Sunday, October 24, 2004


Where is the "massive and systematic voter registration fraud"?

I challenge one Ohio reporter to give me evidence of the Ohio Republican Party's claims about "massive and systematic voter registration fraud". There is none. Period.

There is nothing except ORP chairman Bob Bennett's smoke 'n' mirrors (read: lies), yet the Ohio political press corps is swallowing it whole.

What is Bennett's so called evidence?
1) a crack-rattled registration gatherer in Toledo
2) an anecdote about ACORN workers who got caught and WERE FIRED by ACORN
3) a handful of anecdotes about voter registrations with the same handwriting in Northeast Ohio
4) the intriguing statistic that in several counties, there seems to be more registered voters than there are voting-age adult (according to census figures), and
5) 35,000 returns from a mailing done by the Ohio GOP to 232,000 new voter registrants.

Systematic fraud is a serious charge. It shouldn't be tossed around unless you can identify the system, and identify the perp and the perp's intent. In other words, in my mind, you have to prove there was a conscious, planned and organized effort beyond the screwups of individuals. Further, you have to show who was behind it and what they hoped to accomplish. This latter requirement is key in order to be able to determine whether "A" actually planned this, or did "B" play a dirty trick in order to make it look like "A" was up to something.

So, of Bennett's "evidence", what really stands up to this test? #1 and #2 above were obviously just isolated, dumb stuff. Nothing systemic or planned there.

#3 has some possibilities, but a some of the possibilities point to an effort to smear some of the labor union efforts to gather signatures. Using duplicate handwriting, for example, in one pack of submitted registrations is an easy tip-off to election workers. So easy, it would certainly suggest that someone wanted to get caught.

#4 and #5 aren't so easy to dismiss. But let's look at each one.

#4 - more voters than adults - does seem shocking at first. But as the Dispatch points out today in study of Franklin Co. voter files,
Franklin County has more than 227,000 inactive voters — about a quarter of the county’s registered voters. Voters are labeled "inactive" once they have failed to vote in two federal-election cycles and don’t respond to confirmation cards. Almost 1.9 million of Ohio’s more than 8.5 million registered voters haven’t cast a ballot since at least 1999, the Dispatch analysis found. The inactives are a key reason the number of registered voters in at least seven Ohio counties — including Franklin, Cuyahoga and Licking — exceeds the estimated voting age population. Franklin County tops the list, with at least 30,000 more registered voters than residents who are at least 18 years old.

So, here we have a factual, logical explanation of this phenomenon. And, again, those that actually look at the problem come up with nothing that even remotely suggests "massive and systematic fraud."

#5 also indicates another potentially serious problem. But fraud? Not yet, at least. There are easily a half-dozen reasons why there were some returns from the GOP mailing (keep in mind, they were less than 5% of the total mailing). For example, indecipherable addresses and names and data input error. There is also the chanced that the GOP screwed up the data when the did the mailing. And, in fact, in Hamilton Count, it appears that it was the GOP mishandling of the data that caused the returns. The bottom line is that NOTHING has been found that remotely points to "massive and systematic voter registration fraud." Instead, this increasingly looks like a "problem" the GOP created by itself.

But there is more to this than meets the eye. The GOP knew there was never systematic fraud, and they are gambling on their ability to make the myth stick with out ever having to prove a thing. This is their MO for the rest of this campaign because it has proved successful elsewhere. As Josh Marshall points out, it's no accident that Larry Russell has been moved from South Dakota to Ohio.

You think that after being fed b.s. for so long, the Ohio press corps would be repulsed by being spoon fed this new crap. Instead, it seems like they have had the taste of shit in their mouth so long that they've kinda grown to like the taste.


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