McCain Acorn Fears Overblown
Charges of voter fraud are out of proportion to reality, say experts.
Oct. 16, 2008— -- Charges of potential vote fraud volleyed by Republicans, including Sen. John McCain himself, are out of proportion to reality, according to election experts.
The concerns – raised by the Republican National Committee in daily conference calls with reporters, as well as by McCain himself in Wednesday's debate – focus on the nonprofit group Acorn, whose nationwide voter registration efforts have garnered apparently fraudulent registration cards, some for fictional characters like "Mickey Mouse."
Acorn, whose registration efforts generally target poor neighborhoods, "is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy," McCain claimed last night, citing Sen. Barack Obama's ties to the group.
Obama reportedly worked with Acorn when he ran a Chicago-area voter registration drive shortly after graduating from law school, and conducted leadership training with the group. During the primaries, Obama's campaign paid an Acorn-affiliated group $800,000 for get-out-the-vote efforts, which reportedly did not include voter registration. The group's political arm has endorsed Obama's candidacy.
But McCain's voter fraud worries – about Acorn or anyone else – are unsupported by the facts, said experts on election fraud, who recall similar concerns being raised in several previous elections, despite a near-total absence of cases.
"There's no evidence that any of these invalid registrations lead to any invalid votes," said David Becker, project director of the "Make Voting Work" initiative for the Pew Charitable Trusts.
Becker should know: he was a lawyer for the Bush administration until 2005, in the Justice Department's voting rights section, which was part of the administration's aggressive anti-vote-fraud effort.
"The Justice Department really made prosecution of voter fraud of this sort a big priority in the first half of this decade, and they really didn't come up with anything," he said.