This needs its own thread, because I think this goes beyond the usual electoral dirty tricks. Democrats are always accusing the Republicans of being the dividers, yet whenever they can they play the race card. I find this very, very disturbing:
XXXXX DRUDGE REPORT XXXXX THU OCT 14, 2004 10:58:04 ET XXXXX
DNC ELECTION MANUAL: CHARGE VOTER INTIMIDATION, EVEN IF NONE EXISTS
The Kerry/Edwards campaign and the Democratic National Committee are advising election operatives to declare voter intimidation – even if none exists, the DRUDGE REPORT can reveal.
A 66-page mobilization plan to be issued by the Kerry/Edwards campaign and the Democratic National Committee states: “If no signs of intimidation techniques have emerged yet, launch a ‘pre-emptive strike.’”
The provocative Dem battle plan is to be distributed in dozens of states, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.
One top DNC official confirmed the manual’s authenticity, but claimed the notion of crying wolf on any voter intimidation is “absurd.”
“We all know the Republicans are going to try to steal the election by scaring people and confusing people,” the top DNC source explained.
Developing… [End of Drudge story]
Then, later, the Democrats issued a press release that was long on smears but did not contain a denial of the story – in fact, if you waded through the crap to the bottom, it actually confirmed the story:
The DNC has issued a long statement, http://www.democrats.org/news/200410140008.html
mostly accusing “For decades, Republicans have engaged in systematic voter suppression and intimidation, from throwing minorities off the voter rolls to ripping up Democratic voter registrations. We make no apologies for fighting these tactics by exposing the dirty tricks when they happen, and helping educate local officials and activists about past Republican tactics so they can prevent them from occurring this year.”
They also list what the DNC insists is the complete “section of their field manual titled “How to Organize to Prevent and Combat Voter Intimidation” referred to on the Drudge Report, which focuses on how to detect, prevent, and combat voter intimidation practices.”
But the lines are still in there: “2. If no signs of intimidation techniques have emerged yet, launch a “pre-emptive strike” (particularly well-suited to states in which there techniques have been tried in the past).”
Most people would say, “if no signs of intimidation techniques have emerged yet… then maybe intimidation isn’t going on.” But to the DNC, it’s just a sign that it hasn’t happened yet. And it is an opportunity to “launch a pre-emptive strike,” complaining of voter intimidation. Folks, this is the boy who cried wolf.
Apparently there need not be evidence of wrongdoing for these folks to accuse others of wrongdoing.
This race-baiting strategy is unconscionable, and actually undermines the very foundations of our government. People have to trust that the elections count for a constitutional democratic republic such as ours to work. This sort of strategy of pre-emptive lawsuit strikes claiming the opposite actively undermines our system.
To these guys, winning office is more important than the sanctity of elections. Holding power is more important than the Constitution. Much as I despise at least half of what most Republicans stand for, they don’t seem nearly as willing to trash the system they’re trying to run. Too many Democrats, especially at the national level, just don’t care that our system, our nation is far more important than any single election.
I could mention the Lautenberg Trick in New Jersey. Or Gore’s ballot shenanigans in Florida. Or the voter-registration fraud currently going on in Colorado, Nevada, and elsewhere. Or the Democrats’ successful call to bring election observers into this country. Bring them in from where, Venezuela? Hey, no big deal sullying the reputation of the world’s oldest continuously-functioning democracy, just so long as we can make the Republicans look bad, right?
The rules don’t matter. The reputation of the country doesn’t matter. The political health of the nation doesn’t matter. Power matters.
I don’t mean to say that Republicans haven’t used dirty tricks, or won’t in the future. But I have yet to see them pull anything as crass as replacing a losing candidate with a more-popular one just weeks before election day, and in violation of state law. I have yet to see Republicans calling on the world’s most corrupt international organization, run largely by apparatchiks from the world’s most brutal dictatorships, to pass judgment on how we run our elections. I have yet to see the Republicans encouraging their own to commit fraud by shouting “Fraud!” where none yet exists, putting at risk everything we’ve built here in the last 228 years.
