Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fraudulent "fraud" ad

Yesterday the Ohio GOP debuted a deeply misleading web site and a radio ad that asks "Could Ohio's election be stolen?" They directly accuse Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner of concealing voter fraud. They claim that in Cleveland, ACORN paid for "illegal registrations in exchange for cash and cigarettes." The web site asks for people to vote early, contribute to a legal fund, and volunteer to be poll observers.

Let's sort through the claims:

-There is no evidence that anyone is trying to steal the election.

-The Cleveland example sounds scary, but won't lead to anyone voting illegally. Freddie Johnson, the 19-year-old who filled out 70 to 80 identical registrations in exchange for cigarettes and dollar bills, will only vote once. He filled out the same address every time. No one actually trying to stuff a ballot box would do this. They would almost certainly get caught. Even if their multiple registrations slipped past the data-entry clerks, poll workers would either recognize the same person coming to the voting table twice, or they'd notice the duplicate listings next to each other in the poll book.

-ACORN is not scamming elections officials. Lazy ACORN employees scammed ACORN. Their system is vulnerable to hourly workers who'd rather convince registered people to fill out a duplicate card than do their jobs right.

-Brunner is not concealing voter fraud. This is about the GOP's lost lawsuit trying to force her to compile lists of mismatches between the state's voting and driver's license databases. But Brunner is providing the mismatch information to counties in another format. The mismatch info is one tool for verifying registrations, but on its own it's several times more likely to accidentally flag valid voters because of typos and other clerical errors.

Republicans are not only trying to make ACORN and Brunner a campaign issue -- they're getting ready to try to force overtime if Obama wins Ohio.

Here are some questions to ask when you hear scary claims about voting scandals from the right or the left:
-How many votes is the problem affecting? Do you have solid numbers, or just scary anecdotes?
-If you say votes are "at risk," or that there's a "risk" of fraud, how likely is the risk?
-What's the cause of the problem? Are there other possible explanations besides the most sinister theory?

Just like the left-wing conspiracy theories about Ohio in 2004, this right-wing conspiracy theory falls apart when you ask these questions.

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