John Fund, author of “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy,” fears that the United States could be on the brink of repeating the 2000 Florida election debacle — this time not in one, but in several states.
“If we don’t invest in better election procedures and equipment as well as voter education, we may pay for our failure by turning Election Day into Election Month through a new legal quagmire: election by litigation,” writes Fund, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal and a contributor to Newsmax.
For one thing, Democrats plan to have more than 10,000 lawyers on the ground in all states this November, ready for action if the election is close and they see a way to contest it, Fund says. Republicans will have their own corps of attorneys at the ready.
[Editor’s Note: Get John Fund’s book. Go here now.]
“If the trend toward litigation continues, winners in the future may have to hope not only that they win but that their margins of victory are beyond the ‘margin of litigation’,” Fund concludes.
Then there is the specter of so-called provisional balloting, a new monkey wrench ready to jam the voting gears.
“Election 2008 will be the first presidential election where the full impact of new federally mandated provisional ballots will be felt,” Fund notes.
Under that mandate, anybody who shows up at a precinct to vote Nov. 4 but is not on the registration lists must be given a provisional ballot, which would be set aside and counted if found valid later.
“A tug of war over provisional ballots may be inevitable in key states where the margin of victory is no greater than the number of provisional ballots cast,” forecasts the author.
And then there is the ACORN phenomenon. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, the nation’s largest openly radical group with an annual budget of more than $40 million and chapters in 800 poor neighborhoods, has faced accusations of using illegal registration methods.
At least two former Florida-based ACORN employees accused the group of illegal practices. One of the most serious cases involving ACORN came out of Seattle, where prosecutors indicted seven ACORN workers in July 2007.
They were accused of submitting phony registration forms in what Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed has called “the worst case of voter-registration fraud” in the state’s history.
As early as 1992, the year after Sen. Barack Obama returned to Chicago to become a public interest lawyer after graduating from Harvard Law School, ACORN recruited him to run avoter registration drive for the ACORN affiliate Project Vote. The drive succeeded, and he went on to become the organization’s counsel.
Newsmax caught up with the busy author in New York, where he gives some up-to-the-minute impressions of what’s in store for us come November.
Newsmax: There are literally just days left until Election 2008. Is it too late to correct the numerous flaws you have pointed out – both in your book and other writings? Is there some silver bullet that would at least in this eleventh hour mitigate the looming chaos of Election 2008?
Fund: We can do three things: 1) Help our overburdened, often elderly poll workers by letting high school and college kids earn credit for helping at the polls. 2) Have more people volunteer to be poll watchers, election day attorneys and monitors to keep the count smooth and honest. And 3) encourage local and federal prosecutors to take voter fraud seriously this year. Just sending out notices before an election making clear that officials will be watching for fraud is a valuable preventive device.
Newsmax: Lots of us ordinary citizens had comfort from the fact – we thought – that, after the misadventures of Election 2000, there would be a concerted, almost Manhattan Project-like effort to clean up the literal and figurative hanging chads. In fact, we may be worse off, according to your grim analysis. What happened – or didn’t happen — and why?
Fund: Our election system is decentralized and each of 50 states makes up its own rules, not to mention the discretion counties and cities have. We lost focus on cleaning up our sloppy election systems after 9/11 and after memories of the Florida fiasco faded.
Newsmax: Isn’t the biggest ticking time bomb for Election 2008 the new provisional ballots?
Fund: Yes, the winner of this year’s race in any state may have to win not just a margin of victory, but a victory beyond the margin of litigation. In any close state where provisional ballots – votes cast by people not on the registration rolls but not counted until verified later – outnumber the number of votes separating the two candidates you have a built-in recipe for recounts, recriminations and rogue lawyers filing lawsuits to either count or disqualify those provisional votes.
Newsmax: I just did a story on Rudman-Danforth’s McCain-Palin 2008 Honest and Open Election Committee. They seemed long on horror stories and very short on forward moves to preempt catastrophe. Why isn’t the Justice Department at the tip of the spear? The Election Committee has no real power.
Fund: The Justice Department was embroiled in a 2006 controversy over whether some U.S. attorneys were fired because they hadn’t pursued vote fraud cases. The clumsy, stupid way those dismissals were handled basically shut down the Justice Department’s voter fraud efforts and means there will be much less oversight from them this year. It will be up to individual U.S. attorneys to carry the ball.
Newsmax: For all the controversy and furor of Election 2008, at one point Al Gore stepped forward and conceded. Can we expect the same gentlemanly behavior in Election 2008 if it all comes down to a relative handful of votes?
Fund: I hope so, but I wouldn’t count on it. I think both sides have a lot of emotional investment in this election, and the stakes are high. I think they will scratch each others’ eyes out and exhaust every legal remedy before calling it quits. That process took 37 days in 2000.
Newsmax: Sarah Palin gets grilled in the media on what seems to be petty issues. On the other hand, Barack Obama’s long and cozy affiliation with ACORN is hardly enjoying household infamy in America. Why did Obama get a pass?
Fund: Reporters often have a romantic notion of what being a community organizer is. In reality, it’s often a dressed-up word for someone who engages in the sharp elbows of partisan politics.
ACORN’s legal troubles and questionable tactics are not well known because they hide behind the veneer of a poverty alleviation group. They are far more political and cynical than that. A few years ago, they even dared to sue the state of California to try to get exempted from paying the minimum wage to their workers who gather signatures and registrations.
[Editor’s Note: Get John Fund’s book. Go here now.]
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