A brief refresher course on why we are facing repressive voter ID laws: In 2008, the umbrella community activism group ACORN hired a large number of people to go out and register other people to vote. It was one of the largest voter registration efforts in American history. Some of those who were hired (and who were paid for each registration turned in) fudged some of the registrations to earn a few more bucks. The fake registrations were detected and deleted and between the registration scandal and faked James O’Keefe videos, ACORN has ceased to exist. The legacy of ACORN’s involvement in the voter registration scandal is all the new voter ID laws because the right wing media and Republicans convinced their faith followers that fraudulent registrations equaled fraudulent votes, even though actual, in-person voter fraud is such a small problem it is statistically non-existent.
According to the right wing, President Obama was elected by illegal ACORN voters.
Fast forward to 2012 in Palm Beach County, Florida. The Florida Republican Party hired a Virginia company called Strategic Allied Consulting to organize voter registrations, after passing a new voter ID law that seriously restricted the ability of organizations to collect registrations. The FRC paid $1.3 million for this service.
The staff of Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher noticed something weird about some of the Strategic registrations. They appeared to have been signed by the same person. In total they found 108 falsely signed or incomplete registrations, all submitted by Strategic. Bucher as contacted the State’s Attorney’s office and requested an investigation.
The Republican National Committee is a wee bit upset, particularly after hearing the state’s Republican Party Executive Director place the whole kerfuffle on the National Committee’s doorstep. Mike Grissom issued a statement which read, “We immediately informed the Republican National Committee that we were terminating the contract with the voter registration vendor we hired at their request because there is no place for voter-registration fraud in Florida.” RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer shot back, “We have zero tolerance for any threat to the integrity of elections. When we were informed of an alleged incident, we immediately cut all ties to the company.” That’s nice. The RNC has so far shelled out almost $3 million for similar work in Nevada, Colorado and Virginia, where the elections boards are probably having nightmares about having to review all those new registration forms. North Carolina fired Strategic Allied Consulting on Thursday.
Strategic Allied Consulting went into damage control, with one of their attorneys saying, “Strategic has a zero-tolerance policy for breaking the law. Accordingly, once we learned of the irregularities in Palm Beach County, we were able to trace all questionable cards to one individual and immediately terminated our working relationship with the individual in question.” The company did not identify the culprit.
For Republicans, this just keeps getting worse. The “main operative” for Strategic is a man named Nathan Sproul. Sproul is a long-time Republican “operative” and previously worked through a company called Lincoln Strategy Group, which the Romney campaign used to collect signatures to get on primary ballots in 2011.
Ah, the irony of it all. Republicans hoisted on their own petard. (I looked it up once. A petard is a small bomb and if it went off prematurely, the guy setting the bomb would be “hoisted” off his feet backwards by the blast, arc through the air and land in a rather crumpled state – okay, I’m enjoying this story too much.)
There is a moral to this story. The fraudulent registrations were found because every registration is reviewed by the election board staff in a city or county. If the registrations are handed in as a bundle, which they are when collected by a third party, it’s fairly easy to see handwriting similarities. In any event, the election board verifies that the person registering actually exists and actually lives in the district. If they have moved from another state, some jurisdictions will send notification to the previous registration jurisdiction to remove that person from their voter rolls. These boards, at least in efficient jurisdictions, routinely review notifications from the state board of health or other source of the deaths of residents of their jurisdiction. Those persons are then purged from the rolls. An efficient elections board maintains control over their voter registrations. At the worst, a board may approach election day with a small number of dead voters on the rolls because those people have died within a month of the election.
It is a system that we have trusted for decades. Registration to vote began in the early 1800s as a means to prevent transients and immigrants voting, but ended up disenfranchising the poor because the registration was done by registrars vising homes during working hours. After the Civil War some states instituted poll taxes which had to be paid in order to register. The early days of universal suffrage and registration were years when people voted early and often, when dead people voted, but the system has been improved so there is minimal chance of voter fraud.
But the whole voter fraud/voter registration fraud brouhaha should have all of us looking at how Oregon votes. They do it by mail. Not just absentee ballots, but all ballots are cast by mail. It’s inconceivable that Oregonians are more honest than the rest of us, so why does it work and why aren’t people screaming about voter ID in Oregon?