And, more importantly, the right of people to form a government that they want. I know: Iran has elections. But I seriously doubt that the Ayatollahs would let the electoral process there choose someone who wasn't of the right sort.
Having grown up in America, I think that being able to vote is an important freedom, too.
And, having your vote mean something.
They're Baaack! Voters from Beyond the GraveACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), is "the nation's largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people." They seem dedicated to recruiting low-income voters, no matter what it takes.
ACORN says that they're an organization that "has been building community organizations that are committed to social and economic justice, and won victories on thousands of issues of concern to our members, through direct action, negotiation, legislative advocacy and voter participation. ACORN helps those who have historically been locked out become powerful players in our democratic system...." They describe themselves as "... a non-profit, non-partisan social justice organization with national headquarters in New York, New Orleans and Washington, D.C." And, they have endorsed one of the presidential candidates, Barack Obama.
I have no problem with any of that. One of America's strengths is that people here have a habit of dealing with issues by forming ad hoc organizations, instead of waiting for the duke, or whoever, to come and fix things.
ACORN, though, seems to be giving "grassroots community organization" a new meaning. Digging up an old tradition, at least some ACORN units have been registering dead people. And at least one restaurant.
Voting the graveyard is a traditional, if controversial, election-year tactic in America. Although Academic opinion seems to prefer the idea that not all that many dead people have voted, and that it doesn't matter much anyway, there is a widespread belief that people like Mayor Daley stayed in office by letting loyal supporters vote after they died.1
ACORN: 'Fraud, Schmaud, We Try to be Fair'ACORN's problems may be due in part to high ideals run amok. The Detroit Free Press gave readers an insight into ACORN's operating philosophy: "...David Lagstein, head Michigan organizer for ACORN, the Association for Community Reforms Now, defended the [voter registration] effort. [which included handing in obviously bogus voter registration cards]
"...'It's our policy to hand in every single card,' he said. "Sometimes we do get the occasional application with names like Mickey Mouse or some silly thing like that. However, we don't want to be the arbiter. Our job is to hand in the applications.'..."
I applaud people who stand by their ideals. But in this case, I think that ACORN might have used a little common sense. Make that "these cases." The last time I looked, ACORN registrations have caused complaints in:
- New Mexico
- North Carolina
- Washington state
In Lake County, Ohio, that "occasional application" was the first 2,100 of about 5,000 applications that ACORN dropped off. What tipped the Elections Board off was the number of dead people who were registering to vote, and that so many applications were done in the same handwriting. That, and the application to vote filed by Jimmy Johns, a fast-food restaurant.
Jimmy Johns is, in fact, a 'resident' of Lake County: but isn't allowed to vote. Interestingly, nobody seems to be calling for an extension of the franchise to fast-food joints. Pity. I'd like to see what the 9th circuit Court of Appeals would do with the case.
Good Help is So Hard to FindAntonio Johnson filled out fraudulent voter registration forms when he worked for ACORN. The Michigan Attorney General says so, and so does Mr. Johnson.
He's been charged with filling out forms for six Jackson residents, without their knowledge or permission. He was easy to find, once the charges were filed. Mr. Johnson was the guest of the Jackson County Jail, due to a probation violation. I think ACORN might have been well-advised to hire someone who either didn't have a criminal record, or who was smart enough not to get caught.
As an aside: this is why it's so much better to register dead people. They're not as likely to complain about their names being used.
So, What's the Big Deal?I'll grant that six people getting their voting rights ripped off isn't all that important in a national election. Except to the six people, of course.
However, thousands of dead people voting, some of them more than once, is something to be concerned about. Particularly when they are likely to all vote the same way.
A Columbus, Ohio, think tank is suing ACORN on behalf of two Warren County women. The idea is "...that ACORN's actions deprive them of the right to participate in an honest and effective elections process...."
ACORN of Ohio says, "we think it is a frivolous lawsuit". ACORN said the same thing about a similar lawsuit in 2004, and made it stick.
I wouldn't be surprised if a judge decides that this year's lawsuit is frivolous, too. That doesn't mean that I think a zombie voting block is a frivolous issue.
Attack of the Zombie VotersNational elections can be won or lost by extremely narrow margins. A few thousand zombie voters really could make a difference.
And, despite that B-movie title, it could happen. Since absentee ballots don't require that election officials actually look at the "voter," dead people could vote, if they managed to get registered.
It's not at all hard to imagine that ACORN is determined to avoid, by any means necessary, another situation like the election of 2000, where the 'wrong' candidate won.
And, they may succeed.
Previous posts on this topic:
- "Barack Osama?! A Whopper of a Typo, or Some Kind of Plot?"
(October 10, 2008)
- "McCain, Obama, ACORN, Ayers, Character, and the American Election"
(October 10, 2008)
- "ACORN leader: Bogus voter applications get through"
Detroit Free Press (October 15, 2008)
- "Voter-registration group faces fraud allegations"
Globe and Mail (October 14, 2008)
- "Mich. AG charges ex-ACORN worker with forgery"
Jackson Citizen Patriot (October 14, 2008)
- "ACORN sued on behalf of 2 Warren County voters"
Middletown Journal (October 14, 2008)
- "Michigan attorney general charges ACORN worker with forgery"
The Detroit News (October 14, 2008)
- "State seeks voter fraud probe in Lake County"
The Indianapolis Star (October 10, 2008)
- "Thousands of voter registration forms faked, officials say"
CNN (October 10, 2008)
1 In fact, it seems that the Chicago political machine stayed in power more by providing services and keeping the books balanced efficiently and effectively. Aside from more official sources, I got a look at the Chicago political machine from my father, who lived near the city at the time. It seems to have been a great place to live: The machine was very responsive to citizen concerns about city services; and quite a few people learned to put up with gambling, prostitution, and other revenue-generating aspects of organized crime.
Finally, what is getting to be a sort of standard disclaimer: This blog isn't political. But
- America determines who leads using a political process
- America's leadership over the next several years will make a great difference in how the War on Terror is conducted
- So, politics is inextricably entangled in the War on Terror