Because, in the end, that’s what the national Democrats are doing: They’re trying, however inadvertently, to destroy the Republic in order to rule it.
Democracy is the free market of political systems. And like any free market, it can’t function without some basic level of trust. That trust comes, slowly, from hammering out rules even competitors can live with. That trust comes, with difficulty, by honoring those rules, even when your candidate doesn’t win. That trust exists in relatively few places around the world.
That trust is hard to come by ? and it’s easy to lose. Ask the German voters of 1933. Or the people who voted in Afghanistan’s first-ever presidential election last week. Or the people of Iraq, whose lives are, quite literally, on the line as they try to make something decent of their nation.
The system, the trust, is far more important than anything else. It’s more important than the White House, or Congress, or Social Security, or jobs, or even the Terror War. Our Constitution is rigged to make it hard for any party to screw things up in the short time of four years. There’s always another election around the corner, if you think the current crop of office-holders is screwing things up ? that’s the beauty of our system.
But maybe there won’t be another election, if you cause the people to lose faith that elections work.
I was raised in a very Republican family. The first election I could vote in was 1988, and I voted straight-ticket Republican. But only the one time. I grew up ? I learned that my own convictions were more important than party affiliation. I learned that my own estimation of individual candidates was more important than whether they had a D or an R next to their names. Since then, I’ve voted for a lot of Democrats, including for President.
Now, I know this is an angry essay. However, I don’t mean to imply that all Democrats are evil and all Republicans are sweetness and light. Far from it. But for the first time in 16 years, I’m going to vote Republican straight down the line. If I have to punish a couple of local Democrats I’m fond of, then so be it, but I have to try to get a point across: The national Democratic Party is bad for this country.
I don’t say that because of their policies, which I probably agree with more than I do the Republicans. But because their tactics would cause more harm to this country than the Federal Marriage Amendment, the Republican budget deficit, and Congress’s corporate tax giveaways, combined.
I’m just one guy; I don’t expect my vote to mean much. But the Democrats are willing to treat ? in advance - my vote, and all it represents, with feigned contempt. So I can’t, in return, treat the Democrats with anything less than genuine contempt.
The problem is that the Democrats think that they are “right” on issues and because they think they are “right” they have license to do whatever it takes to win, no matter how destructive the actions they take might be to a representitive republic.
This attitude is pervasive in the Democrat Party. Read “Rules for Radicals” and you will understand the philosophy that says, “because we are right, anything we do to win is justified by our rightness.” Scary.
Both parties have elements that believe the ends justify the means. You can’t just stick it to one side.
However, reading closely it sounds like the Dems were saying that you can take steps to prevent voter intimidation even if it hasn’t been detected yet.
There is nothing wrong with preventing voter intimidation, however, claiming that improper means would be used to prevent voter intimidation seems a bit far fetched. Both liberals and conservatives could be the targets of voter intimidation and preventing this is an appropriate goal.
Is there actually anything proposed in the Dems literature that says to do something improper, or is it just right wing interpretation saying that “it appears” that such actions “could be” suggested based on “a liberal interpretation” of the material referred to?
Talk about silly world games. Why are republicans playing word games and trying to make something out of nothing all the time?
This seems to be the favorite trick this election. Play word games and inflate everything into a false statement which pretends to represent the supposed intent of a democrat statement. Then attack this false inflated statement as if it was actually made by the dems.
Are you really letting people pull this much wool over your eyes?
This is the worst (and I fear most long-lived) result of Gore’s sour grapes in 2000.
They are already protesting the loss before they have officially lost.
I HOPE that we don’t have recounts every single election.
It sends the wrong message. I guarantee the voter turnout will continue to decrease if this becomes the norm. The luke-warm voter will think, “It’s all a mess. Why vote?”
That would be tragic.
What’s worse, I think Kerry is the kind of slime that will encourage this kind of chaos.
