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“A Deeply Ironic Twist”: Conservative Media Ignore GOP Voter Registration Fraud

Republicans passed new voting restrictions in more than a dozen states since the 2010 election that were purportedly designed to stop voter fraud. Yet, in a deeply ironic twist, the most high-profile instances of election fraud this cycle have been committed by Republicans in states with new voting restrictions.

The RNC-funded Strategic Allied Consulting, run by checkered GOP operative Nathan Sproul, is under criminal investigation in Florida for submitting fraudulent voter registration forms to election officials. (Sproul is still running voter-canvassing operations for conservatives in thirty states.) Sproul’s associate Colin Small, who had worked for Strategic Allied Consulting and as “Grassroots Field Director at the Republican National Committee,” was charged last week with eight felony counts and five misdemeanors for trashing voter registration forms in Virginia.

Republicans claim that the voter registration fraud was committed by a few bad apples and pales in comparison to the fraud committed by ACORN in 2008. But ACORN was never funded by the DNC. And the abuses committed by Sproul and Small were far worse than those attached to ACORN. Unlike Strategic Allied Consulting, ACORN never changed the party affiliations on fraudulent voter registration forms and self-reported suspicious materials to election officials. Nor did ACORN ever destroy valid voter registration forms, as Small is accused of doing. (Not to mention that none of the fictitious characters falsely registered by ACORN workers, like Mickey Mouse, ever voted.)

Despite the right’s preoccupation with voter fraud, Sproul and Small have received scant coverage from conservative media outlets. Fox News, which ran 122 stories on ACORN from 2007–08, mentioned Strategic Allied Consulting only three times since the scandal broke in late September and hasn’t aired a single report on voter registration fraud in Virginia. Nor have National Review or The Weekly Standard, the pre-eminent conservative magazines, run an article about either case.

ACORN was far from perfect, but it did not deserve the witch-hunt treatment it received. In 2009, Peter Dreier of Occidental College and Christopher Martin of Northern Iowa studied the media’s shameful coverage of ACORN during the 2008 election and found:

• 82.8% of the stories failed to mention that actual voter fraud is very rare
• 80.3% of the stories failed to mention that ACORN was reporting registration irregularities to authorities, as required by law
• 85.1% of the stories about ACORN failed to note that ACORN was acting to stop incidents of registration problems by its (mostly temporary) employees when it became aware of these problems
• 95.8% of the stories failed to provide deeper context, especially efforts by Republican Party officials to use allegations of “voter fraud” to dampen voting by low‐income and minority Americans, including the firing of U.S. Attorneys who refused to cooperate with the politicization of voter-fraud accusations—firings that ultimately led to the resignation of U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales

Republicans, it turns out, have committed the very voter registration fraud they once accused ACORN of perpetrating. Nor did new voting restrictions in states like Florida and Virginia, which could collectively make it harder for 5 million Americans to cast a ballot in 2012, prevent the fraud they were supposedly meant to combat.

 

By: Ari Berman, The Nation, October 23, 2012

October 24, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Sound of Crickets”: Conservative Sites Silent About GOP Voter-Registration Fraud

What began last week as a trickle—a report from the Palm Beach Post that the Florida Republican Party was cutting ties with a firm that turned in “questionable” voter-registration forms in one county—has now grown into a pretty ugly flood. Turns out the Florida GOP paid the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, to do voter registration, while the Republican National Committee paid the same firm millions to register voters in four other battleground states: Virginia, North Carolina, Nevada, and Colorado. The group allegedly submitted forms with dead voters’ information and fake information—and in some cases, may have changed voters’ party affiliations to Republican without alerting the voters. More disturbing, the firm the Republicans were paying, Strategic Allied Consulting, is one of several that GOP consultant Nathan Sproul has run over the last decade. Along the way, Sproul’s companies have been accused of everything from refusing to register Democratic voters to shredding the voter-registration forms of Democrats. Yet Sproul continued to get lucrative contracts from the GOP. And the conservative media has had precious little to say about it.

Josh Marshall called the news a “thunderclap of schadenfreude” and it’s hard to think of a more apt description. Republicans and their media backers have long criticized mass voter-registration drives, often pushed by progressive—if not necessarily partisan—groups. The 2008 ACORN voter registration non-scandal has been a cultural touchstone for the right. But what’s alleged against Sproul and Srategic Allied Consulting is is far more serious.

