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Voter Fraud: The Political Football Toss Continues

So is voter fraud really a problem or not?

On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in, not answering the question, exactly, but ruling unanimously that the Ohio GOP probably doesn’t have the right to challenge how closely Ohio’s secretary of state scrutinizes new voter registrations.

It was a contentious battle in a hotly contested state that both Republicans and Democrats view as critical to winning the presidency. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, had said that if she was required to do what the Republicans were insisting –- match all new voter registration applications to a new state database -– it could create a bureaucratic nightmare and obstruct the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of Ohio residents.

Still, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that she had to have a plan for double-checking all those new voters by last Friday. The Supreme Court’s reversal was a significant victory for the Democrats, who expect many of those new voters to lean in their favor.

But there was still the brewing ACORN scandal to contend with.

The Associated Press revealed last week that the FBI was beginning a criminal investigation into whether the group has engaged in massive voter fraud. (DOJ officials apparently violated the agency’s own regulations prohibiting leaks to the press.)

As Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential nominee, charged in the debate on Wednesday, ACORN is “maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy.”

Wow, that’s serious. And that charge came not only from McCain but from Republican legislators all over the country. It’s apparently unleashed a barrage of hate calls, threats and vandalism against ACORN offices and employees.

Image has not been found. URL: http://www.washingtonindependent.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/scales-150x150.jpgIllustration by: Matt Mahurin

So on Friday afternoon, the Obama campaign hit back, calling on U.S. Atty. Gen. Michael Mukasey to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the Republicans’ apparent attempt to use the Justice Dept., once again, to accomplish its political aims.

Special Prosecutor Nora Dannehy is already investigating charges that the DOJ engaged in a partisan witch-hunt in the mass firing of U.S. attorneys. Obama’s lawyer asked Mukasey to expand that investigation to see if the problem is continuing.

As MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann pointed out on Friday night, the same New Mexico GOP chairman who called for the criminal investigation of ACORN had previously sought the dismissal of New Mexico U.S. Atty. David Iglesias for not initiating prosecutions based on bogus allegations of voter fraud.

Republicans have been charging for months now that ACORN is trying to steal the vote for Sen Barack Obama by submitting thousands of fake voter registrations, from “people” like, well, Mickey Mouse. Meanwhile, ACORN itself had been notifying authorities of all these false registrations, which in most states it’s required by law to turn in anyway.

Though Mickey Mouse isn’t likely to show up and vote on election day, ACORN’s annoyed because some workers it paid to sign up new voters apparently signed up a list of Disney characters, or names chosen randomly, instead. Despite the misleading media reports on this, the only real fraud perpetrated appears to have been on ACORN itself.

Mukasey.jpg
Mukasey.jpg

Att. Gen. Michael Mukasey (WDCpix)

Which is why ACORN has implemented all sorts of checks on its voter registration process to try to prevent just this sort of thing from happening. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped the attacks on the organization and its members, which are just getting uglier and uglier.

Whether Obama’s own legal maneuver to call for a special prosecutor will make any difference to the continuing assault on ACORN, a grass-roots organization that advocates for low-income Americans – leading the group to be blamed for the subprime crisis and the entire current economic meltdown, in addition to voter fraud (John Fund’s comments on Fox News yesterday sum it up)– remains to be seen.

Saturday, the McCain campaign issued its own letter of outrage in response, calling the Obama campaign’s move “a typical time-worn Washington attempt to criminalize political differences.”

If there’s an upside to all this, it’s that finally we’re getting a spotlight on the outdated, arcane and bureaucracy-laden ways that Americans vote, and just how difficult it is for many eligible voters to participate in what’s supposed to be the cornerstone of American democracy.

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