Wash. Post reported that McCain campaign manager warned of "rampant voter fraud," but not that illegal votes are almost never cast

››› ››› LAUREN AUERBACH

The Washington Post quoted McCain campaign manager Rick Davis' claim that reports of investigations into ACORN have suggested "rampant voter fraud as it relates to voter registration." But the Post did not point out that actual instances of illegal votes cast as a result of registration fraud, e.g., using false names, are extremely rare. Federal statistics show that between October 2002 and September 2005, the Justice Department charged 95 people with "election fraud" and convicted 55, of whom only 17 were convicted for casting fraudulent ballots.

In an October 18 Washington Post article, staff writers Robert Barnes and Mary Pat Flaherty quoted McCain campaign manager Rick Davis' claim that reports of investigations into the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) have suggested "rampant voter fraud as it relates to voter registration." But in reporting Davis' remark, Barnes and Flaherty did not point out that actual instances of illegal votes cast as a result of registration fraud, e.g., using false names, are extremely rare. Indeed, following Sen. John McCain's assertion during the October 15 presidential debate that ACORN is "on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy," the Post's Alec MacGillis noted in a "Live Fact Check" of the debate: "[T]here is a difference between submitting bogus forms and actual voter fraud. It is not voter fraud until someone shows up at the polls pretending to be [Dallas Cowboys quarterback] Tony Romo or Mickey Mouse and tries to vote. And there is no evidence yet of a wholesale push to send people to the polls under bogus names."

Indeed, U.S. Department of Justice crime statistics cast doubt on the existence of widespread voter fraud. According to a report by the Justice Department's Criminal Division on prosecutions between October 2002 and September 2005, the Justice Department charged 95 people with "election fraud" and convicted 55. Among those, however, just 17 individuals were convicted for casting fraudulent ballots; cases against three other individuals were pending at the time of the report. Further, on April 12, 2007, The New York Times reported, "Five years after the Bush administration began a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department has turned up virtually no evidence of any organized effort to skew federal elections, according to court records and interviews."

Additionally, a 2007 report titled "The Truth About Voter Fraud" by New York University's Brennan Center for Justice stated: "[W]e are aware of no recent substantiated case in which registration fraud has resulted in fraudulent votes being cast":

There have been several documented and widely publicized instances in which registration forms have been fraudulently completed and submitted. But it is extraordinarily difficult to find reported cases in which individuals have submitted registration forms in someone else's name in order to impersonate them at the polls. Furthermore, most reports of registration fraud do not actually claim that the fraud happens so that ineligible people can vote at the polls. Indeed, we are aware of no recent substantiated case in which registration fraud has resulted in fraudulent votes being cast.

From Barnes and Flaherty's October 18 article:

In a conference call, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis said the reports about investigations of the community organizing group ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) suggested "rampant voter fraud as it relates to voter registration."

During the debate, Davis said, [Sen. Barack] Obama had a chance to clarify his associations with ACORN but chose instead to "create a fog around the issue by not taking the opportunity to spell out his historical relations" with the group.

Davis then went on to say that on Election Day "and the day after," people have to be able to believe that they had "a fair and honest election" and that the person they chose "seems not to have a cloud hanging over this election." He later said that "when John McCain gets elected president," the party wanted to be sure the election process was the best it could be.

For the past two weeks, the RNC has steadily ratcheted up its response to the ACORN voter registration drives, sending out seven media advisories before Wednesday's debate questioning tactics used in ACORN registration drives.

In a conference call this week, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Republicans' ACORN attacks are part of "pulling out their old playbook."

"I think what they're doing right now is a form of intimidation, which is to raise a lot of questions out there, create a lot of confusion, and I think it's in the interest of trying to intimidate voters," he said.

The Democrats called for their own investigation.

Robert F. Bauer, the Obama campaign's general counsel, asked Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey to expand a special prosecutor's investigation to include a leak about the FBI investigating ACORN on suspicion of voter fraud.

Posted In
Elections, Voting Rights & Issues
Person
Robert Barnes, Mary Pat Flaherty
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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