Steve Schmidt, a former senior strategist to Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) 2008 presidential campaign, admitted that widespread voter fraud doesn’t exist in the United States and claimed that the GOP-backed voter ID laws are based on “mythology.”
Appearing on MSNBC on Monday morning, Schmidt derided the hysteria surrounding ineligible voters casting ballots:
SCHIMDT: I think that one of the things you always want to be for whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, you want everyone who is eligible to vote to vote. That’s how you want to win elections. I think that all of this stuff that has transpired over the last two years is in search of a solution to a problem, voting fraud, that doesn’t really exist when you look deeply at the question. It’s part of the mythology now in the Republican Party that there’s widespread voter fraud across the country. In fact, there’s not. Both sides are lawyered up to the nth degree and they’ll all posture back and forth on it but it probably won’t come down to lawyers.
A Pennsylvania judge rejected a move Friday to block misleading ad campaigns about the state’s photo ID requirement. Advocacy groups who won a suspension of Pennsylvania’s voter ID requirement earlier this month had argued that in the wake of the court ruling, the state failed to inform voters of the change and instead delayed correcting information in existing ads and other materials, and issued new and misleading ads, such as the one below, which features an image of a photo ID with the tiny words “This election day, if you have it,” followed by the huge and capitalized phrase “Show it”:
The decision came from Commonwealth Judge Robert Simpson, who ordered that the law be put on hold for this election.
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.
Nearly a month after a Pennsylvania court suspended the law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls this November, reports of misinformation on the voter ID law are still rolling in.
The latest misleading claim comes from CBS Pittburgh radio station KDKA, which is running an ad claiming that voters will need photo identification to go to the polls on November 6th, despite the fact that while voters may be asked to show ID, it is not required to vote. The ad aired on October 26, around 7:30 am immediately after a weather report for the Pittsburgh area. “The Voter ID law was just recently signed by the governor,” an unidentified woman in the ad says:
NARRATOR: When you need to vote–
WOMAN: The voter ID law was just recently signed by the governor.
NARRATOR: You need to know –
WOMAN: You’re not going to be allowed to vote unless you present an acceptable photo identification. Get to a PennDOT licensing center and get a photo ID at the drivers’ license center.
NARRATOR: It’s your right, it’s your duty, it’s your choice –
WOMAN: And you will need an acceptable ID in order for you to vote.
NARRATOR: Decision 2012. KDKA.
The ad is particularly confounding because KDKA itself has reported on the recentdecisions regarding the voter ID law.
In a unanimous ruling, the state’s intermediate court held that the photo ID requirement did not impose burdens akin to a poll tax, and that the state’s justification for the law — alleged voter fraud — was a “compelling interest,” even though instances of in-person voter fraud are exceedingly rare.
Not surprisingly, the court held that the state was not required to show any evidence of the elusive voter fraud. This was a proposition set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, a 2008 decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court abdicated its responsibility to strike down laws like this one that threaten ballot access. What’s more, the Tennessee Court of Appeals arguably went beyond the scope of the Crawford decision in justifying its law, citing a 1891 Tennessee decision:
As the burden of having to acquire a photographic identification card is not substantial, neither does it rise to the level of imposing an “impossible or oppressive” condition on voting, and therefore the legislation requiring it is not void.
Calling a prerequisite to voting acceptable if it is not “impossible or oppressive” suggests that voting is more of a privilege than a right. Studies have shown that as many as 11 percent of Americans do not have a photo ID, and that those impacted by these laws are disproportionately minorities, the elderly and the poor.
Yesterday’s Tennessee ruling appears to be a clear win for the state, but the Tennessee Secretary of State said he plans to appeal the order requiring the court to accept library IDs, staying that aspect of the ruling in the interim. The court had found that the state was improperly excluding library-issued cards because the library is a branch of the state.
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.
ATKINSON, New Hampshire — Though the Republican nominee for governor of New Hampshire supports the state’s new voter ID law, he couldn’t name an actual case of voter fraud that has occurred in the Granite State.
Ovide Lamontagne lauded the state’s voter ID law, which passed in June over Gov. John Lynch’s (D) veto, as “desirable” in an interview with ThinkProgress on Friday. We asked whether there had been instances of in-person voter fraud in the state to justify the new law that could disenfranchise some New Hampshire voters, particularly minorities, college students and poor people.
“It’s anecdotal only, from what I can tell,” Lamontagne said. “As far as I’m concerned even if it’s only theoretical it’s something that’s not too much to ask to raise the confidence level that the right people are voting in an election.”
KEYES: Have there been cases of in-person voter fraud here? Folks showing up and voting, claiming to be someone that they’re not?
