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A Purple Proposition

| 100 Comments

What would it take to get "purple finger" rules as used in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect democracy against voter fraud and multiple voting passed in California?

This thought was stolen from Jim Geraghty at National Review's Campaign Spot (link), inspired by a comment by Mark Steyn at National Review's Corner (link). My contribution is only to wonder: suppose you were living in a federal democracy, and the best way to test improvements in voting and other democratic procedures was in one state at first? What would it take, politically, to make this proposition a success?

100 Comments

What happened to all the opponents of voter ID laws that were claiming there was no evidence of any perceptable amount of voter fraud in the US in light of the rampant fraud being attempted by ACORN? The silence is deafening.

Let them remain silent. As I see it, this is the right time to press for voting reforms.

If those who oppose them want to return to the idea that there is no need for reform, let them make the case now with the stink of ACORN in the air.

What's needed is practical suggestions for reform and energy in pressing them.

That's Plan A.

If voting reform doesn't get far even after this scandal, then widespread fraud with impunity is clearly part of Barack Obama's successful new rules of politics, along with silencing critics etc., and the Republican Party should go all out to get a tax-funded mass agency of intimidation and corruption of its own, and outdo the Democratic Party in election fraud.

That's Plan B.

Plan A is much better, so let's focus entirely on Plan A.

Mr Buehner, no one has claimed there is no evidence of voter registration fraud. Registration forms for Mickey Mouse happened in previous cycles. I think we have been over all that.

What is missing, despite several investigations carried out at the behest of Karl Rove, is evidence that Mickey Mouse came and cast a vote. Evidence of ballots cast by ineligible persons, or multiple ballots cast by the same individual, did not turn up. It just didn't.

What's amazing is that in this election, not only has ACORN arranged to stuff the ballot box with millions of fake Obama votes, they have somehow managed to get these ghost voters to take the pre-election polls too.

Everyone does realize that ACORN has to turn in these forms, almost in every state required by law, right? That it doesn't mean if someone can either put down their correct information or gibberish - or one of their staffers fills in the cards themselves, it still needs to go in?

Just curious, about how many did ACORN flag as possibly fraudulent in Indiana? More than 2000?

What would it take, politically, to make this proposition a success?
Prove that it is needed by a actual, credible numbers of fraudulent votes instead of the hysterical chest poundings of anguished Republicans?
You know, instead of going for this how about fixing statewide laws so functional voting machines are distributed by population density instead of district? Provide for high quality, paper trail enabled ones? Professional staffers and people who are well versed on the law and able to speak to it at polling places?

Really, that would be the best thing to do - identify that there is a substantial problem, then find a way to fix it. Since there is an obvious problem with voter registration - you fix that first.

What happened to all the opponents of voter ID laws that were claiming there was no evidence of any perceptable amount of voter fraud in the US in light of the rampant fraud being attempted by ACORN?
It's still not there. Registration does not equal votes, and the fraud that is alleged is only on registration.
You're making a clearly flawed assumption - but that's ok, because that's the purpose of these attacks. Since when you read the links - it's making quite clear that this is the setup for 'fraudulent election!' which went over so well from 2000-2004.

Duck the question all you like, but one might wonder why ACORN is going to all this trouble to register these imaginary voters that magically wont get cast. Is it really a stretch from paying/bribing/cajouling people off the street to register multiple times to vote multiple times? If if not, why all the effort? It makes no sense.

This argument is ridiculous. Its like catching a counterfitter with a million dollars in twenties and the defense is 'hey, i wasn't going to spend it! How could anyone even think that?!'. Its absurd.

I rather like the purple finger idea. There are already "I Voted" stickers, which I refuse because gold stars are for kindergarten. But a purple finger tradition would suit me fine, I would like to see it become a global tradition among the democracies.

"California passed the nation's first 'purple finger' law, requiring that voters dye their finger with difficult-to-remove ink in order to prevent re-voting."

"In other news, ACORN has announced a deal with the manufacturers of GOOP brand hand cleaner, with 300 tons of the cleaner set to be delivered Monday..."

The problem with proving actual voter fraud is that, in almost all jurisdictions, we've systematically undermined our tools for doing so. Records aren't kept on who voted, IDs are not checked... and nobody's going to complain that "someone voted in my place" if the extra votes are for people who never existed in the first place (or have been in a grave for years, heh).

Overall voter participation is low enough that the ultimate, undeniable proof of fraudulent voting (i.e. more ballots cast than residents) just doesn't happen.

Tell you what, though - quit fighting voter identification laws, and I won't worry about voter registration fraud.