ACORN’s 2008 situation revealed problems not unusual to mass voter-registration drives. First, hundreds of thousands of voter-registration forms turned out to be duplicates; the voters were already registered and for whatever reason—likely because they weren’t sure—filled out a form anyway. That lead to hundreds of thousands of forms being rejected. Meanwhile, some paid canvassers faked voter-registration forms, filling them out for Mickey Mouse or John Smith. ACORN’s organizers flagged problematic ballots and turned information over to the authorities. In the end, several employees were charged with forgery. But there was no evidence that ACORN was trying to influence the outcome of an election, nor would any of these incidents result in voter fraud. Even if Mickey Mouse was registered to vote, it hardly means Mickey Mouse could cast a ballot. The canvassers were trying to make an easy buck.

While there’s no evidence that ACORN’s errors had any impact on election outcomes, it didn’t stop the conservative feeding frenzy. Breitbart.com was particularly prolific and, let’s say, creative in its coverage of the non-scandal, with headlines like “ACORN Corruption Runs Deep” and, as ACORN began to shut down, “Gangster Group Will Be Bankrupt Soon But Fake Spinoff Groups Will Carry On the Corruption.” No worries about downplaying the news when a progressive group was involved.

The efforts by the Republican Party and Sproul are significantly more disturbing than ACORN’s error-prone registration cards, primarily because these incidents could affect election outcomes. The consultant, Nathan Sproul, had already established himself as a shady character in 2004, when one of his previous companies, Voters Outreach of America, was accused of major legal violations, including destroying Democrats’ voter-registration forms and refusing to register non-Republicans. By destroying Democratic voter registrations, as Sproul’s group allegedly did, people who believe themselves to be registered could be turned away at the polls. Furthermore, the track record of accusations, including the suspicious forms turned in this year, seem to indicate a top-down policy of the Republican Party more than poor decision-making by some low-level canvassers.

When the news broke, the Republican National Committee ended its relationship with Sproul. But that left an obvious question: If Sproul was accused of such suspicious activities in 2004, why was the RNC still doing business with him? After making a total of $8 million in 2004, Sproul had already made $3 million this year from the RNC alone. (He was also getting six-figure checks from several state parties, as Lee Fang reports.)

But oddly enough, in spite of all the questions this news seems to raise, Nathan Sproul and Strategic Allied Consulting barely seem to exist in the conservative corners of the media. A search at RedState yielded 0 results. So did a search at Breitbart.com. Even Matt Drudge, who never seems to let a juicy headline pass by, ignored one when it came to Sproul and his company—or to this actual evidence of a political party cavorting with genuinely sketchy voter-registration efforts. We must give Tucker Carlson’sThe Daily Caller credit, though: It did run a single republished AP story—one with no mention of Sproul’s long history with the GOP.

Compare that to the number of stories mentioning ACORN over the last four years: RedState has 68, The Daily Caller 128, and Drudge 166. A search for “ACORN” on Breitbart.com, meanwhile, reveals a staggering 1,450 entries.

Given how loudly these media sites have criticized legitimate and non-partisan voter registration drives for mistakes, in some cases effectively ending the efforts with a barrage of negative press, the silence here speaks volumes. Here is an actual example of the activity so many GOP activists are constantly searching for: evidence of voter- registration drives being used for partisan purposes.

But then again, there’s likely no time to write about a genuine case of voter registration manipulation when you’re so busy producing new stories about President Obama’s relation to ACORN, a group that no longer exists, five years after the fact.

 

By: Abby Rapoport, The American Prospect, October 5, 2012

October 6, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Crying Fraud, Then Creating It”: Republicans, The Villains Of Their Own Conspiracy Theories

For once, the Republicans were right.

They have been obsessively claiming that voter-suppression measures are necessary because of widespread “ballot fraud.” However extensive investigations by the mainstream media have shown that ballot-fraud is a convenient myth.

Even the Bush administration, in an extensive five-year search, turned up no evidence of the kind of voting fraud—fake IDs, voting in the name of dead people, folks being bribed to vote—that the Republicans routinely allege. Republicans, evoking the tactics of the pre-civil rights segregationist South, simply want to make it more difficult for people who might support Democrats to exercise their right to vote. Some five million people, mostly minorities and the poor, are at risk of being denied their right to vote in 19 states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures, according to a report from the Brennan Center. Happily, the courts have struck down the most extreme of these measures, in Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, and most recently Pennsylvania.

Now, however, Republicans can claim some vindication. Serious voter fraud has emerged in Florida. But the ballot fraud is being perpetrated by Republicans!

The Florida GOP had hired a firm with a very sketchy record, called Strategic Allied Consulting. And guess what? The firm tried to register dead people! It also refused to register live people who tried to register as a Democrat or an independent.

An embarrassed party turned over evidence to state prosecutors and fired the firm.

But, hey, the Republicans should be pleased. They’ve now demonstrated, at long last, that ballot fraud does exist. Of course, the remedy is not suppression of legitimate voting, but prosecution of fraudsters. They seem to exist only on the Republican side.

 

By: Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect, October 3, 2012

October 4, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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