Ask me, again, why I am Mad.

We have laws to prevent bogus “voter fraud” but what about voter suppression? Attempts like this:

Late last month, as a voter-registration drive by supporters of Senator Barack Obama was signing up thousands of students at Virginia Tech, the local registrar of elections issued two releases incorrectly suggesting a range of dire possibilities for students who registered to vote at their college.

The releases warned that such students could no longer be claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns, a statement the Internal Revenue Service says is incorrect, and could lose scholarships or coverage under their parents’ car and health insurance.

After some inquiries from students and parents, and more pointed questions from civil rights lawyers, the state board of elections said Friday that it was “modifying and clarifying” the state guidelines on which the county registrar had based his releases.

Boil my bleeding heart. Republicans frequently counter with, “Democrats inflate voter rolls!” however, as the Slate article states there is no proof of poling place fraud. The same cannot be said for voter suppression:

A 1982 federal court decree barred the Republican National Committee from caging after the RNC targeted African-American and Hispanic voters in New Jersey. That decision was reaffirmed in 1986 in a separate case involving African-American voters in Louisiana. Since then, state Republican Parties have contended in recent litigation that these rulings only apply to the RNC, as state parties are different political entities.

There was also voter caging in 2004 and the Bush Administrations Department of Justice sided with (SURPRISE!) the RNC:

While the court battles were playing out in New Jersey and Ohio in the days and hours leading up to the 2004 election – with the rights of minority voters hanging in the balance – did the Department of Justice step in to enforce the Voting Rights Act and attempt to stop the targeting of minority voters (who lean strongly Democratic in their voting choices) ?

No. Perversely, the Justice Department actually sent a letter to the Ohio federal judge overseeing the lawsuit in defense of the challenge statute that was being used as a basis for the vote caging scheme. According to DOJ, the vote challenge procedure in Ohio was important because it helped strike “a balance between ballot access and ballot integrity.”[6] Never mind that it targeted minority voters, as the Jesse Helms campaign had done in 1990. It appears DOJ felt ballot integrity was far more important to their political agenda than ballot access.

Voter Suppression has been a part of the Republican’s dirty trick box for years. With Obama’s registration drives I’m damn sure we’ll see it again.

14 thoughts on “Ask me, again, why I am Mad.

  1. Virginia’s laws for student registration are vague; I know, I’m a native. I did it the “conventional” way in 1984 and 1986 and voted absentee in my home county while I was a resident student at James Madison University 90 miles away, after I couldn’t figure out if I was allowed to vote in Harrisonburg or not. The laws allow too much wiggle room for individual registrars to interpret, and registrars can’t win because as soon as they try to clarify the laws either way, one or both parties will jump down their throats.

    That having been said, the gist is that students, like everybody else, are supposed to vote in the jurisdiction of their primary residence. If you’re a nine-month-a-year student at Virginia Tech, but you are still claimed by your parents as a dependent, your primary residence is where your parents live, not Blacksburg, and that’s where you should vote, absentee or early or whatever. This isn’t “RNC voter suppression onoz,” it’s trying to make sure that a person votes in one jurisdiction, and one only. It would go much more smoothly if Virginia would just tighten their laws up in terms of defining what makes a college student a “resident” of the college town.

    BTW, “‘bogus’ voter fraud?” Oh, Marty, don’t make me start dredging up the list of irregularities that ACORN’s been nailed for since 2000. Both sides need to be very aware of potential voter fraud, which is why I’m 100% dead-set for an ironclad photo ID rule in order to vote. No ID, no vote, no exception, and none of this “provisional ballot” funny business.

