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Not Just Registration Fraud

ACORN defenders are tellling us that the fake registrations are no big deal, because they don't result in actual fraudulent votes. Oh, no?

Today, news out of New Mexico, the state GOP looked at information for 92 newly-registered voters in one district, and found 28 had "missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers or birth dates. In some cases, more than one voter was registered using the same Social Security number. In others, people who the Republicans said had no Social Security number on public record were registered." All of these are of individuals who have already cast ballots in the June New Mexico state legislative Democratic primary.

Now, unless A. Serwer thinks that there is actually a registered voter named "Duran Duran" in New Mexico, he ought to refrain from sputtering that those who disagree with him are 'racist' and 'paranoid.'

The person who is "Duran Duran" almost certainly voted under their real name, and thus got two votes in the primary. God knows how many of those 27 others exist; for all we know, one person might have cast all of them. Anybody who voted once had their vote diluted by the guy who cheated to vote two to twenty-seven times.

As usual, the people who project, and accuse Republicans of stealing elections are about to do it on a massive scale.

[Update mid afternoon]

Good line. I heard that Governor Palin just said in Ohio, "Don't let them turn the Buckeye State into the ACORN State."


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doubled wrote:

Chicago politics gone national. In 2000 Daley's brother went down to Florida to 'help' out. Almost worked then when they tried to take the process of 'devining' voter intent from out in the open, observed by the press or others (luckily due to FLA sunshine laws I believe)to an upstairs location away from those prying eyes. You might remember Sen Lieberman calling it a 'Republican riot' as concerned citzens did create a ruckus, causing the Dem's to back down ( I loved it , how many protests do you get to see without the particpents all dressed in CHE t-shirts waving Bush=Hitler signage).

They are not waiting until the vote counting process is over this time.

Jim wrote:

The item has since been corrected, as there is a "Duran Duran" in the Albuquerque phone book.

But even if there wasn't -- where's the evidence of actual vote (not registration) fraud, much less on a massive scale?

Or to look at it the other way, it takes hundreds of thousands of votes to swing a national election. How would you get 100,000 people to risk jail by voting twice? Or 10,000 people to vote 10 times? And keep it a secret? The idea is ridiculous on its face. Any organization with the resources and discipline to pull off such as scheme could get as many votes with legal get-out-the-vote operations.

On the other hand, purging voter rolls can affect tens of thousands of votes, and happens in plain sight. No wonder the GOP would rather talk about Acorn.

Larry J wrote:

Or to look at it the other way, it takes hundreds of thousands of votes to swing a national election.

The number of votes it takes to swing an election can be a lot smaller than that. The 2000 election was finally decided by a margin of less than 1000 votes in Florida. The 2004 election was decided by a few thousand votes in Ohio. The 1960 election was decided by several thousand fraudulent votes in Chicago and Texas.


On the other hand, purging voter rolls can affect tens of thousands of votes, and happens in plain sight. No wonder the GOP would rather talk about Acorn.

Speaking for myself, I'm not worried about what happens in plain sight. It's stuffing the ballot box, OUT of sight, that concerns me.

(And yes, small numbers do matter. Remember the 537 Florida votes that pushed President Bush over the top in 2000?)

This should NOT be a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans, and the third-party folks as well, have a strong long-term interest in seeing only American citizens vote, and in not disenfranchising any legitimate voters.

Mistakes will be made; democracy is messy. But anyone trying to stuff the ballot box, or remove legitimate voters from the rolls, should be called out and punished, and I don't care a whit about their political beliefs.

Daniel in Brookline

Jeff Medcalf wrote:


Are you OK, then, if I vote twice? That doesn't pose a problem for you? It's only, after all, one additional vote, and it would hardly swing the election.

Rick C wrote:

Great, Jim, so we know that 1 of the 28 potentially bad registrations may not be bad, because there appears to be a person with that name in the phone book.

What about the other 27?

Jim wrote:

Rand is the one saying that there will be vote fraud on a massive scale. He has zero evidence of this, except for his own desire for a reason to consider the election results illegitimate.

Yes, some elections are close, but not as close as the commenters here seem to think. 1960 was a close election, but Kennedy did not need Illinois to win, and he won Texas by 46,000 (not "several thousand") votes. Do you think that LBJ got 46,000 people to vote twice? Without anyone ever uncovering the conspiracy? How did he know it would take that many, and not 100,000? Or 200,000?

[The attention given to vote fraud in the 1960 election is a convenient distraction from the fact that in 1960 (as well as most of the presidential elections of the 20th century) millions of black voters were disenfranchised by Jim Crow laws, a factor that had orders-of-magnitude greater effect on vote totals.]

There are millions of unregistered voters, and millions of voters who are registered but don't vote. If you have millions of dollars to spend and thousands of campaign workers, it is far easier and safer to look for votes among those voters than to organize a massive vote fraud conspiracy that you can be sure is big enough to affect even a close election. Acorn is hiring people at $8/hour to register voters, and they've registered over a million this cycle. Even a 1% error rate would mean 10,000 invalid registrations. It's no surprise that there are bogus registrations, but the fact that there are bogus registrations has nothing to do with whether there is massive vote fraud.

