There ought to be a law. In fact, there ought to be 50.
Every state from Hawaii to Maine and from Alaska to Florida should adopt emergency measures to require photo ID for every American who goes to the polls on November 4. Legislatures, executives, and courts should move quickly to avoid what has become a pending electoral crisis.
The 13 states investigating the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) are discovering “toxic vote registrations” to rival the “toxic mortgages” that triggered the current turmoil rattling financial markets. While roughly 95 percent of homeowners are paying their mortgages on time, the other 5 percent in default and foreclosure were all it took to spin the global economy out of control.
Similarly, the relatively small number of fraudulent vote registrations discovered so far could represent just enough systemic infection to sicken the entire body politic, especially if this election turns out closer than most now expect.
Still-unfolding revelations of shenanigans by ACORN and a handful of other groups should worry voters of all parties. Notwithstanding the fact that Barack Obama was ACORN’s one-time attorney, former trainer, and Woods Fund donor — and, more recently, the purchaser of its campaign services and its endorsee for president — these questions cannot be dismissed as one or two isolated incidents that Republicans are flogging for partisan advantage. As of Monday, ACORN was under investigation in Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin. Here are just some of the more troubling details officials are pursuing.
In Connecticut, O’jahnae Smith and her family were stunned to learn she is a registered voter. At age seven, voting is above her pay grade. Nonetheless, an ACORN worker tried to register her by forging Smith’s name on an application and claiming she was 27 years old.
In Florida, one Miami voter has 21 registrations on file. Among the 1,320 applications ACORN filed in Brevard County, two thirds contain names of people already registered.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Tribune reports, a group called Work for Progress has filed at least 35 suspicious registrations in Pinellas County. Some applications feature nearly identical handwriting and addresses. Also, honest voters have received notices saying they had re-registered when they did no such thing.
“It used to be ballots being dropped in the river or buried in an orange grove,” said Buddy Johnson, Hillsborough County elections chief. “Now it’s become a very sophisticated process and we need to keep an eye on it.”
In Indiana, people seem really psyched for November. STATSIndiana reveals that 644,197 adults in Marion County (Indianapolis) are of voting age. Among those, 677,401 are registered to vote. Thanks to these 33,204 fake voters, Indianapolis enjoys an amazing 105.15 percent registration rate.
In Lake County, among 5,000 registration applications that ACORN submitted, all of the first 2,100 proved bogus. “All the signatures looked exactly the same,” Republican election official Ruthann Hoagland told CNN. “Everything on the card filled out looks exactly the same.” Her Democratic colleague, Sally LaSota, agreed. “We’re not handwriting experts, but what’s obvious is obvious.” These 5,000 forms were placed in what Hoagland called the “fake pile” for later scrutiny.
One card was filed by Jimmy Johns. His address is listed as 10839 Broadway in Crown Point. That turns out to be the location of a fast-food restaurant called . . . Jimmy Johns.
In Missouri, someone named Monica Ray registered ten times with the same signature and different birth dates. Elsewhere in the Show Me State, ACORN tried to register a 12-year-old.
Jackson County Election Supervisor Charlene Davis told Fox News Channel that her office has discovered some 800 fraudulent forms filed by ACORN.
At least eight ACORN workers in St. Louis previously have pleaded guilty to fraud. That city has notoriously sketchy voting norms.
In his superb and chilling book, Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, author John Fund cites a May 2004 report by Missouri’s then–state auditor Claire McCaskill, who now is a Democratic U.S. senator. McCaskill revealed that voter rolls in St. Louis were clogged with 1,452 people registered at vacant lots, 2,242 felons (of whom 935 had voted), 4,405 dead people, and 15,953 who were registered elsewhere in Missouri, or in Illinois.
And just this year — according to Scott Linedecker, co-chairman of the local election board — at least 60 dead people voted in St. Louis.
In Nevada, the FBI raided ACORN’s Las Vegas offices on October 7. ACORN tried to register the Dallas Cowboys’ starting line-up, including Terrell Owens and Tony Romo. “Tony Romo is nowhere on our voter rolls,” said Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat. At least 46 phony registrations have come to light.
In New Mexico, Bernalillo County authorities are examining 1,400 dubious registration cards. Also, ACORN illegally has hired felons there to register voters. This apparently included a child rapist. ACORN reportedly has had at least 59 felons signing up voters across America.
In Ohio, some 8,000 applications look dodgy, from among 72,000 new registrations that ACORN submitted.
Domino’s Pizza delivery man Christopher Barkley testified on Monday before the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in Cleveland. He said that he was reading a book outdoors when several ACORN representatives approached him and asked to register him to vote. When he said he already was registered, “They would ask me again, like, ‘I need a job; I’m just trying to hold on to a job. So, would you sign these for me? I need 25 of them.’ . . . Me being a kind-hearted person, I said, ‘Yeah.’ I didn’t know that I would have to be in here for this.” ACORN went on to register him “ten to 15 times,” Barkley has said.
