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Tilting at Windmills

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October 14, 2008

INCESSANT ACORN NONSENSE.... It's tempting to ignore the incessant right-wing whining about ACORN. We're dealing with a group of people who either a) don't understand the difference between registration fraud and voter fraud; or b) do understand the difference and hope to deceive voters. Either way, some well-intentioned folks are getting confused, so ignoring the nonsense isn't a viable option.

To hear Republicans, Fox News, and far-right bloggers tell it, an untold horde of illegally-registered voters are going to swarm into precincts on Election Day and steal the election from McCain/Palin. While it's generally best not to impugn anyone's motives, in this case, we're clearly dealing with a group of partisans who are operating in bad faith.

The Obama campaign is starting to push back.

After days of withering attacks against ACORN and implications that the Obama campaign was using the community organizing group to perpetuate voter fraud, aides to the Illinois Democrat fought back on Tuesday.

In a conference call with reporters, campaign manager David Plouffe called the charge that ACORN was illegally registering voters (and that Obama had nefarious ties to the organization) a cynical "smokescreen" and an attempt to discourage people from going to the polls.

"This is just the start of what is going to be a very deliberate and cynical attempt to try and create confusion and challenge people inappropriately," he said. "They clearly, strategically, believe the more people who vote in this election, the less their chances are [for victory]."

Plouffe's right, but I'm afraid the line he took wasn't nearly aggressive enough.

Josh Marshall had arguably the definitive item on this a few days ago, but had another illustrative item today.

Let's be clear about what this is. These are random stories about fake vote registrations. The Drudges and Fox scoundrels of the world seem to think that if someone fills out a voter registration card for Mickey Mouse, that Mickey Mouse might show up and cast a vote they're not entitled to cast. It doesn't and there is zero evidence of any voter fraud or anything that would make voter fraud more likely. The level of lying, bad faith or at best ignorance of the people making these claims is really beyond imagining. This isn't vote fraud. There's no evidence of vote fraud. Nothing. This is an effort of a losing political party to a) lay the groundwork for challenging their defeat at the polls b) lay the groundwork to pass laws to make it harder for poor people and minorities to vote.

That some journalists -- I'm not talking about Fox News, I mean actual reporters with professional standards -- are falling for this ridiculous scam is disconcerting, to put it mildly.

There's no story here, just a fairly transparent con job.

Steve Benen 4:00 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (45)

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Comments

This is why all the below -- Mr Freeze, Madam Ethics Violation, etc. -- is irrelevant. The right wing noise machine sets the agenda -- Ayers, ACORN, etc.

Posted by: John McCain: Worse than Bush on October 14, 2008 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

not to mention mccain headlining an acorn march '06 event. http://www.politico.com/blogs/bensmith/1008/Acorn_pushes_back_hugs_McCain.html?showall

Posted by: FLDem on October 14, 2008 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "That some journalists -- I'm not talking about Fox News, I mean actual reporters with professional standards -- are falling for this ridiculous scam is disconcerting, to put it mildly."

Lou Dobbs on CNN is, if anything, outdoing Fox News as far as hysterical and blatantly dishonest attacks on ACORN.

But then you did refer to "actual reporters with professional standards" which clearly excludes Lou Dobbs.

You are right that this needs to be taken seriously. The attacks on ACORN are a key part of the Republican Party's plans to steal this election with voter disenfranchisement and fraud as they did the 2000 and 2004 elections.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 14, 2008 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

The escalating charges of voter fraud from the likes of Sarah Palin and Tucker Bounds in recent days are well documented and easily refuted here and elsewhere. They are particularly egregious as Republicans continue to seek to suppress the vote in many states. And they are unlikely to win many voters to the McCain ticket.
But we should take them very seriously none the less. A key question in this election now is what happens on November 5th? It would be dangerously naive to think that the hatreds and rage stimulated and sanctioned by the McCain campaign will stop on that date. Consider what might happen: enormous voter turnout swamps election sites; McCain poll watchers do whatever they can to dispute ballots and slow down voting further; anomalies in absentee and early voter ballots turn up missing votes and contested mailing dates. Obama wins with a clear majority of popular and electoral votes. McCain declares that because of "voter fraud" he will not accept the results of the election.
What will the Bush-Gonzo attorneys do? What would the Supreme Court do? What do we do then?

Posted by: Bruce on October 14, 2008 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

WTF? Why is ACORN fraudulently registering voters (a felony) in the thousands, across the country, across election cycles? How #$%-ing stupid are they? By the way, voter fraud begins with registration fraud.

With friends like ACORN...