As a side note, I was a little nervous when the competitors in the Afghan election were threatening to boycott the election results. I thought, “My God, they have Democrats in Afghanistan already!!!”
Thankfully, this crises was resolved within a day and the elections appear to have been a success.
Conversely, I think that the move to standardize (at least on a state level) the ballots is a POSITIVE development. Further, the increased attention paid to the ballots may encourage people to read up on voting procedures prior to entering the booth.
I guess the Democrats on this board should grow some stones and accept THE CHALLENGE.
Whom are you quoting with your word games? I looked for your quotes, but didn’t see them anywhere – unless you were just setting up your favorite straw man to argue against?
At any rate, the “pre-emptive strike” is a slimy tactic – issue press releases and whatnot decrying intimidation that isn’t occurring, and associating the intimidation that isn’t occurring with Republicans. Bad stuff.
John Kerry has the capability to eat babies: He has a mouth, teeth, and two hands, each with an opposable thumb.
If he denies it, who cares?? He could do it in the near future.
Preemptive strategies from the DNC is an ironic issue, given the amount of shit the Clintonistas like Begala and Brazille have given President Bush over the false draft issue, but it isn’t new to them. Fear mongering liberals do exist right in front of our collective face, while it seems the only people who get attacked for it currently work in the Bush Administration.
Ted Devine’s response to the DNC memo on Crossfire was clever trasparency: He said something to the extent of “We will not allow another 2000 happen.” Tucker Carlson almost ate his bow tie, but the nuance of election season linguistics is pissing off people of all persuasion.
Secondly, your thread title is a little histrionic for the actual allegations…
“Dems debase the political system”?
Why don’t you start the thread about the GOP-funded group that has been registering voters in multiple states (Nevada for one) and then destroys the applications that are Democratic? Then when the Democratic voter goes to the polls- gee, we have no record of your registration!
The FBI is on this story and it should get more exposure soon.
The FBI is allegedly looking into the charges, which are a felony:
Valley company at center of voter-registration probe
The Arizona Republic
Oct. 15, 2004
A Valley-based political consulting company headed by Arizona’s former Republican Party chief has come under fire in at least two states for allegedly throwing away voter registration cards filled out by Democrats.
But Nathan Sproul, owner of Chandler-based Sproul & Associates Inc., denies the accusations and says there is nothing unethical or illegal about the way he conducted a registration drive for the Republican National Committee.
“Our job was to register as many Republicans as we could,” said Sproul, whose company received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the GOP. “Considering the scope of the project, there have been only two allegations.”
In Nevada, FBI spokesman David Schrom said agents are gathering information from former Sproul canvasser Eric Russell, who claims he retrieved Democrat registration cards from the trash after watching supervisors tear them up.
In Oregon, the state Attorney General’s Office launched an investigation Wednesday after registration collector Mike Johnson admitted to Portland’s KGW-TV that he “might have” destroyed forms completed by Democrats.
“This is a violation of the law,” Oregon Secretary of State Bill Bradbury told the Associated Press. " . . . I have never in my five years as secretary of state ever seen an allegation like the one that came up tonight."
Sproul disputed both reports. He said there is no record of the Oregon man working for his company. And he described the Nevada man as a disgruntled employee who went to the media after being fired.
Through the RNC, Sproul also released affidavits from his Las Vegas supervisors denying that any registration forms were trashed.
Russell, a self-described Republican, said he was terminated from Voter Outreach of America after complaining that his pay was cut because he signed up voters from all parties. He said a female supervisor announced, “You guys have been bringing in Democrats. We told you not to. This time we’re going to dock your pay.”
Moments later, Russell said, he watched as Democrat cards were destroyed: “I’ve got proof that they did it. I saw them torn up, and she had her assistant wrestle them from me.”
Sproul oversaw the RNC’s nationwide campaign to sign up Bush-Cheney voters in swing states.
