Friday, October 12, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #77 - Part 4

Voter ID: Republican fraud

An update on voter ID issues.

First is that we found some voter fraud! Unfortunately for the right-wingers, but unsurprisingly, it was committed by right wingers. Specifically, by an outfit called Strategic Allied Consultants of Glen Allen, Virginia, which the Republican National Committee hired to do voter registration in five states. The RNC paid the company $1.3 million for its services.

Strategic Allied Consultants proceeded to turn in more than 100 “questionable” registration applications to the Elections Board of Palm Beach County, Florida. Nine more counties in Florida reported similar questionable registrations submitted by the company and similar allegations arose in at least Nevada and Colorado, two more of the five states where Strategic Allied Consultants was doing the job for the RNC.

It develops that the guy in charge of Strategic Allied Consultants is one Nathan Sproul, a long-time Republican party operative who also has a long history of let's be polite for the moment and just call them questionable voter registration practices.

Back in 2004, the company was called Sproul and Associates and was caught lying about a ballot initiative in Arizona - this at the time Sproul was state director of the GOP there - that would have eviscerated the state's clean elections law. Two years later, it was investigated for charges of destroying registration forms of people who signed up as Democrats, who then would turn up at the polls, thinking they were registered, to find they were not.

In 2008, the name was changed to Lincoln Associates, and it worked for the McCain campaign. Then, a few months ago, it became Strategic Allied Consulting. The name change apparently was done at the request of the Republican National Committee, which wanted to hire Sproul to do more of his registration hoo-hah but didn't want people to realize just who it was doing it.

Now Sproul has been caught and the company has been fired by the RNC.

Truth be told, this sort of voter fraud - voter registration fraud - is not uncommon in the US. It generally happens because canvassing companies hire people to collect signatures and those people get paid based on how many signatures they get - creating an obvious incentive to just make up phony registration forms. This is what happened with ACORN, if you remember that group. What you may not recall is that the reason officials so quickly knew that ACORN was turning in phony registrations is that ACORN - obeying the law that says all registration forms must be turned in regardless - turned them in while flagging them as suspicious. That was the "fraud" that made ACORN the right wing's cause célèbre for a time until they successfully bankrupted it.

There is one major difference between ACORN and Sproul's outfit: Unlike their right-wing counterparts, ACORN was never accused or suspected of destroying the registration forms of people who registered with the "wrong" party. So while it'll be interesting to see how many right-wingers will be out for the blood of Strategic Allied Consultants of Glen Allen, Virginia, don't expect to see any chorus of cries any time soon. Or ever.

The other thing, though, is that the sort of fraud that involves phony names really doesn't effect elections: Non-existent people living at phony addresses are not going to turn up at the polls to vote. The bigger victims of this sort of fraud, actually, are the outfits that hired to canvassers and have gotten ripped off. In-person voter fraud, on the other hand, the kind of fraud that all these photo ID laws are supposed to address, is all but nonexistent and far more, far more, people will be wrongfully and needlessly - but in the right-wing's plans, deliberately - prevented from voting by those laws.

There has been some successful pushback in a number of states that have passed these vote-suppressing laws, but if we're going to engage in more than a rear-guard, "slow the enemy advance" action, we have to keep asking, keep pushing on, why the right wing regards voting with such fear that they regard it as something to be suppressed rather than encouraged.


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