Why don't we just build big pens: Vote. Spend the rest of the day in the pen. Get let out after the polls close. Hey, if we don't, the terrorists win. And it will tend to select for some of the ACORN constituents, so they shouldn't kick. /sarcasm

I'm not the first to observe: In tight races, vote fraud will have a larger payoff per bogus vote. Bogus registrations might make fraud harder or slower to detect.

Comes down to Who to trust?, and On what basis?

'Twas ever thus.

My first guess as to why ACORN turned in so many phony registrations is based on my experience working for a temp firm and getting the job of delivering flyers. A guy drove a bunch of us temps to the neighborhood targetted for the flyer and dropped us off in various spots with big bundles to deliver. Dumb guys like myself walked house to house in the hot sun making deliveries. The smarter guys, who hadn't been brain damaged by a college education, dumped their bundles somewhere convenient and had a smoke while they waited to be picked up. The guy who drove us out didn't care, and everyone collected their small paycheck. So it goes for these mindless jobs and I get the impression that registering votes for ACORN is just such a mindless job.

Now as to the impact, I think it wastes everyone's time and reduces faith in the integrity of the system. That by itself is reason enough to put an end to it. And most importantly, I don't think government should be funding political parties for partisan purposes, that's just kills any faith the system. It's not as if ACORN's alignment with the Democrats is a secret. If the government wants to spend money on make work jobs I'd rather they fund street sweeping and window washing.

I'm against the purple finger, at least for this election cycle. Let's talk up Acorn, and raise doubts about the validity of the results, so as to de-legitimize the victor.

#7 from chuck:

"I rather like the purple finger idea. [...] I would like to see it become a global tradition among the democracies."

is there any evidence of voter fraud actually happening?

Re: #11 from Loyal reader:

Plan A = very good.
Plan B = last resort.

Stick to Plan A.

David,

Evidence, evidence, evidence - not of, as Andrew said, registration fraud, but instead, evidence of VOTER fraud.

Produce this, or drop the subject.

After all, the whole U.S. attorney scandal hinged on this - multiple investigations into whether there was ACTUAL voter fraud - it wasn't found.

And, like you, Republican officials got pissed about it - and then tried to have those attorneys who were listening to the EVIDENCE - in this case the lack of evidence - fired.

And we see where that led, didn't we?

Mickey Mouse isn't going to show up, to vote. He isn't, I promise you.

Mickey Mouse isn't going to show up, to vote.

I resent your implication, sir. I always show up to vote.

Is it really a stretch from paying/bribing/cajouling people off the street to register multiple times to vote multiple times? If if not, why all the effort? It makes no sense.

It makes plenty of sense. They hire - as people who go out - a combination of ideologues and low employment people who are willing to work for near minimum wage.

This is not a good combination if you're looking to do surgery. It is a good combination if you want them to spend 8 hours going door to door, or standing outside a high traffic place asking people if they want to register.

It also leads to people who are willing to bend the system in order to further their goals or continue their employment at minimum effort, or to cheat in order to continue employment based on what they perceive.
And many, many others who do nothing of the sort.

I know, ideologues pushing past legal boundaries? Who would have guessed! Thankfully, it only happens here and never anywhere else, which makes it much easier to say that 'we are outraged!'.

This - and actually pushing someone with a fake name to a polling place - is quite different, both from the legal punishment accompanied to the people you would have doing this.

Its absurd.
No, it's logical. Find a problem, stop a problem. Find a weakness, stop a weakness. You are divining intention from action, where this doesn't necessarily exist.
Would you rather voting groups get to pick and choose which applications they submit to the state?

There is a weakness in voting. One that can be closed with VoterID that does not require a poll tax like mechanism, and has appropriate allowances (provisional ballots) for those that either can't or don't know how to comply, which are often going to be the poor and the elderly.

Indiana - for example - had their strict ID policy upheld by the Supreme Court this past January. Now, why on earth would someone who was planning to 'spend' do this there?

The nuns! We must stop the nuns!

#16 Mickey: I get the impression you're also a career nonvoting member of most all legislative bodies, too. The rescue bill has your glovemarks all over it! Whew. That's a tougher job than Santa Claus's.

Thanks for stopping by.

Before y'all get too worked up about how it's just those darn Republicans making up phony allegations about voter fraud (Dave, JC), please be aware that those darn Democrats are making the same claims.

WeWillNotBeSilenced2008.com

And before you dismiss them as just Clinton supporters who, as opponents to Obama, have the same motivations against him as the Republicans, do consider that you'd be suggesting that only the supporters of a candidate are entitled to make legitimate claims of voter fraud. As if that'll happen often.

