Setting the Record Straight

October 21, 2008

Acorns, Buckeyes & Chestnuts: Part II

GOP’s November Surprise

     The artificial Acorn flap is more than just another McCain/Palin attempt to remind votors of Barack Obama’s color. It could be the basis for a Republican attempt to create havoc at the polling places Nov. 4, throwing the election into a state of confusion.

     It has to be more than coincidental that John McCain is making such a big deal about Acorn and voter-registration tactics at the same time Republican operatives, groups and just plain supporters are attempting other means to purge voter lists in areas not favorable to the GOP cause. The Acorn situation is simple, the rest is not.

     Well before the Acorn “scandal,” in the wake of the 2000 presidential vote that ended up with the conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court appointing George W. Bush as president, the Republican-controlled Congress passed a law in 2002 to require and fund state efforts to improve voting procedures. The Help America Vote Act included a provision requiring states to create a statewide database so their voters could check to see if they are registered properly.
     Traditionally, any effort to get more citizens registered to vote tends to sweep up far more people in the low-to middle-income groups than the wealthy. That would be no surprise to the Republican Party. So it is no surprise the GOP Congress included another provision in the law.
     HAVA required each state, once its database was in place, to check the registrations against other state records, such as Social Security number or drivers licenses and strike from the registration lists names that do not match those records. The law then requires the state to notify those whose names were struck and allow them to prove their registration was correct (they could have been flagged because they used a nickname that did not match the driver’s license, for example).
     As those state databases have come on line, Republican groups in many states have been using the databases to launch their own challenges of registered voters. The methods vary, but many GOP operatives are sending voters on the databases a registered letter, or a letter with all the appearance of junk mail, or any other method designed to obscure the fact there is a letter inside notifying the voter his registration was being questioned and advising that he needed to respond.
     If the voter failed to respond, the GOP would use that as evidence the registration was fraudulent and lodge a formal challenge of the registration. Most of the voters would not know until they attempt to vote that there is a problem. They are required to be given a “provisional ballot” in such cases, but whether those actually are counted usually is problematic.
     Republicans also seek to use the law to create havoc at election time by increasing the number of voters around the country who would be issued provisional ballots on election day, jamming up what is expected to be a record turnout for a presidential election, with their challenged registrations considered one by one before their vote could be counted, and only after the election is over.
     To that end, the Ohio Republican Party sued state officials and got an appeals court ruling that would have required those officials to do the impossible and to have the state provide each county with its share of the third of the 666,000 voters registered this year whose registrations did not match, so the county officials could prevent them from voting.
     Because 200,000 registrations could not be checked out by election day to determine which actually were fraudulent, their provisional ballots would not be counted on election day, possible throwing the result in a key state in doubt. Armed with Democratic Party objections to that appellate court’s order, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out the order with no comment.
     But the ever-resourceful GOP is not finished. It has other arrows in its quiver.
     Back in the 1960s an ultra-conservative man in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., built a reputation as a direct-marketing whiz. That’s direct-marketing, as in the form of junk mail and now nearly banned junk telephone calls.
     Now operating as American Target Advertising, Richard Viguerie invented direct mail targeted at ideological and political themes. Others later caught onto the techniques and that is why thousands of people in wealthier areas of the country receive free glossy magazines crammed with high-end advertising about lifestyles of the wealthy. Middle- and low-income never see them unless they work as maids, nannies or make house calls as “Joe the plumber,” who apparently votes Republican against his own best interests.
     That special targeting is simple. The marketers of which Viguerie is the master simply select the Zip Codes of the wealthier neighborhoods and send magazines, conservative come-ons and other junk targeted at their interests.
     The technique also works at the other end of the income scale. Republican operatives are using the same technique to check voter registration lists and extract those that list addresses in the poorer Zip Code areas. They then send that disguised letter to the registered address advising the residents they needed to verify their voter registration.
    And those are techniques we know of. Who knows what else GOP groups have up their sleeves this election season to discredit and even deny the votes of those who would vote for Obama and other Democrats.

Next: Fact-Checking Acorns and Chestnuts: Part III




  1. As someone who worked in the election office of a very large metropolis during the 2004 Presidential election, I will let you know that we were inundated with ACORN registrations. Many if not MOST were duplicates, many were addresses that did not exist, many were convicted felons who had not had their voting rights restored and yes even deceased individuals. It took a tremendous amount of time and effort on the part of our office staff to WEED through the bogus registration forms and insure that those who were legitimate voters were in fact registered in time to vote. Most days we were working 20-24 hours a day in preparation for an election. This had NOTHING to do with racism, it had to do with a group of people getting people to fill out a form for a paycheck. It wasn’t just one or two individuals who were jamming up the registration process either. The problem with ACORN is that there are ABSOLUTELY no checks and balances in their registration procedures. When you register at an Election Officials office you must present a valid form of identification. When you register through Motor Voter, you must present a valid form of identification. The same amount of time is spent verifying and cross referencing legitimate registration forms and those of Micky Mouse and Donald Duck. Perhaps if our locally ELECTED officials would take the time to actually hold town hall forums and EDUCATE their constituents on their policies, platforms and the differences between candidates instead of expecting everyone to just be a lemming we would be much better off. It just ticks me off. WHY does the race card have to be thrown into the pot each and EVERY time an election rolls around? MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD! VOTE! I couldn’t care less WHAT color you are. VOTE!

    Comment by KA — October 22, 2008 @ 4:30 am | Reply

  2. Thank you for adding information to the issue, particularly from another side of the story. You confirm Acorn handled is mission badly, but I think you believe the mission–getting people registered to vote–was worthwhile. The law needs to be tightened up to require some type of confirmation before the registrations are turned in and hold Acordn responsible. And as you confirm, these registrations, phony or not, have to be doublechecked, so there is no “voter fraud” as claimed, massive or otherwise.
    But I think you misunderstand the reference to racism in the story. We are not saying that criticizing Acorn is racism; we are saying the GOP attacks on Acorn, a group aimed at the low-income, i.e., mostly blacks, and tying Obama, a black, to them and, because of his Arab-sounding name, to terrorists, is racism. The GOP is playing the race card while trying to appear not to be playing the race card. And their purpose is to keep these low-income, i.e., blacks, from voting at all, properly registered or not, because they fear, quite justifiably, they will vote Democratic.
    And we agree that it would be nice if both candidates would quit smearing each other, twisting each other’s comments, but as long as we have an uninformed electorate, we’re afraid this type of campaigning will continue. You obviously read, much of America does not.

    Comment by straightrecord — October 22, 2008 @ 9:55 am | Reply

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