  2. It cannot be denied that fanatics in both parties have decided that letting an election go the “wrong” way isn’t something to be left to chance. That given, let’s set aside the issue of fraud per se, and move on to Marty’s basic charge, that Republican’s attempt to systematically disenfranchise democratic leaning voters. (For now, let’s also leave out the allegations that Democrats attempt voter fraud through registering ineligible people, such as the dead.) The real question is, what was the intent behind distributing releases that stated significant negative consequences might fall on those students who registered to vote at their college residences?
    Given that the releases were, uh, released at the direction of one Montgomery County registrar, E. Randall Wertz who happens to be a Republican, it seems legitimate to ask whether the disbursement of this “information” was driven by a desire to minimize the youth vote category, which these days tends to vote Democrat.
    It seems unlikely that it was a sincere effort to clarify rules, in that the tone was so dire, and in that the rules as they stand are so vague. I would ask you if you genuinely think that WErtz’s motivation was pure, but it isn’t really necessary. In this statement from Wertz’s office, it is admitted that the initial claims released by his office were not grounded in policy. (
    So, if policy was not his guide, are we truly being presumptuous in guessing that his real motivation was that he simply didn’t like how those students registering were likely to vote? Given the Obama voter drives taking place on campus shortly before the releases, I think it likely he was engaging in a mild form of voter suppression. (I admit, this is circumstantial, but alas, so much of life is. Oh, for a syllogism!)
    The question is, is this sort of behavior endemic to the Republican Party?
    It seems to me that while it may not be universal, it is certainly present to a degree that’s worrisome. The argument that voter IDs are necessary is a misleading one. They can help, sure, in that they distinguish between legitimate voters and illegitimate voters. The real question is, are there enough illegitimate voters trying to effect our elections that a screening process so elementary as voter id is necessary? If there were, there should be high rates of voter fraud, but despite the presence of ACORN employees taking elections into their own hands, in general fraud isn’t an issue. (In the recent suits in Indiana over voter registration and ID, the Supreme court even admitted that there simply isn’t substantial evidence for endemic voter fraud. Of course, they still ruled in favor of requiring registration, but still…)
    If there isn’t really much fraud, then Republicans as a party are certainly the most crime cautious group ever when it comes to voter fraud…”There isn’t a crime wave yet, but when it comes, we’ll be ready!”
    This isn’t coincidence any more than it’s a random occurrence that most Democrats seem convinced that all that’s necessary to validate a vote is a sincere smile. Each side benefits electorally by minimizing or expanding the voter pool.
    But this brings me back to Marty’s point: Republicans certainly seem to be trying to suppress votes, and there are far more blatant dirty tricks at work. I refer you to Virginia’s own Jean Jensen, the Secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections, who found widespread cases of voter suppression. (
    So, if Republicans are trying to disenfranchise voters, while Democrats are trying to, uh, superfranchise voters, the real question becomes, which is worse?
    I’m sure this will likely break down along Party lines, but I must say that for me personally, it seems far worse to strip from someone their rights than it is to give rights to those who do not deserve them, given a 1:1 ratio. In this case, since actual cases of outright fraudulent votes are so rare, I am even more comofrtable in asserting that one good vote, legitimately cast by an actual citizen certainly outweighs a theoretical fraudulent vote that might happen, someday.
    But that’s just me.
    (Please excuse all typos. Thanks!)

  3. Lewis: bring out any evidence you got. Slate has been covering voter fraud for a while, and as of yet I have seen more information regarding voter suppression than voter fraud. Remember, I live in the city that coined the phrase, “vote early, vote often.”

    Seth: the anchor tag is awesome. Snark aside, thanks for the post!

  4. I’m going to go digging for the ACORN information, I know there’s been irregularities in several cities in the Northeast and Upper Midwest.

    Oh, and do you have a link to the registrar’s original statement? The “revised” statement is the only thing that should have come out of that office, IMO, but I’d like to see what the original statement “by an intern” looked like. The NYT doesn’t have the original statement linked either, and it’s even got an Obama spokesperson saying that it didn’t look like an attempt at intimidation. I’m not saying they didn’t trip over their own feet, I’d just like to see it. The “revised” statement is still vague, as the registrar admits, but it’s reasonable.

    As for disenfranchizing vs. “superfranchizing?” (Awesome word, BTW.) They’re both equally bad. I don’t care if there’s two million illegal voters out there with “Kill a Moose for Sarah Palin” T-shirts on ready to vote a straight-line R this fall, if they’re not legal voters, I don’t want them voting. Every legally eligible voter, regardless of their political view, needs to have the opportunity to vote. And no non-eligible voter, regardless of their political view, should have the opportunity to vote. It’s one of the most sacred duties we have as American citizens, one we don’t take nearly seriously enough, and one that we don’t safeguard seriously enough.

  5. “Every legally eligible voter, regardless of their political view, needs to have the opportunity to vote.”

    I put to all of you: What do you do when your party’s political operatives act contrary to this?

  6. We have to hold them accountable. At the very least, a suspension of donations, phone calls to party HQ and letters need to be written.

    Picketing and demonstrating may also be necessary.

