faith in the system

I sometimes work in legislative coalitions with the folks at ACORN, and I can tell you they’re feeling pretty shell-shocked right now.  For decade they’ve been quietly going about their work, organizing low-income people to fight for things like job training, affordable housing, and child care.  It’s not glamorous work, and the wins come in small increments.  And now they’re suddenly Republicans’ public enemy number one.

I really do think the concerns about voter registration are overblown.  Enough registration forms get lost in the system that there’s a real incentive to submit multiple times until you’re sure one took.  And they’re legally required to submit any form they’re given, because there have been in the past cases of people doing voter registration drives and then tossing all the forms in the trash.  I wonder if, after the election, we could get a bipartisan agreement that allowed for election day registration but required a government issued ID.  Or maybe we could borrow the purple ink from the Iraqis.

But, what’s really bothering me is that the rhetoric that McCain and his supporters are using undermines people’s faith in the system.  I raised the same concern four years ago, when Democrats were worrying about Diebold voting systems.  It’s good and fine to fight hard in elections, but it’s not ok to undermine the legitimacy of the winner.  I’m hoping that Obama wins by big enough margins, in both electoral votes, and in the individual states, that there’s no possibility that anyone could believe that fraud changed the results.

Continuing the conversation:

9 Responses to “faith in the system”

  1. Sue Says:

    I’m not trying to get all debat-ey, I just have a couple of honest questions here to try to get past the hype and into the issue (or lack thereof).
    Wasn’t part of the problem in the 2004 election brouhaha that, due to an increase in the number of registrations, and the number of fraudulent registrations, that many precincts, faced with the necessity to have clean registry lists, turned to massive purges? I mean, I know that there wasn’t an established set of criteria for which to purge, and it was a bad way to go about cleaning up the lists, but I thought that the registration issues were indeed a factor in the results of 2004. I thought that’s why there were many Kerry supporters who thought that the results were somehow undermined, or claim the election was stolen. Am I wrong? I do understand that a fraudulent ballot doesn’t necessarily turn into a fraudulent vote. But I thought the focus on the registration fraud now was to eliminate the possibility of using shady tactics down the road, once the votes are being cast.
    I also thought that, besides the voter registration thing, that ACORN had been part of some issues with the subprime mortage crisis? That they used various techniques to help folks get mortgages that really shouldn’t have qualified? Or qualified for as much as they did? Is that a distortion or fabrication?
    Honestly, I am a conservative and have a conservative blog – so please don’t write me off as just trying to stir the pot. I’m looking to become more well informed, not start an argument. I have learned recently that I do have regular readers who trust me in particular because of the amount of viewpoints I include or consider in my research and posts. SheDidIt is a writer that I rarely agree with, but completely respect, so when she linked to this post I trusted I could get some info. I’m interested in your thoughts. Thanks!

  2. SueW Says:

    I am a conservative who has voted for democrats on occasion and enjoy hearing both sides of the argument for various candidates and issues. I am just reading about the voter fraud concerns. They may be overblown, but if you want to bolster your argument it would be better to find another link rather than the talking points item referenced above. The incendiary nature of the article, not to mention the hate-filled gutter remarks by a reader have no place in a serious discourse involving alternate viewpoints.

  3. bj Says:

    The democratic complaints about fraudulent results in 2004 were based on two analyses that I know of. 1) The Diebold electronic vote counting machines which didn’t allow people to have a record of how their votes were recorded, and the fear that the electronic vote counting had systematically miscounted votes. This conspiracy was spawned by an analysis in Florida showing that the mismatch between Dem & Rep votes in 2004 v 2000 was correlated with the presence of electronic voting machines. 2) An under-supply of ballots, voting machines, etc. in predominantly democratic precincts (and also minority) in Ohio, that resulted in some people not being able to vote in those precincts.
    Inappropriate voter purges were also a problem, and one of the reasons why laws were passed forbidding the purging of voting roles within 90 days of an election.
    BTW, the correct way to refer to the allegations is “voter registration fraud” (not voter fraud). No one has cast a vote fraudulently, though some may have registered fraudulently.

  4. amy Says:

    I spend many Saturday noons talking with a much-in-demand voting machine expert whose job, during election run-ups, is helping municipalities to recognize and find adequate workarounds for the voting-machine problems & procedures which still certainly exist.
    Elizabeth, I don’t know that my view on ACORN and other voter-reg drive organizations is anything like representative, since it comes from a couple decades’ political-season volunteering. But I wouldn’t trust any voter-reg drive activist any farther than I could throw her, unless she proved herself unusual. Ethics, law, procedure — it’s extraordinary how far they’re subsumed by a presumption that since your guy stands for Good and Helping People, anything goes, and is blessed by [deity of your choice]. Especially if it means sticking it to Evil Opponent. Also, they have nothing to lose. This is volunteer work, and the odds of being told to go away permanently, if you’re doing something illegal or unethical, are slim. The only way you really get hurt doing that is if you get caught and manage to screw the election for your guy, in which case you’re a rat and an outcast for at least a couple of years, after which you’re forgiven because you are, after all, free labor.
    In any case, ACORN wasn’t the point for me during the election –it was the fact that the economy’s elastic has broken & it’s fallen down around everyone’s legs, and actual minutes of the debate were going to rounds of “Teacher, he was mean to me”. We need a Perot puppet show for such moments.

  5. amy Says:

    “adequate workarounds for the voting-machine problems & procedures which still certainly exist.”
    meh, sorry. Procedural problems, not procedures.

  6. Jody Says:

    Our state head of the board of elections said that ACORN had submitted 20K+ registrations and that 123 of them were suspicious. He said that ACORN was as invested in getting it right as anyone, and that they were the first to raise a concern if a field worker’s submitted registrations looked dicey. He thought the attacks on ACORN were regrettable and not supported by the facts, at least not in our state.

  7. karen Says:

    I also thought that, besides the voter registration thing, that ACORN had been part of some issues with the subprime mortage crisis?
    Yes. To the extent that ACORN gets mentioned around here, it has nothing to do with voter fraud and everything to do with their involvement in pressuring banks to lower their lending standards, specifically in the Chicago area. If you have Lexis-Nexis access, you can read local news stories from the past decade glorifying that approach. Whoops.

  8. urbanartiste Says:

    I think the ACORN thing is overblown. In my state we have motor-voter registration. Renewing your driver’s license is also linked to jury duty. I know a lot of people with greencards that receive voter information and are summoned for jury duty. This is all through the state run DMV, not a community organization. For all the talk about getting out the vote, there are people who want to suppress it for their own interests.

  9. Elizabeth Says:

    Here’s a piece on the collapse of some of the allegations against ACORN:
    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2008/10/rnc_on_new_mexico_voter_fraud.php
    Motor Voter has been a real disappointment — lots of forms get lost between DMV and voter registration and lots more aren’t fully completed, as no one at DMV sees it as their job to make sure they’re filled out correctly. When I did voter registration, the trainers said that if someone said they had registered at DMV, have them fill out the form again unless they knew they had received their confirmation card.

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