When The Arizona Republic investigated a report of discarded voter sign-up cards in Phoenix last month, he said, “I turn in every single card we get. My goal is to register Republicans. But if we get a Democrat . . . we tell our folks to take the registration and turn it in, make sure it’s done legally.”
Concerns about election fraud are particularly acute in a tight presidential campaign that comes four years after America’s chief executive was chosen by a few hundred votes in Florida, where ballot irregularities were a major problem.
The Associated Press reported in September that Sproul employees “misrepresented themselves” when they sought permission for a registration booth at the Medford, Ore., public library, using the name “America Votes.” That is the official title of a nonpartisan coalition of liberal organizations involved in registration and education drives.
Sproul says there was no misrepresentation - his company’s name was on the letterhead - and that he innocently chose to call his registration project “America Votes” because he did not realize the name already was taken.
Sproul’s methods also came into question in August when the Charleston Gazette of West Virginia reported that registration workers were instructed to pose as opinion pollsters asking about presidential preferences, then sign up only those who planned to vote for Bush-Cheney.
Sproul said the tactic is legal and that there is nothing wrong with a targeted registration drive.
Sproul has led efforts to overthrow Arizona’s Clean Elections law, a measure designed to reduce special-interest influence of politicians. He also is former head of Arizona’s Christian Coalition, which came under federal scrutiny in the 1990s because of concerns that political activities might have violated the group’s tax-exempt status.
First of all, Drudge is not a reliable source.[/quote]
It doesn’t matter what you think of Drudge when the DNC corroborated the story.
[quote] Secondly, your thread title is a little histrionic for the actual allegations…
“Dems debase the political system”?[/quote]
Not really – they are actively undermining confidence in the electoral process. Just like with all the unproved – actually, many of them were disproved – allegations from Florida. And add Jimmy Carter with his inane ramblings on Florida to the list.
You can’t have a democratic process when the people don’t believe it works. One side is doing far more to undermine that key pillar of our system – and they’re doing it just to be able to play the race card in the elections.
[quote] Why don’t you start the thread about the GOP-funded group that has been registering voters in multiple states (Nevada for one) and then destroys the applications that are Democratic? Then when the Democratic voter goes to the polls- gee, we have no record of your registration!
The FBI is on this story and it should get more exposure soon.
THAT’S “debasing the political system”.[/quote]
Why don’t you start your own thread to complain?
Nah, I guess we can discuss here. Firstly, as the story you pointed to shows, it’s allegation. The FBI is investigating charges – it’s not “on this story” - they aren’t reporters – because the charges are serious. However, it’s an investigation. They will weigh the allegations and facts, and if necessary they will press charges. Come back to me when they find something – anything – other than a fired employee claiming to have seen stuff.
If they are proved true, you have a problem for Republicans in that they hired a bad firm to do voter registrations. Kind of like the claims about the unions in FL tossing out Republican registrations.
BTW, vroom, what happened to your “let’s wait and see” stance that you like to take with investigations?
In the story I posted, you have an official DNC publication – not a proxy, or an affiliated group, or a big Democrat donor, or even a single Democrat politician – laying out an official strategy to play the race card (please let me know if the “voter intimidation” charge has EVER been used in a non-racial context) and further undermine our system in order to scare their base into voting. Cheap and tawdry might have been applied to John Kerry in another context by Mrs. CHeney, but it seems to apply to the whole of the Democratic strategy.
There are no charges in my story – no unsubstantiated items – you have the simple, slimy strategy laid out bare in a primary source.
Actual election fraud is a problem with affiliates of both parties – although it seems to me one side does it more often, I know I’m not making a huge effort to read all sources on the subject.
You can have two kinds of fraud – false positives (dead people voting, illegals voting, felons voting, etc.) or false negatives (registered voters’ votes disallowed) – our system is definitely biased in favor of minimizing false negatives, at the expense of allowing false positives.
Anyway, here’s an article by John Fund on voter fraud. I recommend his book.
September 13, 2004, 6:33 a.m.
America?s election problems.
