The Clackamas County Elections Office is under investigation by the Oregon Department of Justice for possible ballot tampering, reports the Oregonian. A temporary election worker allegedly filled in a straight Republican ticket where voters had left blank preferences. It is unclear how many ballots were affected, but, as Blue Oregon notes, this is not the first time Clackamas County has come under scrutiny for foul play.
The state elections office has twice had to monitor the county elections office. In 2011, an elections director had to step in when county clerk Sherry Hall accepted invalid signatures for a Tea Party-backed urban renewal petition.
Earlier this week, ThinkProgress released internal documents from the Romney campaign detailing how it is training poll watchers to mislead voters in Wisconsin. Now, according to new documents, Wisconsin may not be the only state where Romney’s campaign is equipping volunteers with deceptive information.
A new ThinkProgress investigation has found that in Iowa, Romney poll watchers are being trained to watch for voters who show up without a photo ID, even though no voter ID law exists in the state.
In a training video for Romney poll watchers in Iowa, the narrator tells volunteers to be on the lookout for anytime “a voter fails to show a voter ID and they are still permitted to vote.” If that happens, he says, “alert the legal team so they can handle the problem.” The text of the campaign’s slide, however, says something contradictory, instructing volunteers when poll workers should check the voter’s ID. Despite the mixed messages, the slide ends with: “If an election worker is not checking photo ID, please call the legal hotline immediately.”
NARRATOR: Naturally, you’re probably wondering what irregularities may come up throughout the day. We’ll walk you through some quick examples. First, there may be an instance where a voter fails to show a voter ID and they are still permitted to vote. If you notice this, use the legal help button to alert the legal team so they can handle the problem and you can get back to checking voters.
The text on the video notes that utility bills and other government documents are acceptable forms of ID, but that section is contradicted by the narrator’s decree to be on the lookout for anyone who tries to vote without a photo ID and text at the bottom warning poll watchers to be on the lookout for voters who lack photo ID. In sum, the training material is, at best, highly misleading.
Iowa in not a voter ID state. ThinkProgress asked a representative at the Iowa Secretary of State’s office whether it would be incorrect to say that voter ID is required in Iowa. “That’s right,” she confirmed. Voters do not need ID on Election Day; they can show a current utility bill (including cell phone bill), bank statement, paycheck, or other government document, but are not required to do so.
This video is part of Romney’s massive nationwide poll-watcher effort on Election Day. The campaign is training 34,000 volunteers to fan out in swing states across the country and monitor for voter fraud. Romney personally touted Project ORCA in a video released Wednesday evening, telling poll watchers that they’ll “be the key link in providing critical, real-time information to me.” Because of the program, Romney said, “our campaign will have an unprecedented advantage on Election Day.”
After ThinkProgress published this story, the Romney campaign scrubbed the original training video from the web. It has since been replaced with an alternate video that does not mention photo ID. We captured the original video, which you can see below:
A number of readers have noted that, in fact, most Iowans aren’t required to show any identification at all, including non-photo forms like a utility bill or pay stub, though it’s still helpful to bring if you have it readily available.
According to Reuters, the office of Iowa’s Secretary of State, Matt Schultz (R), “contacted the state director of the Romney campaign” to make clear that the state did not require photo ID to vote.
More right-wing politicians are warning incoming international observers not to interfere in the U.S. elections, or else. Among them is Texas Attorney General Greg Abbot, who sent the head of an Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers team a terse letter informing them that any attempt to meddle in voting will result in arrest and prosecution. The OSCE did not take kindly to the insinuation in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:
“The threat of criminal sanctions against OSCE/ODIHR observers is unacceptable,” [Ambassador Janez Lenarčič, the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR),] said. “The United States, like all countries in the OSCE, has an obligation to invite ODIHR observers to observe its elections.”
The ODIHR Director also stressed that any concerns or reports that the election observers intended to influence or interfere with the election process were groundless. He underlined that OSCE/ODIHR election observers adhere to all national laws and regulations, as well as a strict code of conduct.
