There is no controversy over the fact that there are problems with voter registration efforts in which workers are paid to sign up people to vote. There are known cases, such as described in this report from CNN, in which people do put list fake names. While Republicans spin this to claim that Democrats are trying to steal the election, the motivation is actually monetary and carries little real threat of election fraud. While there might be fake names added to the voter roll, such fictitious people don’t usually turn up to vote. ACORN is legally obligated to turn in all the names collected by workers, but they have often flagged ones they consider fictitious. After reporting on a case of someone convicted for registering nonexistent people, the report places the problem in perspective.
University of Washington law professor Eric Schnapper says the idea of fake cards turning into real votes is a myth.
“There are no known instances of fictitious people actually voting,” Schnapper said. “You look at some of the names: Mickey Mouse. Dr. Seuss. Mickey Mouse only votes in Disneyland. He’s not going to show up at a critical precinct in West Virginia or North Carolina.”
Schnapper said that if anyone should be upset, it’s ACORN.
“The victims of this are the people who paid these workers $8 an hour to go out and find legitimate voters, and … they didn’t get their $8 worth; they put down phony names,” Schnapper said.
Schnapper said he’s worked on Republican and Democratic campaigns and has paid people to hand out leaflets or register voters. He said some of the workers do their jobs and some don’t.
ACORN said it has registered well more than 1 million voters, most of them Democrats. Though the group is under investigation in a number of swing states, such as Ohio and Nevada, amid accusations that it turned in fake voter registration cards, Schnapper said there’s no evidence that any worker intended to commit voter fraud and actually take those names, produce phony identification and vote on Election Day.
Threats of criminal prosecution may scare some groups into closing voter registration drives, according to Schnapper. It could scare actual voters away from the polls as well, he said, “and that really does affect the outcomes of the election.”
A report from the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University Law School supports his claim. Researchers reviewed voter fraud claims across the country and found that most were caused by technical glitches, clerical errors or mistakes made by voters. One other finding: A person is more likely to be struck by lightning than to impersonate another voter at the polls.
ACORN has recently released a video on the Internet called “Fight Back: The Truth About ACORN.” It uses a mix of interviews and video to fight what the group calls Republican efforts to suppress voter turnout.
CNN asked Clifton Mitchell whether he and his team, at any point, got together to try to rig the election.
“When I did it, when my team did it, it wasn’t to steal any election,” Mitchell said. “They’re just trying to keep a job. But understand, I blame myself. I can only blame myself.”
It certainly might be argued that changes need to be made to address the problems of fictitious names being collected at all, but this does not represent voter fraud, and is not a problem such as we have seen with actual efforts by Republicans at voter suppression.