For the past several weeks, Republican operatives have been
stepping up their efforts in crucial swing states claiming voter registration
groups have been engaged in a massive voter fraud effort in an attempt to
influence the outcome of November�s presidential election.
The allegations took on a new sense of urgency Tuesday when
law enforcement authorities in Nevada raided the offices of The Association of
Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), an organization that advocates
voter registration and participation among low-income people and minorities.
ACORN members denied any wrongdoing and claimed the probe is
politically motivated by Republicans to suppress voter turnout for Barack
�Today�s raid by the Secretary of State�s Office is a stunt
that serves no useful purpose other than discredit our work registering
Nevadans and distracting us from the important work ahead of getting every
eligible voter to the polls,� said Bertha Lewis, ACORN�s interim chief
No concrete evidence of systemic voter fraud in the United
States has ever surfaced. Many election integrity experts believe claims of
voter fraud are a ploy by Republicans to suppress minorities and poor people
Historically, those groups tend to vote for Democratic
candidates. Raising red flags about the integrity of the ballots, experts
believe, is an attempt by GOP operatives to swing elections to their candidates,
as well as an attempt to use the fear of criminal prosecution to discourage
individuals from voting in future races.
In March, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration
held a hearing and heard testimony from election integrity experts who said
voter fraud is a �myth� and voter identification laws actually disenfranchise
Indeed, in a column published in the Washington Post last
year, Justin Levitt, an attorney and expert on voting issues who teaches at the
Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, and Jeff
Milyo, a professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia Department of
Economics, said that �the notion of widespread voter fraud . . . is itself a
fraud. Evidence of actual fraud by individual voters is painfully skimpy.�
ACORN has long been a target of Republican Party operatives,
dating as far back as the 2004 presidential election. But the accusations of
malfeasance have never been supported by evidence.
Last weekend, investigative reporter Brad Friedman and
former Justice Department official and GOP operative Hans Von Spakovsky engaged
in a heated debate over voter fraud in a segment on the Tavis Smiley radio
show. [Full disclosure: Friedman is a contributor to The Public Record].
Von Spakovsky, Friedman wrote on his blog Wednesday, �was . .
. instrumental in bringing phony �voter fraud� charges, such as those against
ACORN workers in Missouri, filed just days before the razor-thin 2006 Senate
election, in violation of the DoJ�s own written rules against bringing such
indictments just prior to elections where they are likely to affect the race.�
ACORN and U.S.
In fact, two of the nine U.S. attorneys who were fired in
2006 were targeted because they refused to bring criminal charges against
individuals affiliated with ACORN, according to interviews and a Justice
Department report issued last week on the circumstances behind the federal
prosecutor firings. The firing of another U.S. attorney was due, in large part,
to his refusal to convene a grand jury and secure an indictment against
individuals for voter fraud.
But it�s the firing of former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David
Iglesias and the accusations of voter fraud leveled against ACORN by GOP
operatives in that state that appeared to be the most egregious case of
partisan politics, according to the DOJ report.
Even President George W. Bush said he was concerned about
widespread voter fraud, despite the fact that evidence of such crimes was
virtually nonexistent. Bush, according to the DOJ report, �spoke with Attorney
General Gonzales in October 2006 about their concerns over voter fraud in three
cities, one of which was Albuquerque, New Mexico.�
In the months leading up to the 2004 presidential election,
Bernalillo County in New Mexico had been the target of a massive grassroots
effort by ACORN to register voters.
The effort apparently paid off as registration rolls in the
county increased by about 65,000 newly registered voters.
But Sheriff Darren White, who was New Mexico chairman of the
Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign, intended to challenge the integrity of some of the
names on the voter registration rolls. Mary Herrera, the Bernalillo County clerk,
told White that there were about 3,000 or so forms that were either incomplete
or incorrectly filled out.
White seized upon the registration forms as evidence that
ACORN submitted fraudulent registration forms and held a press conference,
along with other Republican officials in the county, to call attention to the
In testimony before the Senate committee earlier this year,
former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias said he formed an election fraud
task force in September 2004 to probe claims of widespread voter fraud.
In an interview, Iglesias said he fully expected to uncover
instances of voter fraud based on numerous stories that appeared in New Mexico
media that said minors received voter registration forms and that �a large
number� of voter registration forms turned up during the course of a drug raid.