LAMONTAGNE: It’s anecdotal only, from what I can tell. There was a project earlier this year that showed that someone could come in and actually claim to be somebody else and there was pretty easy access to the ballot that caused some concerns. Whether or not there’s been provable voter fraud, the fact that the system doesn’t have some sort of check and balance about that basic verification of who someone is opens the door for the possibility of voter fraud and that’s a risk we should never have to assume.
KEYES: So it’s more theoretical than it’s actually happened?
LAMONTAGNE: As far as I’m concerned even if it’s only theoretical it’s something that’s not too much to ask to raise the confidence level that the right people are voting in an election.
Listen to it:
Lamontagne is unable to name a single actual case of voter fraud because it’s exceedingly rare. It’s not just absent in New Hampshire; in nearby Pennsylvania, where the state’s new voter ID law was considered in court earlier this year, the government conceded that it had no proof of any in-person voter fraud existing there either.
The Granite State’s new voter ID law had a soft rollout during the September primary that contained widespread problems. This November, the law will be in partial-effect; residents who don’t have a voter ID at the polls must sign an affidavit swearing their identity. Beginning next year, those who lack voter ID will not be allowed to vote.
Advocacy groups who won a suspension of Pennsylvania’s voter ID requirement earlier this month have filed a motion seeking to curb Pennsylvania’s dissemination of misinformation about the photo ID law.
The motion alleges that in the wake of the court ruling that photo ID would not be required to vote Nov. 6, the state failed to inform voters of the change and instead delayed correcting information in existing ads and other materials, sent out mailings with the false indication that photo ID was required to vote, and issued new and misleading ads, such as the one below, which features an image of a photo ID with the tiny words “This election day, if you have it,” followed by the huge and capitalized phrase “Show it”:
The motion laments that the “sum total of the Commonwealth’s educational efforts to alert people that the onslaught of pre-injunction news telling voters they need ID to vote is no longer true” is to add the small lettering “if you have it” to the “Show it” campaign that was in effect before the court order.
In contrast, the state’s public information campaign prior to the court ruling was extensive, including the issuance of 11 press releases, several mailers indicating residents would not be able to vote without an ID, and regular public appearances and media commentary by public officials.
Bolstering this confusion is a mailing by the state’s largest utility to 1.3 million customers containing the outdated voter ID information. But while the mailing may have been a mistake, PECO’s spokesperson said the utility plans to continue distribution of the mailer through October 28.
The plaintiffs ask that Pennsylvania take affirmative steps to ensure voters are not deterred from going to the polls, by launching a campaign as aggressive as the one before the court ruling that includes sending corrective notices to those who received misinformation, issuing new press releases, re-wording scheduled robocalls, and immediately pulling any misleading ads.
Pennsylvania’s biggest utility company, PECO, has admitted to sending incorrect voter ID information to 1.3 million customers in 7 Pennsylvania counties. Despite the recent suspension of the state’s strict voter ID law, PECO’s newsletter warned voters that they must present a valid photo ID in order to vote on Election Day. When customers complained about the inaccurate mailing, a PECO spokesperson explained the mailing was approved a week before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court sent the law back to the Commonwealth Court to reconsider the risk of disenfranchisement for low-income, minority, and elderly voters. “We were trying to do a service for our customers in Pennsylvania, to get the word out. Because of the press time of this particular publication, unfortunately the information in there is not entirely correct,” PECO rep Ben Armstrong told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Though the mailing may have been a simple technical mistake, PECO plans to keep distributing its newsletter unchanged through October 28:
Armstrong said Peco intended to continue distribution of the faulty newsletter through its October billing cycle, running through Oct. 28. It’s not possible for its printer to schedule a corrected run, he said, and the newsletter contains information on other programs “that needs to get” to customers.
The other items this month include information on the utility’s home energy audits, how to make donations to its Matching Energy Assistance Fund, Fire Safety Month, and a cutout for customers to get discounts at the Please Touch Museum.
Peco’s next billing cycle begins Oct. 29, a week before the election, but the company has no plans to deal with voter ID in its next newsletter, Armstrong said.
One reason PECO has been slow to correct the error may have to do with the energy company’s CEO, Denis O’Brien. O’Brien has contributed to the campaigns of Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-PA), who was “a key force in enacting the law,” and House Leader Mike Turzai (R-PA), who quickly became notorious after boasting that the ID law would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.” PECO’s President, Craig Adams, also donated to Pileggi’s campaign this year.
PECO isn’t the only source disseminating confusing information to Pennsylvanian voters. For a week after the court order suspended the ID requirement, at least 5 counties stated on their websites that voters must show an eligible ID to vote. A billboard targeting Spanish speakers as well as television ads continued to promote the ID requirement for at least a week after the law was invalidated.