“Our observers are required to remain strictly impartial and not to intervene in the voting process in any way,” Lenarčič said. “They are in the United States to observe these elections, not to interfere in them.” Yet Abbott isn’t convinced. He repeated his warning Wednesday on Fox News:
In an example of the sudden Republican distrust of these observers, Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) said in a statement that the idea that the United Nations “would be allowed, if not encouraged, to install foreigners sympathetic to the likes of Castro, Chavez, Ahmadinejad and Putin to oversee our elections is nothing short of disgusting.”
Despite all the fearmongering, the OSCE monitors have agreed to (and are mandated to) abide by state and local law. According to OSCE spokewoman Giovanna Maiola, the team will be observing the complete election process, focusing on a number of areas on the state level, including the overall legal system, election administration, the campaign, the campaign financing and new voting technologies used in various states.
The latter groups’ call for an international team to keep an eye on the U.S. elections focuses particularly on states that have enacted strict voter I.D. laws and other curtailing of voting rights. An NAACP delegation visited the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland in September to bring attention to the issue. The NAACP’s move, and the idea of foreign presence in the U.S. to observe elections, has infuriatedmanyon the right.
The response at the state-level is varying. Alabama Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard is, in protest of the monitors’ presence preparing legislation to have all poll watchers in Alabama hold U.S. citizenship. “It’s bad enough that Alabama remains trapped under the provisions of the Voting Rights Act,” Hubbard said “So we certainly don’t need anyone from the United Nations coming into our state and meddling in our elections, as well.”
Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote appeared on Fox News on Monday claiming that the monitors’ presence was actually intended to prevent and discourage U.S. voters from exercising their rights. Fox’s Megyn Kelly readily agreed, stressing the left-leaning nature of the civil rights groups, seemingly unaware of the State Department’s role in inviting the monitors. It’s worth mentioning that True the Vote, itself a Tea Party group voter suppression effort, is currently under investigation for possible criminal conspiracy. Watch the full interview here:
What none of these commentators mention is that this is neither an unprecedented event nor particularly worrisome. The Organization for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) is a group of over fifty countries in North America, Europe, and Central Asia committed to security and strengthening democracy. Counter to many of the exclamatory statements by the right-wing, the OSCE is not a part of the United Nations, but instead is loosely affiliated with the global organization.
According to the 1990 Copenhagen Document, which the U.S. has signed, all member states of the OSCE are called upon to accept monitors to observe their elections. As a founding member, the U.S. has taken part in dozens of observer missions over the years. In allowing observers into the country, the United States is preventing setting a precedent for other, less democratic states, to ban these monitors. Read more
A new conspiracy theory being floated around the liberal blogosphere claims that a voting machine company with distant ties to Bain and Company is planning to fix the election for Mitt Romney before the ballots are even cast. The theory, circulated by Truthout, BradBlog, and others, suggests that Hart Intercivic, a company that owns electronic voting machines in Ohio, will program the machines to tally the votes for Romney. Their motivation for committing this serious crime stems from a sort of investment capital telephone game: Hart Intercivic is partially owned by HIG Capital, an investment company that has business ties to Solamere Capital, Tagg Romney’s equity firm. They also note that four HIG Capital directors have helped raise money for Mitt Romney. Based on these connections, these theorists are concerned that the potential conflict of interest could lead the e-voting machine company to tamper with the election results.
This rigged machine theory is based on actual reporting on Tagg Romney’s Solamere and its cozy relationships with many businesses interested in lobbying the government. However, there is absolutely no evidence that this crony capitalist network extends to interference with voting machines. Furthermore, Hart Intercivic machines are only being used in two counties in Ohio. Though it is not implausible that the election could come down to two Ohio counties, it seems like quite a gamble to plant these supposedly rigged machines so sparsely.
Dwelling on the possibility that a company tangentially related to the Romney family may tamper with their own product distracts from the very real and far more insidious ways that conservatives are trying to manipulate the election. For starters, the Republican National Committee and state-level Republican parties hired a voter registration firm that is openly fabricating and even destroying voter registration forms. Though the Republican Party has attempted to cut ties with this firm, its operatives are still hard at work on its behalf. Besides these operations, Tea Party group True the Vote plans to dispatch hundreds of volunteer poll watchers whose only role is to try to discredit voters before they cast their ballots. Some local classes have been caught instructing these volunteers to challenge legal voters. If they could simply flip a switch on a machine to negate a voter’s choice, there would be no reason to push voter ID laws, purge voter rolls, disseminate misleading information, or threaten to fire employees if they don’t vote for Romney.