�Due to the high volume of suspected criminal activity, I
believed there to be a strong likelihood of uncovering prosecutable cases,�
Iglesias said. �I also reviewed the hard copy file from the last voter fraud
case my office had prosecuted which dated back to 1992.
�My intention was to file prosecutions in order to send a
message that voter fraud or election fraud would not be tolerated in the
District of New Mexico.�
�My announcement of a dedicated task force notwithstanding,
the firebrands were still not placated,� Iglesias, wrote. �I got an angry
e-mail from Mickey Barnett, an attorney, who, like me, had worked on the
Bush-Cheney campaign and who berated me for �appointing a task force to
investigate voter fraud instead of bringing charges against suspects.��
In his testimony before the Senate committee, Iglesias said
the task force received about 108 complaints of alleged voter fraud through a
hotline over the course of about eight weeks.
�Most of the complaints made to the hotline were clearly not
prosecutable -- citizens would complain of their yard signs being removed from
their property and de minimis matters like that,� Iglesias testified before the
�Only one case of the over 100 referrals had potential.
ACORN had employed a woman to register voters. The evidence showed she
registered voters who did not have the legal right to vote. The law, 42 USC
1973 had the maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine.
�After personally reviewing the FBI investigative report and
speaking to the agent, the prosecutor I had assigned, Mr. [Rumaldo] Armijo, and
conferring with [a Justice Department official] I was of the opinion that the
case was not provable. I, therefore, did not authorize a prosecution.
�I have subsequently learned that the State of New Mexico
did not file any criminal cases as a result of the� election fraud task force.
Iglesias said that Republican officials in his state were far
less interested in election reforms and more intent on suppressing votes.
He recalled that the Justice Department issued a directive
to every U.S. attorney in the country to find and prosecute cases of voter
fraud in their states during the height of hotly contested elections in 2002,
2004, and 2006, even though evidence of such abuses was extremely thin or
In his recently published book, In Justice: Inside the Scandal that Rocked the Bush Administration,
Iglesias said in late summer 2002 he received an email from the Department of
Justice suggesting �in no uncertain terms� that U.S. attorneys should
immediately begin working with local and state election officials �to offer
whatever assistance we could in investigating and prosecuting voter fraud
�The e-mail imperatives came again in 2004 and 2006, by
which time I had learned that far from being standard operating procedure for
the Justice Department, the emphasis on voter irregularities was unique to the
Bush administration,� Iglesias said.
The DOJ report said, �Iglesias said he wanted to get the
message out to his fellow Republicans that he would prosecute �provable� voter
fraud cases but would not bring a case unless it could be proven beyond a
reasonable doubt. In a further attempt to defuse the situation, Iglesias called
state Republican Party Chairman Weh, and the two met briefly for coffee near
Weh�s home on May 6, 2005. Iglesias said he tried to explain to Weh that he
wanted to prosecute provable voter fraud cases but could not go forward without
As the 2006 elections approached, �Patrick Rogers, the
former general counsel to the New Mexico state Republican Party and a party
activist, continued to complain about voter fraud issues in New Mexico,�
according to the report. �In a March 2006 e-mail forwarded to Donsanto in the
[DOJ�s] Public Integrity Section, Rogers complained about voter fraud in New
Mexico and added, �I have calls in, to the USA and his main assistant, but they
were not much help during the ACORN fraudulent registration debacle last
In June 2006, Rogers sent Iglesias�s Executive Assistant
U.S. Attorney Rumaldo Armijo an email: The voter fraud wars continue. Any
indictment of the Acorn woman would be appreciated. . . . The ACLU/Wortheim
[sic] democrats will turn to the camera and suggest fraud is not an issue,
because the USA would have done something by now. Carpe Diem!
�Carpe Diem� was a reference to the Chairman of the New
Mexico Democratic Party at the time, John Wertheim.
In Missouri, U.S. Attorney Todd Graves was another federal
prosecutor who fell into disfavor with the Bush administration because of
alleged inaction on voter fraud issues.
Graves would not file criminal charges of voter fraud
against four employees of ACORN, according to documents later released by the
Justice Department in connection with the fired-prosecutors probe.
Graves also resisted pressure from Justice Department
official Bradley Scholzman to file a civil suit against Robin Carnahan,
Missouri�s Democratic Secretary of State, on charges that Carnahan failed to
take action on cases of voter fraud, Graves testified last year before the
Senate Judiciary Committee.
