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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.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”