August 8, 2017

The voter fraud canard

Salon - Voter fraud is not a problem, as academic researchers have shown over and over. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University examined every federal election between 2000 and 2015. More than a billion votes had been cast over that period. The researchers found only 31 examples of voter fraud. 

Yet the canard of “voter fraud” persists on the right.... All myths have an origin story. The Republican-sponsored voter fraud myth gained momentum in the early 2000s as an attack on ACORN, a community organizing group that was engaged in a bold voter registration drive among low-income, mostly minority, voters in cities and swing states like Florida and New Mexico.

To thwart ACORN’s efforts, Karl Rove – George W. Bush’s key political operative – led a campaign to destroy the group’s reputation by accusing it of voter fraud. In 2005, for example, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales ordered David Iglesias, the U.S. attorney in New Mexico and a Republican, to investigate ACORN for voter registration violations. After Iglesias’ probe came up empty-handed, Gonzales fired him. Then Bush and Rove escalated the campaign to persuade Americans that extensive voter fraud was a serious problem and required strict new laws to make registration more difficult. By doing so, they hoped not only to stop ACORN but also to intimidate other groups, like the League of Women Voters, from registering new voters. 

During the 2008 election season, ACORN registered more than 800,000 young, poor and minority voters. A handful of ACORN’s 13,000 part-time canvassers faked voter registration forms to get paid for work they didn’t do. ACORN immediately informed local election officials when it discovered the counterfeit signatures, as the group was required to do by law.

As revealed in a new documentary film, “ACORN and the Firestorm,” Republicans and their allies in the right-wing media (Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and others) jumped on those small morsels of information to accuse ACORN of being part of a criminal conspiracy. 

... The attack worked. Even some Democrats in Congress refused to come to ACORN’s defense. Numerous independent investigations cleared ACORN of any criminal wrongdoing, but they were too late. By the next year, ACORN was dismantled after its foundation funders withdrew their support.

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