So of course it's wrong to stuff the ballot box, that's why it's illegal. It's also a very ineffective and risky way to swing a national election. But every two years the GOP trots it out as an excuse the tighten voter registration procedures, and make it harder for legitimate Democratic-leaning voters to vote. That's the scandal.

Anonymous wrote:

What about the other 27?

It isn't news that there are thousands of bad registrations on the rolls, due to people scamming Acorn, typos, etc. But there's no evidence that anyone voted twice, or that anyone not eligible to vote was allowed to vote, much less that this represents an organized conspiracy to commit vote fraud.

The people pushing this story don't care about evidence. Here's a quote from the original article by Jim Geraghty at the National Review:

God knows how many of those 27 others exist; for all we know, one person might have cast all of them. Anybody who voted once had their vote diluted by the guy who cheated to vote two to twenty-seven times.

He jumps right from "for all we know" to "the guy who cheated". There's no evidence that anyone cheated. Geraghty's happy to believe that there's a guy who's willing to go to 27 polling places to vote under 27 different names, with convincing id for all these names, risking jail each time, all to give his candidate 26 extra votes. Geraghty believes this because he wants to; I'd like to see some evidence.

Jim wrote:

Why is it Democrats preventing adequate checks on voting? No-restraints, no-rules voting is a sure invitation for cheating. They don't want that, do they?

Jim wrote:

Who said anything about "no-rules voting"? There are lots of rules. There is no evidence of large-scale vote fraud. So why is the GOP so fixated on it?

ken anthony wrote:

where's the evidence of actual vote (not registration) fraud, much less on a massive scale?

Jim, this statement paints you as a fraud. There have been cases where over a third of votes cast in an election came from fraudulent absentee ballots.

For you to claim no fraud occurs gives you zero credibility. Do you not understand that or is it that you just don't care?

Leland wrote:

where's the evidence of actual vote (not registration) fraud, much less on a massive scale?

4,000 dead people voted in the last Houston election for starters.

memomachine wrote:


1. Which is more important to the health of a democracy? Buying beer or voting?

2. Then why is the documentation required to buy beer greater than to vote?

PeterH wrote:

Since Florida 2000 I've come to the conclusion that it's not enough that elections be fair and accurate, especially in an environment of hyper partisanship. It's necessary that elections be fair and accurate beyond reasonable doubt. The failure to police voter roles of fraudulent registrations, same day registration and voting without ID, as well as questions about the equipment itself, falls well short of that standard.

As hard as democrats fight against some measures to combat election fraud, it invites the idea that they employ such fraud. Disenfranchise voters by verifying the right to vote? What about disenfranchising those of us who do have the right?

Karl Hallowell wrote:

The thing here is that ACORN has used this same questionable incentive for several election cycles with predictable results. They have to have known about the registration fraud problem for many years. Even if they don't engage in vote fraud itself, this is a waste of government resources to filter out fraudulent registrations. This tells me that ACORN is more interested in going through the motions or perhaps actually contributing to real vote fraud rather than fulfilling their goals of registering new voters.

Jim wrote:

I didn't say that there's no vote fraud, just that no one in the referenced article or this thread has provided any evidence of it. And yet you're sure that it's a major issue. Belief without evidence is religion, not reason.

For example, Leland says that 4,000 dead people voted in the last Houston election. He offers no evidence, because there is no evidence. A minute with Google reveals that a group called Texas Watchdog found 4,000 "matches" between the voter rolls and the Social Security death index. In a county with 2 million registered voters, a registration error rate of 0.4% is unremarkable. But there is no evidence that 4,000 votes were cast using those invalid registrations, or that there was any organized attempt to sway the election using those registrations (not to mention that you'd need more than 4,000 bogus votes to swing a state-wide primary). The Texas state auditor investigated last year, and did not find any instances in which ineligible voters actually voted.

Out of those 4,000 dead registered voters, Texas Watchdog found "dozens" who were listed as having voted -- a trivial number in a county of 2 million voters. But even that does not prove fraud -- it could have been clerical error. For instance, one man's dead father was recorded as having voted, while the son -- who had cast a ballot, and who shared his father's name and address -- was listed as having not voted. That's not fraud, it's just an honest mistake. The Texas Watchdog investigation found 100 records of people with names like "Jhon" instead of "John" -- that's not fraud, it's a typo. The famous "Joe the Plumber" has been voting for years under a false name, because his name is misspelled in the voter rolls (which lead some media outlets to report that he wasn't a registered voter). That isn't fraud.


So Leland's 4,000 dead voters turns out to be possibly "dozens" of dead voters, and zero cases of proven fraud. As I said, if you are so certain that this is a problem that threatens the legitimacy of the presidential election, you need to produce better evidence.

