Washington Babylon — October 16, 2008, 12:10 pm

Is ACORN Plotting a Coup?

I had never realized prior to now that ACORN was one of the most powerful organizations in the country. Not only is the group accused of being responsible for the housing bubble and the collapse of the global economy, but it is “now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”

At least that’s what John McCain said during the presidential debate last night. I asked Richard Hasen, a professor specializing in election law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and author of the Election Law blog, about that line of attack, which is being relentlessly promoted by the G.O.P. and across the right-wing blogosphere.

Here’s what he said (his remarks were lightly edited for length and clarity):

There certainly is some voter-registration fraud, and ACORN’s business model is broken. The people who engage in this sort of thing should be prosecuted. But there is no evidence that fake registrations lead to actual votes being cast on Election Day, certainly not in any numbers that could impact the outcome or threaten the integrity of the process.

Registration fraud can occur when people are employed to turn in voter registration [forms] and they need to turn something in; sometimes they might be paid by the piece. But imagine that you want to steal an election. One way would be to register a lot of individuals using false names, and then send people to the polls claiming to be those voters–and to pay those people even though there’s no guarantee that they will vote the way you want them to. And anyone who does try to vote under a fake name could easily be discovered and charged with a felony.

It makes nice copy to talk about how members of the Dallas Cowboys were falsely registered to vote, but no one is going to turn up and vote under their names.

Another idea going around is that of dead people voting. The idea here is that that you have people looking through the obituaries and sending people to polling places to vote in their names. It’s a stupid way to try to steal an election.

A much smarter way would be to find legitimate voters who will vote the way you want and verify how they voted before you pay them. The actual cases of election fraud that take place fit that model.

Single Page

More from Ken Silverstein:

From the November 2013 issue

Dirty South

The foul legacy of Louisiana oil

Perspective October 23, 2013, 8:00 am

On Brining and Dining

How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy

Postcard October 16, 2013, 8:00 am

The Most Cajun Place on Earth

A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits 

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada



September 2014

Israel and Palestine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Washington Is Burning

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On Free Will

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

They Were Awake

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
“There was torture by the previous regime and by the current Iraqi regime,” Dr. Amin said. “Torture by our Kurdish government, torture by Syrians, torture by the U.S.”
Visiting His Own Grave © Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The Tale of the Tape·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
The Soft-Kill Solution·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia
New Books
New Books·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Almond insists that watching football does more than feed an appetite for violence. It’s a kind of modern-day human sacrifice, and it makes us more likely to go to war.”
Photograph by Harold Edgerton

Chance that a movie script copyrighted in the U.S. before 1925 was written by a woman:

1 in 2

Engineers funded by the United States military were working on electrical brain implants that will enable the creation of remote-controlled sharks.

Malaysian police were seeking fifteen people who appeared in an online video of the Malaysia-International Nude Sports Games 2014 Extravaganza, and Spanish police fined six Swiss tourists conducting an orgy in the back of a moving van for not wearing their seatbelts.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


In Praise of Idleness


I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today