Posted by: SJRSM on October 14, 2008 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

ACORN as also been the first to notice the problem and they are quick to take action as needed.

Posted by: on October 14, 2008 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

You may want to also mention the fact McCain (and the GOP) used to love them some ACORN.

(Hope the link works -- it was HuffPost yesterday.)

Oh, and the California GOP had the same problem with fake registrations as ACORN has.

(If no link, check AlterNet.)

In other words, this is another insane, pathetic, hypocritical, and desperate attack that has no basis in reality whatsoever.

Or as the GOP calls it: Tuesday.

Posted by: Mark D on October 14, 2008 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Of course, the only way for ACORN to avoid the charges of fraudulent registration would be for them to throw out all the obvious fake registrations (Mickey Mouse, pro football players, fast food restaurants). Then watch the firestorm and the indictments rolling down for disenfranchising voters...

Posted by: paul on October 14, 2008 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

McCain worked closely with ACORN in 2006 with regards to immigration issues, as I understand it.

There was a spokesperson for ACORN on either CNN or MSNBC earlier today who carefully detailed this.
(I think it was with David Shuster, but can't recall)

Posted by: on October 14, 2008 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK
WTF? Why is ACORN fraudulently registering voters (a felony) in the thousands,

Because, dim bulb, ACORN is not allowed to throw away registration forms. BY LAW.

Posted by: gwangung on October 14, 2008 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

SJRSM wrote: "Why is ACORN fraudulently registering voters (a felony) in the thousands, across the country, across election cycles?"

Why are you knowingly repeating malicious lies?

Would it be because you are a weak-minded, ignorant, neo-brownshirt dittohead mental slave of Rush Limbaugh, by any chance?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 14, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Everyone of us should condemn actual voting fraud. However, these ACORN stories are just a product of the Rethuglican Hate Machine.

Any federal prosecutor who tries to dispense justice fairly has passed on these kinds of charges in the past. And some of them were fired by the Bush-Gonzalez-Rove crowd because they did not play along with the GOP election agenda.

Posted by: KevinMc on October 14, 2008 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

What many also fail to mention is that, in most states, voter registration groups are required to file all registrations collected! That is most certainly the case in Nevada, and ACORN claims to have submitted the questionable registrations seperately, so that they could be vetted by the elections board.

So, unless ACORN workers are filling out these bogus registrations, or asking others to do so, they are following the letter of the law. Of course, that's no solace to the wingnuts.

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on October 14, 2008 at 4:26 PM | PERMALINK
WTF? Why is ACORN fraudulently registering voters (a felony) in the thousands, across the country, across election cycles? How #$%-ing stupid are they? By the way, voter fraud begins with registration fraud.

Congratulations!! You've just proved you have no fucking clue about the issue.

Read the following slowly so that you can be educated:

ACORN is not -- repeat -- NOT "fraudulently registering voters."

They pay people to gather potential registrations. And, like any other job, there are a few people who don't actually want to work, so they just start filling in forms with total crap.

ACORN does not -- repeat, NOT -- just toss these obviously fake forms in the trash since that is illegal.

Instead, ACORN flags those forms and sends them, along with legit ones, to the local voter commission/election board (depending on location).

It is then up to the local voting commissions/boards to note the bad ones and discard them (as they are legally able to do), and then register legit ones.

In other words, ACORN is, in fact, on the front lines of preventing voter fraud.

So, to recap and summarize:

ACORN does not register anyone. They collect registrations.

ACORN flags suspicious registrations so the authorities can weed out fraud. As such, ACORN is actually helping to stop fraud.

There is not one single documented case of anyone, anywhere, using an ACORN-based fraudulent registration to vote. Not a one. Never. Ever. Anywhere.

The GOP, on the other hand, has people in jail for tampering with the democratic process, coordinated an effort to confuse voters on election day, and has a very long history of just generally trying to keep people from carrying out their Constitutional rights.

In other words, the facts prove that ACORN cares more about the democratic process than the GOP does.

Posted by: Mark D on October 14, 2008 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

There's no story here, just a fairly transparent con job.

I echo SecularAnimist's comment that CNN, beyond just Lou Dobbs, is running hard on this story, and I would hardly call CNN a Repub supporter.

ACORN IS an issue that will likely be viewed by the public as an issue, especially since the voter registrations are Democratic.

The basic message that registration fraud doesn't directly translate to election fraud will be lost on the general public.

So, please rethink your assertion that there is NO story here.