By John Fund
EDITOR’S NOTE:This is the introduction of John Fund’s new book, Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, released today from Encounter Books.
Our nation may be on the brink of repeating the 2000 Florida election debacle, but this time in several states, with allegations of voter fraud, intimidation and manipulation of voting machines added to the generalized chaos that sent our last presidential contest into overtime. There is still time to reduce the chance of another electoral meltdown, both this year and in future years. But this will not happen unless we acknowledge that the United States has a haphazard, fraud-prone election system befitting an emerging Third World country rather than the world’s leading democracy.
With its hanging chads, butterfly ballots and Supreme Court intervention, the Florida fiasco compelled this country to confront an ugly reality: that we have been making do with what noted political scientist Walter Dean Burnham has called “the modern world’s sloppiest electoral systems.” How sloppy? Lethally so. At least eight of the nineteen hijackers who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were actually able to register to vote in either Virginia or Florida while they made their deadly preparations for 9/11.
The 2000 recount was more than merely a national embarrassment; it left a lasting scar on the American electoral psyche. A recent Zogby poll found that 38 percent of Americans still regard the 2000 election outcome as questionable. Many Republicans believe that Democratic judges on the Florida Supreme Court tried to hand their state to Al Gore based on selective partisan recounts and the illegal votes of felons and aliens. Many Democrats feel that the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court tilted toward Bush, and they refuse to accept his victory as valid. But this issue transcends “red state” vs. “blue state” partisan grievances. Many Americans are convinced that politicians can’t be trusted to play by the rules and will either commit fraud or intimidate voters at the slightest opportunity.
Indeed, the level of suspicion has grown so dramatically that it threatens to undermine our political system. Nearly 10 percent of Americans believe their votes are not counted accurately, and almost as many worry that this is the case, according to a July 2004 poll by John Zogby. A Rasmussen Research poll in June found that 44 percent of Americans were either very or somewhat worried that a Florida-style mess could happen again in 2004. This growing cynicism diminishes respect for the nation’s institutions and lowers voter participation. Only 11 percent of the 18- to 19-year-olds eligible to vote for the first time now bother to go to the polls. The United States ranks139th out of 163 democracies in the rate of voter participation. The more that voting is left to the zealous or self-interested few, the more we see harshly personal campaigns that dispense with any positive vision of our national future. “If this escalates, we’re in horrendous shape as a country,” says Curtis Gans, who runs the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate. “If election results are followed by lawsuits, appeals, fire and counterfire, many people who are already saying to hell with the process are going to exit.”
The 2000 election resulted in some modest reforms, such as the federal Help America Vote Act, but the implementation has been so slow. Only $670 million of the promised $3.9 billion in grants to upgrade technology, cull voter rolls and enhance training had been dispersed to the states as of May 2004. This means that the nation’s voting systems will be in no better shape this November than they were in 2000, when about 2 percent of all votes for president nationwide weren’t counted for one reason or another, the vast majority because of voter error or outdated machines.
America’s election problems go beyond the strapped budgets of many local election offices. More insidious are flawed voter rolls, voter ignorance, lackadaisical law enforcement and a shortage of trained volunteers. All this adds up to an open invitation for errors, miscounts or fraud.
Reform is easy to talk about, but difficult to bring about. Many of the suggested improvements, such as requiring voters to show ID at the polls, are bitterly opposed. For instance, Maria Cardona, spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, claims that “ballot security and preventing voter fraud are just code words for voter intimidation and suppression.” Even improved technology is controversial. This November, around fifty million Americans will be using electronic voting machines similar to ATM machines, and some computer scientists are alarmed by the possibility that hackers could change the software to cast multiple votes or do other kinds of mischief. Both Democratic senator Hillary Clinton and GOP representative Steve King of Iowa are backing separate pieces of legislation to require that machines issue paper receipts for voters to verify before casting their ballots. But the legislation hasn’t even had a hearing and only Nevada will have paper receipts in place by the fall 2004 election.