  7. Florida has a horrible reputation for disenfranchisng voters. And yet, during the entire furor of 2000, that fact was practically buried under ridiculous protests against hanging chads and the near lynching of a family friend for her, admittedly, badly designed ballot.

  8. If your own party or faction is engaging in fraud it is your duty to report it and aid in the prosecution as much as possible.
    As an aside, I’m curious: do you actually consider an illegitimate vote to be as bad as a legitimate vote is good? Are disenfranchizing and superfranchizing literally equivalent evils? Or does one outweigh the other. What if you could guarantee one only by permitting some of the other? Which would you choose?
    I’ve already said my answer. I think it worse to take away someone’s legitimate right to vote than to allow someone without the right to exercise the privilege.

  9. Marty, I haven’t forgotten this. I’ve got a bunch of links, but I haven’t had the time or energy to “vet” them and make sure they’re legit. It’s been a pretty bad week here in Mooseville, and I’m trying to lay low on the politics so I don’t overreact and rip somebody’s head off. Once I get time to check out what I’ve got, I can put them up here.

    In the meantime, I think you can get some of the same stories by just googling “ACORN voter fraud.” Many of the links I’ve got are to major metro newspapers talking about indictments and trials, so it’s a story that’s gotten coverage in individual cities, not nationally.

  10. Keep a low profile in Mooseville. I hear there’s a hunter out there who likes to make Moose stew.

    A cursory search links to Michelle Malkin, Fox News and a number of right wing blogs. I’ll continue the vetting; however, those sites (and WorldNet Daily) are less factual than a wikipedia article edited by a drunk public official.

  11. OK. Here’s an example of the type of ACORN story I’ve seen again and again:,0,4830442.story

    It’s in Michigan, not Illinois. There’s been similar accusations in Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cleveland. In some cases, they’ve proceeded to criminal investigations, and not fishing expeditions either–you certainly can’t say that any of those cities are exactly Republican strongholds. Maybe it’s attempted vote fraud. Maybe it’s incompetence on a grand scale. Maybe it’s the stupidity of paying people by the filled-out registration instead of paying them an hourly rate. I don’t know.

  12. So I read the article–the Trib doesn’t have nearly as much as the Free Press does.

    Thus far, it has not proceeded to criminal investigations in Michigan; however if they are “superfranchising” voters as per Seth’s term, than ACORN needs to be addressed.

    Regardless, this does not appear to be on the same scale as voter caging and suppression. Again, I point to the Slate article and podcast on this issue. I’m beginning to digest some of that articles sources including this PDF.

    When you get a chance, link more stuff. I am interested in this discussion.

  13. Four ACORN employees indicted on vote fraud charges in Kansas City (11/1/06):

    Local to me, Durham County (NC) elections director asks NC state authorities to examine ~80 ACORN-submitted regs–this is an RNC press release but all it does is quote an article in the Durham Herald-Sun that’s behind a “registered users only” link:{C13C6A8D-FFA9-431E-BC61-9F38CF81A367}&dist=hppr

    Washington (state) authorities indict 7 ACORN workers on vote fraud charges–although these guys did it to get paid, not for political reasons, allegedly:

    Cuyahoga (County, OH) board probes voter registration drive:

    32 Milwaukee voter registration workers turned into DA’s office for possible prosecution:

    Allegations trip up voting rights group (Phildelphia, Denver, Ohio; 10/2/2006):

    Please note that I avoided blogs for sourcing and went with mainstream media sources, except for the one about Durham–and that’s only because I’m not signing up with the local fishwrap to get the story.

    The way I see it, ACORN’s either incredibly sloppy in their internal controls and who they hire to do this, or…well, you can draw your own conclusions as to the “or” part.

    Now, if there’s a proven case of partisan voter caging out there, I’m against that too. I’m a little squeamish about what they’re doing up in Macomb County, MI; I think they’re just trying to make sure whether or not people that have been foreclosed are still living in the county or not, but the appearance is quite bad, and if they’re specifically targeting Democratic precincts instead of the entire county, then they need to put a stop to it, and quickly. (Macomb, IIRC, is a suburban Detroit county that usually trends Republican, but I’m not 100% sure.)

  14. Lewis,

    On the subject of the Seattle issue. Canvasers in the Pacific Northwest are notorious for fluffing up their sheets to get paid. This is part of the reason why Oregon outlawed the “pay per signature” method of reimbursement.

    It doesn’t surprise me at all that this happened. It’s been a problem and will remain one until Washington takes the same steps.

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