Otherwise excellent investigative news project still forwards several unsubstantiated 'voter fraud' myths...
By Brad Friedman on 8/21/2012, 11:20am PT  

As with their excellent analysis and database last week finding just ten (10), total, cases of in-person voter fraud in all 50 states since 2000 which might have been deterred by polling place Photo ID restrictions, News 21 --- an investigative reporting project of the Carnegie Corporation and Knight Foundation, based at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism --- has published yet another report today that will come as little surprise to long time readers of The BRAD BLOG.

Still, it's helpful to see such reports published at outlets like NBCNews.com which is serving as a partner in the project, since, apparently, it's not enough for us to offer nearly a decade of independently verifiable reports blowing the same whistle on the same scams.

Today's new report focuses on the Rightwing/corporatist American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)'s role in promoting disenfranchising polling place Photo ID restriction laws, as proposed by Republican legislators in dozens of states over the past two years...

Lawmakers proposed 62 photo ID bills in 37 states in the 2011 and 2012 sessions, with multiple bills introduced in some states. Ten states have passed strict photo ID laws since 2008, though several may not be in effect in November because of legal challenges.

A News21 analysis found that more than half of the 62 bills were sponsored by members or conference attendees of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a Washington, D.C., tax-exempt organization.

ALEC has nearly 2,000 state legislator members who pay $100 in dues every two years. Most of ALEC’s money comes from nonprofits and corporations — from AT&T to Bank of America to Chevron to eBay — which pay thousands of dollars in dues each year.
ALEC members drafted a voter ID bill in 2009, a year when the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization had $5.3 million in undisclosed corporate and nonprofit contributions, according to Internal Revenue Service documents.

While Ethan Magoc's News21 report mentions ALEC founder (and "conservative movement" demi-god) Paul Weyrich, this :40 second clip of Weyrich --- which we refer to as The Rosetta Stone of the Modern-Day Republican Voter Suppression Movement --- supplies the full context for ALEC's push to disenfranchise largely Democratic-leaning voters through the polling place Photo ID restriction legislation that its members have been introducing in state after state over the past two years...

Go read News21's report in full, though we'd like to offer just one or two minor quibbles to it...

While Magoc's report is otherwise very informative (if familiar to readers around here), it engages in a bit of the type of completely unsubstantiated "he said/she said" journalism which, one would think, a group such as News21 would feverishly avoid.

Here are a couple examples of that. First, this one:

State bill sponsors, including Republican state Rep. Cathrynn Brown of New Mexico, said their motivation did not come from ALEC, but from reports about the now-defunct liberal voter registration group, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

“We had groups like them going around doing registrations and discarding the ones they didn’t like,” Brown said.

The report offers neither evidence to substantiate Brown's charge --- and implication that Democratic-related groups are doing that sort of thing --- nor does it debunk her unsubstantiated charges.

To our knowledge, there is absolutely no evidence of ACORN "discarding" registrations "they didn't like". Zero. So why is that quote cited without evidence to disabuse it?

That does appear to have happened, but not by ACORN, to our knowledge. Among the instances we're familiar with --- and have reported in great detail over the years --- are those carried out by organizations actually hired by the Republican Party. (NOTE: ACORN was not hired by the Democratic Party for its registration work.)

In 2008, for example --- at the height of that year's GOP/Fox "News" ACORN "voter fraud" scam --- a group calling itself Young Political Majors was hired by the CA Republican Party to do voter registration. It was then found to have been changing thousands of voter registration forms from Democratic to Republican. The group's CEO, Mark Anthony Jacoby, was eventually arrested (see our appearance announcing that on Fox "News" below) before he later pleaded guilty to voter registration fraud.

Earlier this year, the Sacramento Republican Party was found to have hired Momentum Political Services, headed up by Monica Harris, described as a "professional con-artist". The group allegedly turned in thousands of fraudulent voter registrations in a $50,000 bounty scheme paid for by the Republicans.

And, of course, there is Nathan Sproul, whose organization was hired by the GOP in 2004 an accused of shredding thousands of Democratic voter registrations in several states, before being hired again by the McCain-Palin campaign in 2008 nonetheless.

Still, despite that, the fact is that the polling place Photo ID restrictions Brown sponsored in New Mexico would have done nothing to deter that sort of behavior by the Republican operatives, or even similar, imaginary behavior by groups more sympathetic to Democrats.

The News21 report should have made that clear, rather than allowing Brown to get away, uncritically, with her unsubstantiated smear.

And then there is this similar example:

“Are both parties guilty of games? Sadly, yes,” said [New Hampshire state Rep. Jordan] Ulery, a former member of ALEC’s Public Safety and Elections Task Force. Ulery, a Republican, supported his state’s voter ID bills, which have twice been vetoed by New Hampshire's Democratic governor.

“But only one political party in this past decade has actually been widely associated with an entity that was actively engaged in registration scams, trucking of voters and avoiding with the greatest possible energy vote-security measures,” Ulery said about Democrats.

Again, there is zero evidence offered in the article to support Ulery's smears, nor is information offered to debunk it.

There is one quote from ACORN's former director Bertha Lewis, noting that "Our quality-control program was so good, and we were so strict, we would fire people on the spot" when fraudulent registrations were turned in by a handful of the group's more than 10,000 voter registration workers. But, beyond that, Ulery's suggestion that ACORN was "actively engaged in registration scams" or that they were "trucking voters" is complete, well, bullshit, and News21 should have stated as much, or offered evidence to support the Republican's claim.

Were Democrats "widely associated" with ACORN? Sure. Was ACORN loudly accused by Republicans (and similarly uncritical mainstream corporate media) of "actively engag[ing] in registration scams"? Yes. But that was thanks to the propaganda effort by Republicans and Fox "News" to give a completely false impression to the public that would lead, eventually, to the "need" for polling place Photo ID voter suppression laws --- which, by the way, do absolutely nothing to deter any of the behavior cited, whether it happened or not.

So the Republicans created the false impression of a problem, and then passed legislation they pretended would correct it, all as a guise for disenfranchising Democratic-leaning voters. That is what is happening today as we head towards the November Presidential election with these new, disenfranchising GOP restrictions in place in many states.

Meanwhile, a few of us, have been trying to point out the real problems in our electoral system for years --- that the real concerns are insider election fraud (such as gaming the voter rolls, the ability to manipulate computer vote tabulators), not voter fraud (the voters are doing fine, leave them alone). We have even gone so far as to be the lonely voice on Fox "News", way back in 2008, sounding that alarm, while the rest of the world, including the corporate mainstream media, was pretending that ACORN was stealing elections...

• For more on the American Legislative Exchange Council, see the ALEC Exposed website...

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