Before y'all get too worked up about how it's just those darn Republicans making up phony allegations about voter fraud (Dave, JC), please be aware that those darn Democrats are making the same claims.

Never said phony. Unsubstantiated. There is a difference. As there is in this video, which is a combination of unsubstantiated AND phony, along with some sour grapes and intentional misinterpretation of what went on.

The point being is that while vote fraud is possible, it has always been unsubstantiated to the level it has been brought up as a problem instead of a weakness, which should entail 2 different approaches. That possibility has always been enough for Republicans - as the PUMAs are now - to press for tighter voting restrictions. Which coincidentally happen to undermine their main opponent, by making it harder for their supporters to vote.

Really though, we're talking about Republicans here - they wouldn't do something like that on purpose, would they? Devise a policy to champion in public that has little basis in fact, but has several other outcomes that they find agreeable to overall goals? You're right, I shouldn't have brought that up.

Sarcasm aside, I'm fully aware both sides have flaws and methods to undermine each other. This is one. To paint it as purely an exercise in doing what is right fails anyone with common sense.

I mean, we could take a big swing at this. Go to a college that receives federal funds, put your children in a state school that receives federal funds and is funded below the mean of the state per child, receive social security, do anything that leans to Democrats - you have to be registered to vote.

Nothing wrong with that. It could be the first law of 2009!

It's primarily ACORN who have been identifying and reporting the fraudulent registration cards that their employees submit. In Nevada they flagged many of the bad ones and informed the state. The state repaid them with a raid on their offices.

And just to take the original post seriously for a second: How would 'purple fingers' integrate with the large and growing tradition of absentee/vote-by-mail ballots? Oregon is 100% vote by mail, and several other states are headed that way.

#21 from Anachronym:

"And just to take the original post seriously for a second: ..."

Thank you.

#21 from Anachronym:

"How would 'purple fingers' integrate with the large and growing tradition of absentee/vote-by-mail ballots? Oregon is 100% vote by mail, and several other states are headed that way."

It doesn't. So don't try to federalize it. Don't tread on Oregon. Pick a state that isn't too committed to absentee/vote-by-mail ballots, one where it's relatively easy to get an experimental proposition up, and try it there. If there benefits turn out to be impressive, other states might decide this is the way to go.

This is the fruit of the idiotic EVERYONE MUST VOTE, EVERYONE MUST VOTE, GOD DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL, YOU MUST VOTE! campaign that has been going on for a couple of decades now, with bi-partisan support, sucking up everybody's tax money, enlisting celebrities and hordes of people who are otherwise unemployable ...

While a reasonable amount of civic encouragement would have been, well, reasonable, this get-out-the-vote thing has gone to absurd and offensive lengths.

ACORN is a natural result of this, in which taxpayers get to fund a nation-wide version of rotten machine politics. Time to put the whole thing down.

#21: Ah, another fine plan undermined by vote-by-mail.
I'd noticed, a couple of weeks back, what should be an obvious problem with ubiquitous mail-in voting: loss of confidentiality.
When you vote at a polling place, your ballot goes into the box (or your vote goes into the database) unseen by other human eyes.
When you fill out an absentee ballot, you can show it to other people before mailing it. This makes it harder to lie to your spouse, boss, shop steward, or what-have-you.
I think absentee ballots should be reserved for those who really can't show up at the polling places - the physically disabled, college students, deployed troops, and the like - and the rest of us should have to show up in person and get our fingers inked. Less opportunity for fraud, less opportunity for intimidation... oh, that won't go over too well, will it?

Oregon is 100% vote by mail, and several other states are headed that way.

Bad habit, I think everyone should vote in person unless they are deployed by the military or something similar. But I suppose mail in votes create an opening for a company that would relieve you of the inconvenience of voting altogether. Just register your party, pay a small yearly fee, and they will mail your vote in for the rest of your life. I think many voters operate that way anyway.

1) I call dibbs on Chuck's gold stars!

2) Can you get your choice of colors?

3) My state (NC) has early voting, a great idea to help people who have trouble voting get to the polls.... colored fingers would not prevent someone from voting twice here.

3) I think the problem with Acorn is not an intent to fraud, but an intent to get voter registered on the cheap... I think the only way to solve multistate voting problems is to get a better database. If we're serious about preventing double-vote fraud, the best solution is to set up a database that can identify (or give warning flags) for those that show up twice.