Posted by: pencarrow on October 14, 2008 at 4:31 PM | PERMALINK

Even if it's not voter fraud, it's still fraud and should be treated as such. Registration fraud can affect other things like ballot issues and which candidates are eligible. Organizations gathering signatures for ballot issues usually gather at least twice as many as needed because so many of them turn out to be garbage.

I think a lot of the problem comes from professional signature-gathering companies. In college I used to see a lot of students making some extra money by gathering signatures and registering people. They're paid per signature so of course they're going to turn in as many as possible.

Posted by: ArkPanda on October 14, 2008 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

TPM reminds us that Republicans attack ACORN every two years, a month before the election, then conveniently forget them after the election's over. And that the US Attorney firings were retaliation agaisnt USAs who didn't create fake voter registration scandals:

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/236958.php

Posted by: Gene Ha on October 14, 2008 at 4:36 PM | PERMALINK

Even if it's not voter fraud, it's still fraud and should be treated as such

And it is treated as such... by ACORN. They flag what they consider to be false registrations and make sure State registration offices are aware of the possible fraud. So I am not sure what the complaint is exactly. Whether or not ACORN its professional registration gathering organizations or otherwise, there are going to be false registrations. When you are talking about millions of signatures, there is exactly zero chance that there won't be some that are false. ACORN and other organizations do quite a lot and make completely transparent efforts to minimize this problem while maximizing the number of legitimate registrations - their primary goal. So what is the complaint here exactly?

Posted by: brent on October 14, 2008 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

I was listening to Rush Limbaugh interview Sarah Palin while eating my Nachos Supreme this afternoon, and they were both claiming that the only way that Obama could win the swing states is because of voter fraud (I guess the pollsters are conducting polling fraud). The ground work is being laid. Where is the media with the facts? Where is Obama with the facts?

Posted by: CJ on October 14, 2008 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

ACORN's doesn't "claim" that they separate the registrations - they DO separate the registration forms into 3 categories - those whose information can be confirmed and appear "clean", those with missing or unconfirmed information, and those that were clearly bad - the "Mickey Mouse" registrations.

ACORN's statements about this have been confirmed by at least a couple of state registration offices.

Most states require all registration forms, good, bad/fraudulent, or incomprehensible be turned in specifically to avoid the situation where an organization takes in a lot of registrations and then discards the "wrong" ones.

Posted by: Butch on October 14, 2008 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

"That some journalists -- I'm not talking about Fox News, I mean actual reporters with professional standards -- are falling for this ridiculous scam is disconcerting, to put it mildly."

That's because the vast majority of so-called mainstream "professional reporters" or "journalists" are incurious, poorly-informed, and most tellingly, extremely lazy. They're more interested in what's for lunch than ferreting out the truth. In that respect they resemble sports reporters.

Posted by: bluestatedon on October 14, 2008 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

Oh yea - ACORN does not pay by the signature. They pay by the hour - specifically to reduce the temptation to fake registrations. And they report people who turn in clearly faked forms to appropriate authorities.

Posted by: Butch on October 14, 2008 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

First off, Republicans are THE masters at vote fraud.

Secondly, Even if ACORN was actually committing vote fraud and not just registration fraud it wouldn't matter unless the poll numbers got really close again.

Cheating votes only works well when the popular vote is close. Unless, ACORN is also cheating all the polling that is being done(i.e. when CNN polls they get Mickey Mouse on the line).

Posted by: Jim on October 14, 2008 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

"I was listening to Rush Limbaugh interview Sarah Palin while eating my Nachos Supreme"

The image of a leering and drooling Limbaugh interviewing Palin with his pie-hole crammed full of your greasy Nachos Supreme is entertaining in a gross sort of way. How did he get his greedy mitts on your lunch anyhow?

Posted by: bluestatedon on October 14, 2008 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

WTF? Why is ACORN fraudulently registering voters (a felony) in the thousands, across the country, across election cycles?

So the next time you go register to vote, you want the person behind the counter to be allowed to look at you and say, "Hmm, you look like you might be ineligible so, no, you can't have a registration form"? You want to allow minimum-wage employees hired by advocacy groups to decide who can and cannot submit a registration form?

Posted by: Mnemosyne on October 14, 2008 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Why is ACORN fraudulently registering voters (a felony) in the thousands, across the country, across election cycles?

Poor Red State Mike. Two epic fails in one day.

By the way, voter fraud begins with registration fraud.

Yeah? Prove it.

Posted by: Gregory on October 14, 2008 at 5:08 PM | PERMALINK

Why are you knowingly repeating malicious lies?
Posted by: SecularAnimist

You mean, why am I quoting court records? A blast from the past (2007)

King and Pierce County prosecutors filed felony charges today against seven people who allegedly committed the biggest voter-registration fraud in state history.