Confusion and claims of fraud are likely this time around, especially if the election is as close as it was in 2000. Can the nation take another Florida-style controversy?
Indeed, we may be on the way to turning Election Day into Election Month through a new legal quagmire: election by litigation. Every close race now carries with it the prospect of demands for recounts, lawsuits and seating challenges in Congress. “We’re waiting for the day that pols can just cut out the middleman and settle all elections in court,” jokes Chuck Todd, editor of the political tip sheet Hotline. Such gallows humor may be entirely appropriate given the predicament we face. The 2000 election may have marked a permanent change in how elections can be decided, much as the battle over the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork changed, apparently forever, the politics of judicial appointments. On April 19, 2004, John Kerry campaigned in Florida with Senator Joe Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic vice presidential candidate, and vowed ? six months before a single ballot was cast, counted or disputed ? that he was ready to take the 2004 election to court. “We are going to bring legal challenge to those districts that make it difficult for people to register. We’re going to bring challenge to those people that disenroll people,” he told a rally. “And we’re going to challenge any place in America where you cannot trace the vote and count the votes of Americans. Period!” Democrats plan to have over ten thousand lawyers on the ground in all states this November, ready for action if the election is close and they see a way to contest it. “If you think of election problems as akin to forest fires, the woods are no drier than they were in 2000, but many more people have matches,” says Doug Chapin of Electionline.org, an Internet clearinghouse of election news. If the trend toward litigation continues, winners in the future may have to hope not only that they win but that their margins are beyond “the margin of litigation.”
Some of the sloppiness that makes fraud and foul-ups in election counts possible seems to be built into the system by design. The “Motor Voter Law,” the first piece of legislation signed into law by President Clinton upon entering office, imposed fraud-friendly rules on the states by requiring driver’s license bureaus to register anyone applying for licenses, to offer mail-in registration with no identification needed, and to forbid government workers to challenge new registrants, while making it difficult to purge “deadwood” voters (those who have died or moved away). In 2001, the voter rolls in many American cities included more names than the U.S. Census listed as the total number of residents over age eighteen. Philadelphia’s voter rolls, for instance, have jumped 24 percent since 1995 at the same time that the city’s population has declined by 13 percent. CBS’s 60 Minutes created a stir in 1999 when it found people in California using mail-in forms to register fictitious people, or pets, and then obtaining absentee ballots in their names. By this means, for example, the illegal alien who assassinated the Mexican presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was registered to vote in San Pedro, California ? twice.
Ironically, Mexico and many other countries have election systems that are far more secure than ours. To obtain voter credentials, the citizen must present a photo, write a signature and give a thumbprint. The voter card includes a picture with a hologram covering it, a magnetic strip and a serial number to guard against tampering. To cast a ballot, voters must present the card and be certified by a thumbprint scanner. This system was instrumental in allowing the 2000 election of Vicente Fox, the first opposition party candidate to be elected president in seventy years.
But in the United States, at a time of heightened security and mundane rules that require citizens to show ID to travel and even rent a video, only seventeen states require some form of documentation in order to vote. “Why should the important process of voting be the one exception to this rule?” asks Karen Saranita, a former fraud investigator for a Democratic state senator in California. Americans agree. A Rasmussen poll finds that 82 percent of Americans, including 75 percent of Democrats, believe that “people should be required to show a driver’s license or some other form of photo ID before they are allowed to vote.”
The reason for such support is that citizens instinctively realize that some people will be tempted to cut corners in the cutthroat world of politics. “Some of the world’s most clever people are attracted to politics, because that’s where the power is,” says University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. “So they’re always going to be one step ahead of the law.”