The rigged machines myth is not only distracting, but harms the effort to get out the vote. Conservative groups have been promoting vote suppression tactics for a reason: votes count. In Ohio, for instance, despite the Republican Party’s best efforts to restrict early voting hours, voter turnout is on pace to surpass 2008, with Obama leading among people who have already voted. Spreading the myth that the system is so corrupt that these votes don’t matter tells voters they may as well sit out the election.
This post previously included a Forbes piece that expresses concern about the conflict of interest presented by the Romneys’ ties to Hart Intercivic. However, the piece includes a caveat that the author does not believe there will be any intentional foul play with voting machines.
Pennsylvania resident Colin Small was arrested Thursday after he was caught illegally destroying voter registration forms in Virginia. Smalls worked for a firm hired by the Republican Party of Virginia to register voters, but was spotted throwing away 8 voter registration forms in a dumpster on Monday, the deadline for registering to vote in Virginia.
The 31-year-old man was charged with four counts of destruction of voter registration applications, eight counts of failing to disclose voter registration applications and one count of obstruction of justice. Small was spotted by the owner of a store in Harrisonburg, Virginia, who became suspicious when he saw Small’s Pennsylvania license plate.
Three of the voters turned out to be already registered, according to Donald Palmer, secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections. The other five were not registered, and have since been added to the voter roll. Registration closed on Monday.
In Virginia, and other states, it’s a crime to accept a voter registration form and not turn it in. Small is charged with destroying voter registration applications and obstruction of justice.
“There is no indication this activity was widespread in our jurisdiction,” said a statement from the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation is continuing, the sheriff’s office said.
Small worked for Strategic Allied Consulting, a registration firm now being investigated for submitting fraudulent registration forms in Florida. The Republican National Committee paid more than $3 million to SAC but quickly cut ties once the fraud came to light. As for Small, Virginia Republican Chairman Pat Mullins said he was fired as soon as the allegations surfaced. RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said Small had “made a mistake” and that the RNC “fully supports” the charges against him.
Though this is now the second criminal investigation against voter registration employees hired by the Republican Party, it hasn’t halted the shady registration practices still operating in at least ten states.
Denver Westword reports that Gessler’s office claims it has identified hundreds of non-citizens who are or were registered voters. But far fewer of those people ever actually voted:
Gessler’s office says that of 141 registered voters who aren’t citizens according to a federal database, 35 of them have voted in past elections — though some critics dispute how accurate and up-to-date that data might be. Still, of the fourteen voters who were recently removed as a result of that federal check, none actually have vote history, meaning there is no overlap with the 35 voters.
While clearly those 35 voters should not have voted if they were indeed non-citizens, this is not a significant percentage of the Colorado voting population. Indeed out of the 2,401,462 total votes cast in the state in the presidential election, even if all 35 illegally voted in that election, they would have accounted for less than 0.0015 percent of the vote.
Like Gov. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) failed purge effort in Florida, Gessler spent a lot of time, money, and resources to find only a handful of potentially ineligible voters. And while his office focused on this, technical glitches with their online voter registration system caused 779 Coloradans voter registrations to be lost.
The Republican National Committee hastily cut ties with Strategic Allied Consulting in late September, when Florida opened a criminal investigation into the GOP-funded voter registration firm for turning in hundreds of fraudulent registration forms in Florida counties. Once Palm Beach County raised the alarm, other states discovered fraudulent registrations, including North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada and Colorado. Now under fire, Strategic Allied Consulting founder Nathan Sproul has quietly started a new identical firm called Issue Advocacy Partners, which is operating in 10 major battleground states.
