A November 2009 Public Policy Poll found a majority of Tea Party Republicans believe President Obama’s 9.5 million vote majority in 2008 came from the 1.3 million new voters registered by ACORN, each of whom apparently voted seven times.

If the TGOP lose an election, it must be “voter fraud.” (More)

Fraudian Slips, Part I – The “Problem”

This week Morning Feature considers “voter fraud” or, more correctly, the Republican Tea Party’s perennial voter suppression campaign. Today we look at myths and facts about “voter fraud.” Tomorrow we’ll consider real cases of voter suppression, past and present. Saturday we’ll talk about Democrats’ efforts to enable voters, and how you can help.

TGOP candidate John McCain claimed ACORN was trying to steal the election in the October 15 presidential debate, and after he lost that claim was echoed by countless conservative pundits, talk radio hosts, callers, and viral emails. It seems the 1.3 million voters registered by ACORN in 2008 each voted seven times, thus providing President Obama’s margin of victory.

The nuts about ACORN:

In fact, ACORN did not register 1.3 million new voters in 2008. Sourcewatch found that 450,000 were registered voters changing addresses. About 300,000 were duplicates; already-registered voters mistakenly re-registering. Another 65,000 were incomplete forms not added to the voter rolls. Less than 1.5% of the registrations were fraudulent, and ACORN flagged those when they were submitted. (By law, voter registration groups cannot discard a completed registration form, even one they know is fraudulent.) To put that in perspective, a 2006 registration drive paid for by the California Republican Party yielded error rates as high as 60%.

In 2008, only about 450,000 of ACORN’s registrations were new voters. For them to have provided President Obama’s margin of victory, each would have had to vote 20 times. Yet last November, Public Policy Polling found 52% of Tea Party Republicans believed ACORN had stolen the election, versus only 27% who believed President Obama won legitimately. By comparison, 62% of Americans overall said the election was legitimate; almost no Democrats or Independents believed it was stolen.

Maybe it’s just the TGOP “information islands.” As we discussed last month in the series on Will Bunch’s The Backlash, over 80% of tea party activists believe they are a majority, although polls show only 25% of registered voters support the tea party movement. Combine The Big Sort with the ideologically polarized modern media, and it’s entirely possible to live on an “information island” where everyone you know – and every source you see, hear, or read – agrees with you. If an election result doesn’t match your experience, then the election must have been rigged.

But “information islands” don’t explain all of it. For some in the TGOP, it’s also that….

Some People ‘shouldn’t’ vote.

Voter Fraud CombinedConsider this damning photo circulated by the King Street Patriots. It’s obvious that Some People think they should be allowed to vote more than once.

Of course, that is less obvious when you look at the original photos, taken in 2000 during the Florida recount. As the bottom photo shows, her sign actually read “Don’t Mess With Our Vote.” Someone altered the photo so her sign seems to read: “I Only Got To Vote Once,” and the Gore/Lieberman sign behind her was altered to read “I’m With Stupid.” (This was found by Glenn Smith at DogCanyon.org.)

So the King Street Patriots are using a fraudulent photo in their campaign to stop “voter fraud.” But that’s not merely irony. It’s no accident the altered photo features a black woman. It’s part of a conservative meme running back to the early 1960s: Some People shouldn’t vote. Specifically … Brown-skinned People shouldn’t vote.

The Department of Justice is investigating allegations that King Street Patriot poll watchers are interfering with early voting in black and Hispanic precincts in Harris County, Texas. Witnesses reported King Street Patriot volunteers blocking voter lines, questioning voters (prohibited by law), “getting in the face of election workers,” and “hovering behind voters as they wait to cast ballots.” We’ll discuss other examples of voter suppression tomorrow.

The truth about “voter fraud.”

In the real world, how common is “voter fraud?” A 2007 study by the Brennan Center for Justice reached this conclusion:

It’s more likely a person will be struck by lightning than that he will impersonate another voter at the polls.

Actual voter fraud is extraordinarily rare. Most allegations are typographical errors in poll books or registration records, or on comparisons of voters with similar names. (E.g.: John Smith, Johnny Smith, John A. Smith, and John Allen Smith are all registered voters, that is often cited as proof of voter fraud.) Most are different voters who simply have the same or similar names. While many voters are registered twice – once where they used to live and again where they now live – there is no legal obligation to inform your former registrar that you have moved. When you register at your new address, your new registrar may notify your old registrar, or they may not.

And almost none of these twice-registered voters actually votes twice.

In New Jersey in 2004, for example, 4397 voters were alleged to have voted twice within the state, and 6572 were alleged to have voted both in New Jersey and in some other state. But investigation of signatures showed only 8 were actual “double voters.” The rest were different voters with similar names, or voters registered in different places but who voted in only one.

Confirmed cases of “voter fraud” account for about 0.0004% of ballots cast. To put that in perspective, in the 2008 presidential elections a total of 125,225,901 were cast. The 0.0004% “voter fraud” rate, that works out to 50,090 false ballots cast nationwide. President Obama won by 9.5 million votes. Even assuming every false ballot was cast for him, his margin of victory included 199 legitimate voters for every 1 false voter.

The specter of “voter fraud” is itself a fraud, hyped by the TGOP before every election both to delegitimize Democratic winners and to keep mostly-Democratic minority voters from voting. And tomorrow we’ll see how they do it.

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Happy Thursday!