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

August 2014

The End of Retirement

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Octopus and Its Grandchildren

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Francis and the Nuns

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Return of the Strongman

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“Evidence of a chill was plain. People in Hailey spoke to me about Bergdahl in low voices, as if about a death.”
Fox & Friends, July 6, 2014
Article
The Seductive Catastrophe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The world’s leaders were moved by a populace fused into a forward phalanx, were shaken by a tidal wave of militancy jubilantly united.”
Photograph courtesy Mary Evans Picture Library
Post
The Glitch in the Video-Game Graveyard·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“From the nerd squabbles of Internet discussion threads rose an urban legend that culminated in a film that hinges on digging through my town’s trash.”
Illustration (detail) by Timothy Taranto
Article
What the Camera Saw·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“They shot him behind the left ear, and he fell.”
Article
Bounty·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If I’d been one of the unprepared, I’d be desperate, too.”
Illustration (detail) by Simon Pemberton

Rolls of toilet paper Chicago’s city government has produced this year from recycled City Hall wastepaper:

19,000

Two thirds of U.S. teenagers experience uncontrollable rage.

Russia lost, then regained, contact with a satellite carrying five geckos sent to copulate in zero gravity.

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