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.

Share
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

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2014

Gateway to Freedom

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Guns and Poses

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Christmas in Prison

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Poison Apples

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Growing Up

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Beeper World·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The beeper, for a certain kind of Miami teenager in the Nineties, was an essential evolutionary adaptation.”
Photograph by Curran Hatleberg
Article
Hammer Island·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The place could have sprung from someone’s jealous dream about white people.”
Photograph by Emily Stein
Article
Growing Up·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The best coming-of-age stories have a hole in the middle. They pretend to be about knowledge, but they are usually about grasping, long after it could be of any use, one’s irretrievable ignorance.”
Photograph by Ben Pier
Article
Guns and Poses·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“‘It’s open shopping,’ he said. ‘A warehouse. The whole of Libya.’”
Map by Mike Reagan
Article
Christmas in Prison·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Just so you motherfuckers know, I’ll be spending Christmas with my family, eating a good meal, and you’ll all be here, right where you belong.”
Photographer unknown. Artwork courtesy Alyse Emdur

Amount that President Obama has added to America’s “brand value” according to the Nation Brands Index:

$2,100,000,000,000

A study suggested that the health effects of exposure to nuclear radiation at Chernobyl were no worse than ill health resulting from smoking and normal urban air pollution.

A Utah woman named Cameo Crispi pleaded guilty to having drunkenly attempted to burn down her ex-boyfriend’s house by igniting bacon on his kitchen stove.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

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