an election, including fraud, to the point that they’ve passed voter ID legislation in several states and are out in some force harassing voters in Democratic precincts, no evidence of systematic conspiratorial fraud has surfaced tied to the left, organisations affiliated with the left, Democratic campaigns, or the Democratic Party. The closest the right has come to identifying anything remotely systematic was ACORN, which, as Brad Friedman notes early and often, is not comparable:
ACORN, the non-partisan, four-decade old community organizing group (which has since been forced into bankruptcy as a result of the years-long GOP effort to mischaracterize them and their work) there is no evidence, to our knowledge, that any of its tens of thousands of registration workers ever screened out potential registrants from one party or another before allowing them to register, as seen in CO.
Neither is there evidence that any of their workers ever changed party affiliations on registration forms, as is being alleged tonight in Palm Beach County, or destroyed Democratic forms, as has been alleged over the years, as noted by Republican Rep. Cannon.
. . .
Of course, there is no real comparison to ACORN. Unlike Sproul’s outfits, the non-partisan community organizing group was never hired by the Democratic Party to do voter registration work. Moreover, it was ACORN themselves who discovered fraud by a handful of its more than ten thousand workers and notified officials of the fraud and the names of those who had defrauded them.
As perhaps best described by former Republican Rep. Chris Cannon of Utah, during a 2009 voter suppression hearing: “The difference between ACORN and Sproul is that ACORN doesn’t throw away or change registration documents after they have been filled out.”
Sproul’s proclivities were noted by a Republican during a Congressional hearing, yet he was still hired by the Romney campaign, the RNC, and several state parties to continue his questionable practices all the while decrying voter fraud as an evil that could very well undermine the republic itself.
Man, you just gotta love these guys.
UPDATE: in response to a couple commenters, a distinction should be made between voter fraud, and voter registration fraud. TPM have an article here. That said, I wonder if this distinction isn’t borderline semantic, and invite discussion. It could be argued that the end effect is what matters; a fraudulent registration leads to the possibility of a fraudulent vote, and more critically, the suppression of Democratic registration forms eliminates those votes from the electorate, the impact, while unmeasurable, is certainly more significant than fraudlent voting in the first place. However, ultimately, the result is the same in the aggregate: a fraudlent vote adds one illegitimate vote to the tally of a candidate, a fraudulent (non) registration subtracts one legitimate vote from the tally of a candidate.