Brad wrote:

Jim it doesn't take hundreds of thousands of votes to swing a national election. Remember Florida in 2000?

And then there was the governors election in Washington state, 2004. The evidence is pretty much there that voter fraud gave the current democratic Governor her margin of victory. But I guess fraud which aids the democrats is never an issue is it? What hypocrisy!

Jim wrote:

Yes, the 2000 election was uncommonly close. But unless you believe that the GOP stole Florida, vote fraud did not swing that election. No one expected 2000 to be so close. A group that is setting out to change the result of a national election has to steal hundreds of thousands of votes to be sure they're making a difference -- and nothing like that has ever happened.

John McCain says that ACORN is committing "one of the greatest frauds of voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy in this country." That's just crazy talk.

If you want to know what vote fraud is like in the real world, read:

They found a total of 70 convictions for vote fraud from 2002 to 2005. None involved more than a handful of voters. For example, Usman Ali, a small businessman and 10 year legal immigrant, mistakenly filled out a voter registration form when he was at the DMV renewing his drivers license. For that he got a federal misdemeanor conviction, and was deported to Pakistan. That's what John McCain is afraid of?

Leland wrote:

So Leland's 4,000 dead voters turns out to be possibly "dozens" of dead voters, and zero cases of proven fraud.

This is a lie. From the link you provided:
Speaking in the dining room of the home in the East Little York/Homestead neighborhood where the couple moved in 1976, Hill said he didnít know why or how the county would have recorded his late wife as voting three months after her death. Heís curious to know how it happened ó and concerned about whether her identity has been stolen.

"Iíd like to know if anyone had (gotten) a hold of her driverís license or something," said the retired mechanic for Houstonís Metro system. "I really donít know who would do that."

The couple were married 34 years. Henderson Hill confirmed that his late wife was born on the same day as the person listed by Harris County as having voted in November 2006, and her Social Security number is also the same as that found in the Social Security Administrationís death records.

Indeed "dozens" are the confirmed votes made by deceased registrants.

Brad wrote:

Good grief.

Voter fraud is almost never prosecuted in the U.S. even if there is good reason to suspect it has occured. Prosecuters are relunctant to prosecute even in clear cut cases where proof is provided, witness the Washington State election of 2004 aftermath.

So lack of prosecutions is not good evidence of absense of voter fraud. In fact the lack of prosecutions might be evidence of how broken the current voting system is. It is too easy to cheat and existing safeguards are inadequate.

Jim wrote:


First you wrote that 4,000 dead people voted. Now you actually read the article, and say there were dozens of votes by deceased registrants, and that this proves fraud.

Think about that ratio. If organized voter fraud was really a problem, and someone had tried to use those 4,000 registered dead voters to try to steal an election, they'd all show up as having voted. Instead, dozens did -- a "dead voter turnout" of around 1%.

That low turnout suggests that this wasn't fraud. It is difficult for any survey of this sort, which matches two error-prone databases against each other, to have an error rate of under 1%. That same article discusses one case where a dead man was marked as having voted, while his living namesake son (who had voted) was marked as not voting. In a county with 2 million voters, there is plenty of potential for dozens of similar errors, due to typos, name collisions, off-by-one recording errors, etc.

Evidence of an error is not proof of fraud. I get mail for a previous owner of my home who died five years ago -- is that fraud? My son gets mail from the Marine Corps with his first and middle names switched -- is that fraud? If not, then why does the existence of errors in election records necessarily imply fraud?

No one has proven a single case of actual vote fraud in that Texas election, much less organized, large-scale fraud of the sort John McCain is imagining.

As the AP reported yesterday (

Voter fraud is rare in the United States, according to a 2007 report by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. Based on reviews of voter fraud claims at the federal and state level, the center's report asserted most problems were caused by things like technological glitches, clerical errors or mistakes made by voters and by election officials.

"It is more likely that an individual will be struck by lightning than he will impersonate another voter at the polls," the report said.


On the other hand, there is a long history in the U.S. of efforts to keep eligible voters from the polls, by means that are legal (e.g. poll taxes, grandfather clauses, voter id requirements) or illegal. Here in New Hampshire in 2002 the GOP jammed get-out-the-vote phone banks, to try to obstruct efforts to get voters to the polls. Two operatives went to jail, a third (the 2004 New England director for Bush-Cheney) had his conviction overturned and is now under indictment again for obstructing the investigation. That's the sort of organized, large-scale election tampering that happens in the real world. For more information, Google "2002 GOP New Hampshire phone jamming".

Leland wrote:

This is what I found when I google and this. Indeed, long history.

Jim wrote:

To follow up on the original story about 28 "fraudulent votes", ACORN contacted the voters in question, and the county clerk confirmed that they were all legitimate:

Don't hold your breath waiting for Rand to add a correction.

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This page contains a single entry by Rand Simberg published on October 17, 2008 10:17 AM.

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