The defendants, who were paid employees and supervisors of ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, concocted the scheme as an easy way to get paid, not as an attempt to influence the outcome of elections, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg said...

ACORN agreed to pay King County $25,000 for its investigative costs and acknowledged that the national organization could be subject to criminal prosecution if fraud occurs again.

In addition to filing criminal charges, Satterberg said state and local officials had signed a five-year agreement with ACORN that requires the organization to beef up its training and procedures for detecting and reporting fraud.

The announcement of criminal charges came after the King County Canvassing Board revoked 1,762 allegedly fraudulent voter registrations submitted by ACORN employees.

Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Stephen Hobbs told the board that six ACORN workers had admitted filling out registration forms with names they found in phone books last October. The canvassers filled out the forms while sitting around a table at the downtown Seattle Public Library, Hobbs said.

County prosecutors charged the six canvassers with one to eight counts each of filing false information on voter registration, and charged a supervisor with providing false information and making a false statement to a public official.

These apps were filled out by ACORN employees, not just turned in. I guess their training didn't take.

Posted by: SJRSM on October 14, 2008 at 5:15 PM | PERMALINK

Conservatives aren't peddling this tripe because they think it will help them win the election, they're doing it to try to delegitimize the election -- so they can convince the wingnut hordes that Obama stole the presidency.

Of course, if Obama's victory is as big as it look like it may be, only a complete moron could possibly believe the lie.

Which means it will quickly become conservative orthodoxy.

Posted by: Peter Principle on October 14, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

If you all and Josh Marshall and everyone say this isn't a real problem, I believe you. Maybe it's because the process looks so insecure. You have to jump through more hoops just to rent a video from Blockbuster. When you consider all the security features in driver's licenses, credit cards, etc. those postcards from the county clerk verifying your registration look pretty pathetic.

I agree that all this stems from the problem of having to register in the first place, unlike other Western countries. After the 2000 election, we tried to reform the voting process and messed it up pretty badly. Maybe we should take another crack at it.

Posted by: ArkPanda on October 14, 2008 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

CNN has been reporting this all day without mentioning that ACORN is required to turn in all the forms that get filled out. It's not clear if they actually know the facts or are neglecting to mention it to make the story more exciting, but it's sure not ethical journalism.

Posted by: Arachnae on October 14, 2008 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Crikey. If that block quote is straight from the Obama campaign, they need to get friendly with a dictionary. That first para should say "perpetrate", not "perpetuate", surely. There's, ah, a hell of a difference.

Posted by: Jassalasca Jape on October 14, 2008 at 5:39 PM | PERMALINK

So, SJRSM, how many of the "1,762 allegedly fraudulent voter registrations submitted by ACORN employees" do you expect will actually show up at the polls and attempt to "fraudulently" vote?

Posted by: CT on October 14, 2008 at 5:41 PM | PERMALINK

SJRSM, nothing in the unsourced text you posted -- which describes the actions of six canvassers who committed fraud against ACORN by turning in fraudulent registration forms, as an "easy way" to steal money from ACORN, which of course resulted in not one single actual fraudulent registration, let alone one single fraudulent vote -- NOTHING in your post supports your previous, deliberate, malicious lie that ACORN is "fraudulently registering voters (a felony) in the thousands, across the country, across election cycles".

You are a pathetic and despicable liar.

But like the Republican Party's scurrilous and false allegations against ACORN every two years, and the Republican Party's long history of and continuing efforts to disenfranchise millions of eligible American voters, there's nothing new about that.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 14, 2008 at 5:42 PM | PERMALINK

Arachnae wrote: "CNN has been reporting this all day without mentioning that ACORN is required to turn in all the forms that get filled out. It's not clear if they actually know the facts or are neglecting to mention it to make the story more exciting"

CNN is not mentioning that fact because it doesn't help their mission of helping to put Sarah Palin and John McCain in the White House by spreading malicious and false Republican Party propaganda.

John McCain has promised the giant media corporations $1.44 BILLION in corporate tax cuts, millions more in individual tax cuts for their ultra-rich CEOs, and a continuation of the Bush policies of deregulating media ownership so they can gobble up America's last few remaining independent TV and radio stations and networks.

CNN and the rest of the corporate-owned media are not going to let a few pesky facts stand in the way of the BILLIONS of dollars in payoffs that McCain has promised them.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 14, 2008 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

You mean, why am I quoting court records?

