Home > Corruption, Election 2008, GOP & The Election > The ACORN Fraud Fraud: How to Fake an Issue to Commit a Crime You Are Denouncing

The ACORN Fraud Fraud: How to Fake an Issue to Commit a Crime You Are Denouncing

October 17th, 2008

The claim is that ACORN is a group with close ties to Barack Obama and is involved in a massive scam to register hordes of fake voters so as to throw the election for Barack Obama. McCain claimed in the debate last night that ACORN is “now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”

The truth, of course, is significantly different.

ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) is a voter advocacy group that holds registration drives, focusing on increasing participation among lower- and middle-class citizens. While ACORN often finds itself aligned with Democrats on the issues, it is not affiliated with any political party, and McCain himself was the keynote speaker at an ACORN rally, where he praised ACORN and its workers, saying, “What makes America special is what’s in this room tonight.”

ACORN is not involved in any vote fraud. The focus of the recent storm is something which has always plagued all registration drives by all such organizations of any size: workers scamming their employers for a little extra cash. ACORN, and many organizations like it, hire people to register citizens to vote. You’ve probably seen this many times, where a card table is set up somewhere in public with forms, and a few people are approaching passers-by and urging them to register. The people who work these tables are hired just like with any organization or company. They are paid to register people. And whenever you hire lots of people, some will be dishonest. In this case, some decide that it’s easier to simply fake registrations instead of signing up real people, which is how you get registrations for Mickey Mouse and Tony Romo.

This is not directed by or encouraged by ACORN, Barack Obama, or John McCain, it is not the fault of anyone except a few dishonest people for hire. ACORN, the actual victims of fraud here, do their best to flag such fraudulent registrations, but are not allowed to throw out even the most egregious fakes–all must be submitted. But this does not mean that this will result in any fake votes. This is a few people trying to get a few extra bucks by submitting forms with fake names and information.

There is no evidence–zero, zilch, none, not a scrap–that this is anything but what I have described above. So why is it such a big story? The answer is an old one: because it is a helpful red herring for right-wing efforts to commit real election fraud.

There is a real and penetrating effort by conservative groups to suppress the poor and minority votes, primarily due to the fact that these groups vote strongly Democratic. There are several ways to do this. One is to introduce new laws which challenge and restrict registration and voting by these groups, such as Voter ID laws, which discourage poor voters by throwing more obstacles in their path. Another way is to fight against laws which make it easier for these people to register, such as Motor-Voter laws, which conservatives have always fought against. Another way is to disenfranchise large numbers through a variety of dodgy, dishonest, and often contemptible means, such as voter caging; the most recent iteration of this is to challenge the registration of voters whose homes have been foreclosed.

How are these efforts helped by false claims of fraud by groups like ACORN? In truth, there is very little actual voter fraud amongst these groups; in light of that truth, there is little justification for the conservative efforts to suppress the vote. But by claiming massive voter fraud where there is none, such efforts are given a false veneer of legitimacy. Without any voter fraud happening, Voter ID laws don’t make much sense; by claiming voter fraud is rampant, you gain support.

In McCain’s case, the reason is more immediate: to not only sully his opponent and energize the base, but also to begin construction of a false narrative as to why the election will go the way it will go.

This whole situation is made much worse by the recently leaked news that the FBI is now launching an official probe into ACORN. Coming just a day after McCain made his big ACORN smear campaign official, the news smacks of dirty tricks, giving just such false legitimacy to the claims of vote theft. The real question here is why ACORN is being investigated while blatant efforts of real election fraud go uninvestigated and unpunished, from Katherine Harris’ 2000 fraud where she knowingly disenfranchised tens of thousands of Democratic voters in Florida under an intentionally-botched purge of felons from voter lists, to more recent caging efforts that target college students who are required to leave their dormitories during summer break, or even soldiers who are serving overseas.

These efforts result in the actual loss of voting rights by tens of thousands of real American citizens at the polls, as compared to the claimed ACORN fraud, which has very little if any impact at all on actual votes cast in any election.

But those real and significant cases of election fraud benefit conservative politicians–draw your own conclusions as to why they go uninvestigated.

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