Graves was forced to resign in March 2006 and was replaced
by Schlozman, who as head of the Justice Department�s Civil Rights Division�s
voting-rights section had clashed with Graves.
Schlozman filed the civil suit against Carnahan, which was
later dismissed by a federal court judge who ruled, �The United States has not
shown that any Missouri resident was denied his or her right to vote as a
result of deficiencies alleged by the United States. Nor has the United States
shown that any voter fraud has occurred.�
Schlozman filed federal criminal charges of voter fraud
against members of ACORN only days before the November 2006 mid-term elections.
The case was later dismissed and Schlozman came under criticism for breaking
with long-standing Justice Department policy against bringing voter fraud
charges close to an election.
Schlozman testified before a Senate committee last year that
he received approval to file the voter fraud charges from a Justice Department
official who was instrumental in drafting the guidelines urging that U.S. attorneys
avoid filing charges claiming voter fraud at the height of an election.
John McKay, the former U.S. Attorney for the Western
District of Washington, was fired in large part, according to the DOJ report,
because Republicans were angry that he did not convene a federal grand jury to
pursue allegations of voter fraud related to the 2004 governor�s election in
the state, in which Democrat Christine Gregoire defeated Republican Dino Rossi
by a margin of 129 votes.
In an interview, McKay said there were some Republicans in
his district with close ties to the White House who demanded he launch an
investigation into the election and bring charges against individuals -- Democrats
-- for vote-rigging. He believes his refusal to haul �innocent people before a
grand jury� was the reason he was not selected for a federal judgeship by local
Republicans in Washington state in 2006.
McKay said that, at the time, he felt he was not being
treated fairly, and requested a meeting with then-White House Counsel Harriet
Miers to discuss the issue, as well as his application for US district judge in
his home state
�I asked for a meeting with Harriet Miers, whom I had known
since work I had been involved in with the American Bar Association, and she
immediately agreed to see me in August of 2006,� McKay said. He added that when
he met with Miers and her deputy, William Kelley, at the White House, the first
thing they asked him was, �Why would Republicans in the state of Washington be
angry with you?�
That was �a clear reference to the 2004 governor�s election,�
McKay said in characterizing Miers and her deputy�s comments. �Some believed I
should convene a federal grand jury and bring innocent people before the grand
�All of my actions as United States attorney had been
coordinated with the Department of Justice,� McKay told me. He said he
explained that to Miers and Kelley, and informed them that there was no
evidence of voter fraud to support launching a federal inquiry into the
McKay said he believes the meeting he had with Miers and
Kelley directly led to his name being placed on a list of US attorneys selected
for dismissal in December 2006.
ACORN offices raided
Bob Walsh, the spokesman for Nevada Secretary of State Ross
Miller, a Democrat, said ACORN is accused of submitting multiple voter
registrations with false and duplicate names, accusations similar to ones
leveled in New Mexico that turned out to be baseless.
The raid comes two months after state and federal
authorities formed a task force to pursue election-fraud allegations in Nevada,
a crucial swing state in November�s presidential election.
Walsh said there have been ongoing complaints that ACORN has
submitted voter registration forms rife with erroneous information. But it�s
unknown how many alleged bogus forms were submitted.
Friedman, the investigative reporter and an expert on
election integrity issues, said Tuesday�s raid of ACORN�s Nevada offices was
orchestrated by the GOP to scare people away from the polls.
�With prospects looking bleak for the Republicans this
November, pulling out the old ACORN lie -- in hopes of scaring people away from
the polls, causing chaos in November by challenging voters when they show up to
vote, and putting in place baseless grounds to contest close results later on
(when the GOP become �sore losers�) -- is just about all they have left at this
point,� Friedman wrote on his blog.
�Doubtless you�ve heard the smears by now: that ACORN is
committing �voter fraud,� on behalf of Obama, in hotly contested swing states,�
Friedman wrote. �The media has been all too happy to pass that garbage on,
without bothering to note that, in fact, the organization attempts to
authenticate every registration form their workers submit and by law they must
turn in every form to election officials -- even if they find a registration to
be fraudulent when they call the phone number submitted on the form, or if the
forms are otherwise suspect or incomplete.�
Leopold is the author of �News Junkie,� a memoir. Visit
for a preview. His new website is The