...on a topic that doesn't support your assertion: the ACORN employees were filing bogus registrations to commit fraud against ACORN and get paid for work they didn't do.

It says so right there in the part you cut and pasted.

Good Ford -- Red State Mike scores an own goal again.

Posted by: Gregory on October 14, 2008 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Obama and his staff are obviously paying attention. Check out this exchange on Jake Tapper's blog and tell me that he doesn't know what's happening here:http://blogs.abcnews.com/politicalpunch/2008/10/obama-on-acorn.html

Remember kids: Voter Fraud is a Fraud. The only times the Republicans care about this is before a major election or when they need to get more partisan operatives into the DOJ. All else is sound and fury signifying nothing.

Posted by: Bedtime for Democracy on October 14, 2008 at 6:37 PM | PERMALINK
Why is ACORN fraudulently registering voters (a felony) in the thousands, across the country, across election cycles?

Some ACORN staff are fraudulently filling out cards to get paid for not working. Its that simple. ACORN, itself, has been the one reporting problems to law enforcement when they are encountered (and firing the involved employees), as they have their own QC process which verifies the information on the cards before they are turned in (they still turn them in, because they are required by law to turn in any signed registration card they have, even if they believe there is something wrong with it.)

Posted by: cmdicely on October 14, 2008 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK
These apps were filled out by ACORN employees

As part, as your own quote notes, of a conspiracy to defraud ACORN out of money.


Posted by: cmdicely on October 14, 2008 at 6:57 PM | PERMALINK
That some journalists -- I'm not talking about Fox News, I mean actual reporters with professional standards -- are falling for this ridiculous scam is disconcerting, to put it mildly.

Any "journalist" falling for this is, ipso facto, not an "actual reporter with professional standards".

Posted by: cmdicely on October 14, 2008 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

SecularAnimist wrote (5:48pm):

CNN is not mentioning that fact because it doesn't help their mission of helping to put Sarah Palin and John McCain in the White House by spreading malicious and false Republican Party propaganda.

Since when? Are you asserting that CNN has not been consistently supporting Obama in this election cycle? Maybe you need to reference a couple of the conservative blogs to see their viewpoint of how CNN is "in the tank" for Obama.

I was supporting your viewpoint earlier in this thread, but based on this example of CNN reporting, you're ready to completely condemn CNN and accuse them of working to put McCain in the White House?? No way.

Posted by: pencarrow on October 14, 2008 at 7:05 PM | PERMALINK

Not the approach I'd take.

Condemn the registration fraud and call it that if the distinction is so important.

You might even get some mileage out of their lack of precision with our mother tongue. But don't let ACORN off the hook for having poor management.

Defending poor management is the Republicans' job.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on October 14, 2008 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Maybe you need to reference a couple of the conservative blogs to see their viewpoint of how CNN is "in the tank" for Obama.

McSame dead-enders have been calling overtly conservative "in the tank" for Obama when they mention inconvenient facts, the fact that they consider the whole of the non-Fox TV news industry to be similarly "in the tank", and probably some of the personalities on Fox, too, is hardly surprising, but hardly evidence of the direction or magnitude of any actual bias.

The perceptions of the right blogosphere are not the yardstick to use to measure actual bias.

Posted by: cmdicely on October 14, 2008 at 7:37 PM | PERMALINK

The perceptions of the right blogosphere are not the yardstick to use to measure actual bias.

No, indeed.

Posted by: Gregory on October 14, 2008 at 8:11 PM | PERMALINK

Someone may have pointed this out, but I've worked door to door and registered and at the least what the ACORN push does is to tar and feather the name, vilify the brand to reduce its effectiveness on the ground. Not to mention the bigger picture, instantiated in the 6th circuit's ruling in Ohio, that anything ACORN is now permanently suspect, or more precisely 'illegal and anti-American'. But how many folks who might have gladly worked with/for, or cooperated with ACORN will now turn away? I hate to lay everything at Obama's feet but someone's gotta push back on this hard, or an extremely effective organization of highly involved and caring folks (in my experience) is going to be permanently hobbled.

Posted by: Conrad's Ghost on October 15, 2008 at 12:55 AM | PERMALINK

Unfortunately I was on travel, and now this thread has dropped below the fold. But in case someone checks...

So, SJRSM, how many of the "1,762 allegedly fraudulent voter registrations submitted by ACORN employees" do you expect will actually show up at the polls and attempt to "fraudulently" vote?
Posted by: CT

Stupid question. None of the ones caught. The questions is, how many weren't caught? The time to catch fraudulent voters is during registration.

Posted by: SJRSM on October 15, 2008 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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