This isn’t the first time Sproul has had to hide his past. He claims the RNC told him to start Strategic Allied Consulting so they could hire him without calling attention to his shady work in the 2000 and 2004 elections, when his consultants altered and destroyed Democrats’ registration forms on the RNC’s payroll. BlueNC first uncovered the link between Issue Advocacy Partners and Nathan Sproul last week, when the new firm began posting job listings on Craigslist for “household researchers” in Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia, New York and New Jersey:
Some of the listings are connected directly to Sproul’s Lincoln Strategy Group. Others use Sproul’s Tempe, AZ, business address for contact information. Some of the ads specifically mention voter registration but do use terms like “seeking to hire grassroots canvassers to identify conservative voters”, “voter recruiter”, “conservative voter identification”, “voter ID”, ” identify conservative voters”. Many of the postings use an email address with the domain issueadvocacypartners.com. The website located at issueadvocacypartners.com has an appearance that is almost identical to that of the original strategicalliedconsulting.com.
Sproul is still operating on behalf of Republicans in at least ten states, though denies that he is being paid by the Republican Party. However, The Nation found evidence of a $453,000 payment to a Sproul offshoot firm from the California Republican Party, and former RNC chair Ed Gillespie paid Sproul $750,000 for unspecified work via his super PAC, American Crossroads. There may be still other local GOP chapters that continue to employ Sproul in spite of his well known reputation for voter registration shenanigans.
DENVER, Colorado — Republican lawyers have a plan for their candidates who lose on Election Day: send operatives to absentee voters’ homes and challenge their ballots.
Christine Svenson, a vice chair of the Republican National Lawyers Association, warned repeatedly about absentee voter fraud during a panel at the Colorado Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday. To combat such fraud, Svenson recommended that campaigns gather the names of local absentee voters and search their addresses on Google to “make sure that those buildings are not crack houses, row houses, slumlord houses.” For the record, people who live in row houses or who have abusive landlords do not lose their right to vote. Neither do people unfortunate enough to live in the same building as a drug dealer.
At the end of the panel, Svenson was asked how to handle unfavorable election results. Her answer strongly suggested that Republicans should try to change the result of the election by challenging absentee ballots:
SVENSON: If an election doesn’t go your way, you’ve got an uphill battle. You’ve got to make sure that you get your operatives out on the streets the day after the election, researching. You’ve got to get the list of the individuals who selected absentee ballots, go to those homes, find out — you can even call them, by the way — get affidavits about whether or not they sent them in, but it really hinges around those absentee voters out there, if you can turn them around.
Although Svenson did not elaborate on what she meant by “turn them around,” her advice came after she advised campaigns to quest for fake absentee voters claiming to live in crack houses.
Svenson appeared on the panel alongside Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who has tried to purge thousands of voters in his state, and Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of True the Vote, a Texas group that sends poll watchers to largely minority districts to challenge voters’ status.
In the wake of revelations that Strategic Allied Consulting, a controversial voter registration firm that has worked for the Republican National Committee, the Florida Republican Party, and the Romney campaign, is under investigation for turning in fraudulent voter registration forms in Florida, a Florida Congressman is calling for a bipartisan probe.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) wrote Monday in a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R):
In light of the large and apparently growing voter fraud scandal engulfing the Republican Party of Florida, I urge you to immediately appoint a bipartisan task force to investigate the accusations and ensure that the integrity of our voting rolls will not be compromised by Strategic Allied Consulting’s deliberately fraudulent voter registration operations. I also urge you to ensure that that false registrations submitted by Strategic Allied Consulting do not remain on our rolls, and that you immediately investigative whether any employees involved in this scandal are still working for the Republican Party to register voters in Florida.
Deutch observes that Scott’s silence and inaction on the scandal, to date, are “shocking and hypocritical” in light of Scott’s Ahab-like attempts to purge suspected non-citizen voters from the state’s voting rolls.
Scott signed an unconstitutional 2011 suppression law which put major new restrictions on groups who work to register new voters, requiring third-party voter registration groups like Strategic Allied Consulting to turn in completed registration forms 48 hours — to the minute — after completion, or face fines.
Scott’s communications office did not immediately have any comment on the letter or the scandal.