As a general rule, I tend not to get too riled up about politics, especially during a hotly contested election. People may do some pretty stupid things, but by and large it all works out in the end. Even if your candidate doesn’t win, the board resets after the election.
That’s the beauty of the American electoral system – regardless of whether your guy wins or loses, we all stay in the game for the next round. We might grouse around for the next four years about how the guy who did win has gotten everything wrong, but we don’t try to overthrow the system or join a revolution. If you don’t like the election results just wait – there is always another one right around the corner. Win or lose, we’re all in this together.
But there is a new element in this election season that is downright dangerous for the health of the democracy. There is mounting evidence of systemic attempt to undermine the underlying principle of our democracy – that each of us gets just one vote, whether we choose to exercise it or not.
We don’t have one national presidential election. Our constitution provides for 50 individual elections, with the president being decided by the electors of each state. Given the current state of American politics, it means that our recent elections have been decided by a relatively small number of voters in a few key swing states. The last two presidential elections were among the closest in our history. If a few thousands vote had been cast differently in Ohio and Florida in November 2000, President Gore would be working on his farewell address rather than President Bush.
This time around it could be just as close. A handful of voters in a few key states will decide whether John McCain or Barack Obama will take the oath of office on January 20th. That is why allegations of widespread voter registration fraud by the community organizing group ACORN is so troubling. As of Tuesday, The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, ACORN, has now been accused of voter registration fraud. Their offices have been sealed and their files confiscated by law enforcement officials in 13 states – so far.
ACORN is a quasi private/public organization. It receives federal funds, but also monies from outside groups, including almost one million dollars from Barack Obama’s campaign. It is supposed to be non-partisan, yet its “political wing” has endorsed Barack Obama. It is supposed to promote democracy by registering new, low-income inner city voters, but it has been caught registering voters multiple times in exchange for cash payments or gifts. There is a lot wrong with this:
First, it is illegal for a federally funded group to endorse or work for any political candidate. Second, it is illegal for anyone to accept a bribe in exchange for his vote and certainly illegal for anyone to offer and pay the bribe. Third, it is illegal for anyone to vote more than once. But perhaps most importantly, even more than what is legal or illegal, is that ACORN is undermining the principle of fair and free elections. Banana Republics and Communist countries have ballot boxes stuffed and elections stolen. Not the United States.
With these latest revelations, the Obama campaign has now cut all ties with ACORN, despite Sen. Obama’s earlier associations with them as their legal counsel. Perhaps it is just handful of overzealous Obama supporters in key states who are committing election and voter registration fraud. But ACORN’s activities don’t pass the smell test.
In Bridgeport, Connecticut, some 20% of ACORN’s submitted registrations have been deemed fraudulent In Houston, it’s 40%. In Indianapolis, new voter registration is now running at over 105% of all eligible voters. One man, by his own admission, testified in court this week in Cuyhoga County, Ohio and admitted to being paid by ACORN to register 72 times. Since Ohio also allows for early voting, many of these so called “voters” have already cast their ballots – all of them. In Pennsylvania a number of “voters” have admitted to being pressured to register dozens of times. Others, residents of homeless shelters, have said they registered multiple times in exchange for cigarettes and booze.
With the election just two weeks away, and very little time for the counties and states involved to investigate fraudulent voter registrations, it is time for the Justice Department to step in – for everyone’s sake. This election will be too close, and too important to have even the taint of fraud surrounding it. And, if it these investigations turn out something more widespread and sinister is going, like an attempt to throw an election or ensure a certain outcome, then it threatens the very foundation of our electoral system of government. This serious stuff and we ignore it at our peril.