Election fraud, whether it’s phony voter registrations, illegal absentee ballots, shady recounts or old-fashioned ballot-box stuffing, can be found in every part of the United States, although it is probably spreading because of the ever-so-tight red state/blue state divisions that have polarized the country and created so many close elections lately. Although most fraud is found in urban areas, there are current scandals in rural South Dakota and Texas. In recent years, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Orleans and Milwaukee have all had election-related scandals. Wisconsin officials convicted a New York heiress working for Al Gore of giving homeless people cigarettes if they rode in a van to the polls and voted. The Miami Herald won a Pulitzer Prize in 1999 for uncovering how “vote brokers” employed by candidate Xavier Suarez stole a mayoral election by tampering with 4,740 absentee ballots. Many were cast by homeless people who didn’t live in the city and were paid $10 apiece and shuttled to the elections office in vans. All of the absentee ballots were thrown out by a court four months later and Mr. Suarez’s opponent was installed as mayor.
But such interventions are rare, even when fraud is proven. In 1997, the House of Representatives voted along partisan lines to demand that the Justice Department prosecute Hermandad Mexicana Nacional, a group that investigators for the House Administration Committee say registered hundreds of illegal voters in a razor-thin congressional race in Orange County, California. But federal immigration officials refused to cooperate with the probe, citing “privacy” concerns, and nothing was done beyond yanking a federal contract that paid Hermandad to conduct citizenship classes. The same year, a U.S. Senate probe into fraud in a Senate race in Louisiana found more than 1,500 cases in which two voters used the same Social Security number. But further investigations collapsed after Democratic senators walked off the probe, calling it unfair, and then Attorney General Janet Reno removed FBI agents from the case because the probe wasn’t “bipartisan.”
A note about partisanship: Since Democrats figure prominently in the vast majority of examples of election fraud described in Stealing Elections, some readers will jump to the conclusion that this is a one-sided attack on a single party. I do not believe Republicans are inherently more virtuous or honest than anyone else in politics, and I myself often vote Libertarian or independent. Voter fraud occurs in both Republican strongholds such as Kentucky hollows and Democratic bastions such as New Orleans. When Republicans operated political machines such as Philadelphia’s Meehan dynasty up until 1951 or the patronage mill pf Nassau County, New York, until the 1990s, they were fully capable of bending ? and breaking ? the rules. Earl Mazo, the journalist who exhaustively documented the election fraud in Richard Daley’s Chicago that may have handed Illinois to John F. Kennedy in the photo-finish 1960 election, says there was also “definitely fraud” in downstate Republican counties “but they didn’t have the votes to counterbalance Chicago.”
While they have not had the control of local and administrative offices necessary to tilt the rules improperly in their favor, Republicans have at times been guilty of intimidation tactics designed to discourage voting. In the 1980s, the Republican National Committee hired off-duty policemen to monitor polling places in New Jersey and Louisiana in the neighborhoods of minority voters, until the outcry forced them to sign a consent decree forswearing all such “ballot security” programs in the future.
In their book Dirty Little Secrets, Larry Sabato and co-author Glenn Simpson of the Wall Street Journal noted another factor in why Republican election fraud is less common. Republican base voters are middle-class and not easily induced to commit fraud, while “the pool of people who appear to be available and more vulnerable to an invitation to participate in vote fraud tend to lean Democratic.” Some liberal activists that Sabato and Simpson interviewed even partly justified fraudulent electoral behavior on the grounds that because the poor and dispossessed have so little political clout, “extraordinary measures (for example, stretching the absentee ballot or registration rules) are required to compensate.” Paul Herrison, director of the Center for American Politics at the University of Maryland, agrees that “most incidents of wide-scale voter fraud reportedly occur in inner cities, which are largely populated by minority groups.”
Democrats are far more skilled at encouraging poor people ? who need money ? to participate in shady vote-buying schemes. “I had no choice. I was hungry that day,” Thomas Felder told the Miami Herald in explaining why he illegally voted in a mayoral election. “You wanted the money, you were told who to vote for.” Sometimes it’s not just food that vote stealers are hungry for. A former Democratic congressman gave me this explanation of why voting irregularities more often crop up in his party’s back yard: “When many Republicans lose an election, they go back into what they call the private sector. When many Democrats lose an election, they lose power and money. They need to eat, and people will do an awful lot in order to eat.”
