This week, the New York Times reported that “tens of thousands of eligible voters in at least six swing states have been removed from the rolls or have been blocked from registering in ways that appear to violate federal law.” But instead of expressing concern about tens of thousands of potentially disenfranchised citizens, what are conservatives up in arms about? The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), which announced that it had registered 1.3 million new voters.
Seizing on a couple of reports of apparently fraudulent voter registrations, conservatives began a chorus of accusations, claiming that the “purpose” of ACORN is to commit “voter fraud.” Watch a compilation:
It’s important to highlight a couple of facts to correct the right-wing rhetoric:
- Fraudulent registration forms do not constitute voter fraud.
Voter fraud only occurs if someone tries to improperly cast a vote. “It’s not voter fraud unless someone shows up at the voting booth on election day and tries to pass himself off as ‘Tony Romo.’ And who would try to do that?” wrote Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-IL). The Brennan Center for Justice noted that “there are no reports that we have discovered of votes actually cast in the names of [false] registrants.”
- In most states, organizations like ACORN are required by law to turn in every registration card they receive.
As the Wall Street Journal reported, “New Mexico law requires Acorn to turn in all applications, no matter how suspicious-looking, within 48 hours. Elections officials do their own quality control on registrations.” In fact, “under most state laws, voter registration organizations are required to turn in all the forms they receive.” Furthermore, ACORN explained in a statement that “for the past 10 months, any time ACORN has identified a potentially fraudulent application, we turn that application into election officials separately and offer to provide election officials with the information they would need to pursue an investigation or prosecution of the individual.”
When a department store calls the police to report a shoplifting employee, no one says the department store is guilty of consumer fraud. The same principle applies here. The small number of staffers who have submitted fraudulent forms are violating ACORN’s mission. Anyone caught defrauding should be prosecuted, and ACORN says it is assisting in that effort. ACORN should work harder to catch these employees and ensure that they are held responsible.
After years of enacting policies catering to the wealthy, the right-wing seems to be fearful of millions of new low-income voters casting their ballot in favor of progressive policies.
Cross posted at The Wonk Room.