Freddie Johnson, 19, also testified Monday. Afterward, in imperfect English, he told journalists about ACORN: “They was trying to get signatures so they can make they money, and I was trying to help ’em,” he said.
How many times did he register?
“Seventy-three times,” Johnson innocently explained. “I thought that I could help other people.”
“Did they [the ACORN workers] say you’re doing something that’s wrong?” Fox News Channel’s Eric Shawn asked Johnson.
“No, they did not,” he replied. “I wouldn’t have did it if they would have said that.”
Shawn explained that the elections board has Johnson registered 48 times. In its defense, ACORN says their records show him registered a mere 18 times — and just 15 of those via ACORN.
Johnson evidently admits that he received cash and cigarettes for his numerous registrations.
According to the Wall Street Journal, a worker for one Ohio ACORN affiliate in 2004 “was given crack cocaine in exchange for fraudulent registrations that included underage voters, dead voters, and pillars of the community named Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy, and Jive Turkey.”
In Pennsylvania, a former ACORN staffer faces 17 counts of forgery and identity theft. Further criminal charges could arise in Allegheny County where eight ACORN workers are under investigation for their suspected connection to some 100 bogus registrations in Pittsburgh.
In Washington State, ACORN agreed to court supervision and paid a $25,000 fine after five of its workers went to jail in July 2007 for sitting in a Seattle public library and filling out 1,800 registration forms with names they invented. In 2004, some Democratic precincts generated more mail-in ballots than there were mail voters.
In Wisconsin, between 250 and 300 of ACORN’s registration cards are under a microscope.
Nationwide, ACORN boasts that it has registered 3 million new voters since 2004. How many of these registrations are fraudulent? The outrageous cases discussed here have been exposed and should be corrected. But how many others slipped through before ACORN became a household name?
Anyone showing up at the polls in Las Vegas pretending to be Tony Romo may be arrested. But what about someone masquerading as Tony Ross, Anthony Russo, Tommy Russell, or any number of inconspicuous names that would leave red flags furled?
Just a handful of such bogus votes can exceed the margin of victory in incredibly tight races. Two months and three recounts after the 2004 election, Democrat Christine Gregoire became Washington’s governor by beating Republican Dino Rossi in a 129-vote landslide from among 2.9 million cast. Most famously, George W. Bush beat Al Gore in 2000 by a whopping 537 votes in Florida. Similar squeakers this November 4 could be decided by those who have no right to cast ballots, or those whose slogan is “One Man, Many Votes.”
With the election exactly three weeks away, the hour is late to sift through all of the nation’s voter rolls and separate live voters from dead ones, citizens from aliens, the law-abiding from felons, adults from minors, and real people from those merely fabricated. This needs to be done, but is unlikely to be accomplished in time.
What could be done quickly is to require photo ID at the polls, something the U.S. Supreme Court ruled constitutional last spring. Only seven states (Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, and South Dakota) mandate photo ID before citizens can step into voting booths. Beyond these Sensible Seven, 17 states require ID, though it need not include a photo. The remaining 26 states demand no proof that voters are who they say they are.
Requiring photo ID, and making it available for free to any voter who needs it, is the easiest way to assure that corrupt or overzealous people do not show up and vote while ineligible or impersonate someone who has moved away, passed away, or never even existed.
Michael Bowman, senior director of policy for the American Legislative Exchange Council, notes that many statehouses are away and would have to be called back into session. In other states, this issue would fall outside the legislative branch.
“This clearly seems to be an issue that lies within the executive branch, with secretaries of state, attorneys general, and governors handling this sort of voters’ concern,” Bowman said. “Every state is different. In most states, I think the secretary of state and the attorney general should be able to speak to the integrity of the elections.”
Those who want clean elections should demand photo ID. If ACORN’s defenders want to argue for keeping America’s voting system opaque and increasingly equatorial, let’s have that debate. American voters overwhelmingly favor photo ID at the polls. Those who don’t — who mainly are on the Left — should spend the next three weeks fighting photo ID. This will prove as popular as blocking offshore oil drilling.
It would be refreshing to hear opponents of photo ID drop their Jim Crow–era rhetoric about poor and minority voters staying away from the polls for lack of ID. There are few arguments more vulgar and bigoted than the claim that black Americans (the past victims of Southern disenfranchisement) are too benighted to show up at the polls with photo ID cards. Are blacks too backward to show photo ID when boarding airplanes, riding Amtrak, enjoying discounted service on buses (for students, seniors, and the disabled), and entering many government buildings? Those who dislike photo ID should abandon this unbecoming, condescending, and maddeningly racist line of thought.
Will real voters choose our next president (as well as those running for Congress, and for state and municipal seats), or will this momentous decision rest in the hands of Mary Poppins and Jive Turkey? Simply showing photo ID at the polls would go a long way toward preventing an electoral meltdown that could do for American constitutional democracy what today’s financial meltdown is doing for American capitalism.
– Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.