Investigations of voter fraud are inherently political; and because they often involve race, they are often not zealously pursued or prosecuted. Attorney General John Ashcroft did launch a Voter Integrity Program in 2002, which dramatically reduced both Republican allegations of fraud and Democratic complaints of suppressed minority votes. But many federal and state prosecutors remain leery of tackling fraud or intimidation. After extensive research, I can report that while voting irregularities are common, the number of people who have spent time in jail as a result of a conviction for voter fraud in the last dozen years can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
The U.S. attorney for northern Louisiana, Donald Washington, admits that “most of the time, we can’t do much of anything [about ballot-box improprieties] until the election is over. And the closer we get to the election, the less willing we are to get involved because of just the appearance of impropriety, just the appearance of the federal government somehow shading how this election ought to occur.” Several prosecutors told me they fear charges of racism or of a return to Jim Crow voter suppression tactics if they pursue touchy fraud cases. Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights calls efforts to fight election fraud “a solution in search of a problem” and “a warmed-over plan for voter intimidation.”
But when voters are disfranchised by the counting of improperly cast ballots or outright fraud, their civil rights are violated just as surely as if they were prevented from voting. The integrity of the ballot box is just as important to the credibility of elections as access to it. Voting irregularities have a long pedigree in America, stretching back to the founding of the nation ? though most people thought the “bad old days” had ended in 1948 after pistol-packing Texas sheriffs helped stuff Ballot Box 13, stealing a U.S. Senate seat and setting Lyndon Johnson on his road to the White House. Then came the 2004 primary election, when Representative Ciro Rodriguez, a Democrat, charged that during a recount, a missing ballot box appeared in south Texas with enough votes to make his opponent the Democratic nominee by 58 votes.
Political bosses such as Richard Daley or George Wallace may have died, but they have successors. A one-party machine in Hawaii intimidates critics and journalists who question its vote harvesting among noncitizens. In 1998, a former Democratic congressman named Austin Murphy was convicted in Pennsylvania of absentee ballot fraud. The Democratic county supervisor who uncovered this scandal, Sean Cavanaugh, was so ostracized by his party that he re-registered as an independent.
Even after Florida 2000, the media tend to downplay or ignore stories of election incompetence, manipulation or theft. Allowing such abuses to vanish into an informational black hole in effect legitimates them. The refusal to insist on simple procedural changes, such as requiring a photo ID at the polls, combined with secure technology and more vigorous prosecutions accelerates our drift toward banana-republic elections.
In 2002, Miami election officials hired the Center for Democracy, which normally observes voting in places like Guatemala or Albania, to send twenty election monitors to south Florida. In 2004, there will be even more observers on the ground. Scrutinizing our own elections the way we have traditionally scrutinized voting in developing countries is, unfortunately, a step in the right direction. But before we can get the clearer laws and better protections we need to deal with fraud and voter mishaps, we have to get a sense of the magnitude of the problem we face.
Oh, I almost forgot, the fact the FBI is investigating means they have reasonable suspicion.
I tend to trust the FBI not to be politically motivated much more than general media articles.
However, I’ll happily grant that it hasn’t been proven at this point, if you’ll grant it is a lot more damning to have the FBI investigating this allegation than most completely unsubstantiated reported allegations in political news sources (i.e. Drudge Report).
Also, if the FBI does find the case to be true, there is potentially more at issue than just hiring a bad contractor. However, unfortunately, there will be plausible deniability. The story would indicate the contractor was “coached” into improper behavior as a matter of policy.
If so, it might not be “voter intimidation”, but it would certainly be “voter disenfranchisement”, which is related. It would also undermine the confidence of the common voter.
The republicans are no saints when it comes to undermining faith in the political system! As usual, the problem is systemic and needs to be solved, regardless of political leanings. How about coming up with solutions instead of playing cheap politics with the whole issue – as you are wont to do.