In fact, most voter registration fraud is detected by computers, and should continue to be detected by computers. Also, Acorn should be required to have it's own computer system that detects intentionally inaccurate registration cards

(On a tangent) I'm also not against voter ID laws, but in order for a law to be implemented, there needs to be serious groundwork to help poor neighborhoods (which have shockingly low numbers of DMVs) get licensed for the first time.

4)I think Republicans love to talk about Acorn, but I'm much more concerned about electronic voting machines. I think they are magnitudes more disturbing to me than voter fraud, which I still haven't seen evidence for.

I think a national standard for voting policies is the best. Especially a system which uses paper ballots... I particularly like the arizona voting system where you simply connect two lines with a large black pen. Voting machines can (intially) be used to count, and the papers can be hand recounted if fraud is alleged.

1. There is no evidence of voting fraud because the existance of such evidence has been systematic made impossible to exist. Think about it, just HOW would voter fraud be exposed in our current anything goes system? This is not accidental. Even in principle it is impossible to expose fraud.

2.Groups like ACORN have been the pioneer ins establishing these no peek systems.

3.This isnt one or two random ACORN offices having problems. It is widespread and systematic through their nationwide organization. If Microsoft or Budweiser claimed it just randomly happened that there was the identical fraud taking place in different offices around the country, the left would be sharpening their knives and howling at the moon.

4.There is no legitimate reason to oppose voter ID laws if you support IDs for buying a firearm, scheduling a protest march, or anything else in the public realm that we have long deemed it required to show an ID.

5. I'm all for the purple finger. But i have no doubt that if it came to a reality the same people opposing ID would find some reason it was disenfranchising voters. Making amputees feel unequal? Of course this would have nothing to do with sustaining voting fraud, of course not...

Possible ways of detecting actual voter fraud, to reassure Mark Buehner.

1. Compare a random sample of polling place sign-in signatures with originals on file. Voting under someone else's name is exposed. (Even if it can't be stopped in real time, the magnitude of the problem would be clear afterward.)

2. Have poll watchers from the neighborhood who are familiar with who lives where. When Mr. Mickey Mouse comes in to vote, challenge him.

I'm skeptical of ACORN's philosophy of paying their "volunteers". But the claim that illegal voting is happening stealthily has no positive support, and it is not because it is impossible to find.

Incidentally, Voter ID does nothing to stop absentee ballot fraud. Presumably that's less critical as long as absentee votes are primarily Republican, but as that changes, look for scrutiny here too.

If Microsoft or Budweiser claimed it just randomly happened that there was the identical fraud taking place in different offices around the country, the left would be sharpening their knives and howling at the moon.

That depends on the organization. Theoretical example: If budweiser started paying their drivers in beer, I would not at all be shocked to learn that the type of people accepting that offer were also willing to steal a few extra cases.

Think about it: ACORN is paying peanuts to people who have time to stand around and get signatures. I would guess we're talking about the chronicly employed, not the most industrious group. Unsurprisingly, a number of these people don't spend all the time it takes and cheat their way through the process.

It's a perfectly acceptable rationale, that explains the chronic problem, without a conspiracy theory.

#28, point 2: good idea in days gone by. Didn't the Galactic Patrol un-rig an election that way?
Alas, it's not trivial to implement, at least where & when I live. The poll watchers might know many of the people in the mobile-home park where the polling place is located, but finding anyone who'd recognize most of the people in my cluster of tract homes would be a challenge. We live indoors, and get in our cars to go to work and run errands. You'd have to get 10% of the population to act as poll watchers, just to have a fair chance that at least one of the watchers would recognize any given resident - we're just that disconnected from each other.
(I seem to recall the GP's approach was to send canvassers out to knock on doors and talk to voters, thereby quickly getting up to speed on who lived in each precinct. That might work, if people could be expected to be at home and answering the door at some predictable hour.)

Eric (#24), my thoughts exactly. Any guess as to why vote-by-mail has gained such a foothold recently?

AJL, you ought to spend a while reading Washington state's laws on vote challenges before you claim fraud is easy to detect or deter.

Took the Democratic party three or four recounts and and a few boxes of "lost" ballots to beat Dino Rossi in the last WA Governors election. There were a bunch of felons and dead people voting too. Course there was not too much investigation because it is a Democratic run State, and they won.

Personally, I do not think universal suffrage is a good idea. Those who have no investment in a society should not be allowed to decide it's fate.

A minimum standard of qualifications could be established. #1- be who you say you are,(ID) and be a US CITIZEN. #2, have a high school diploma. #3, not be on welfare.

Some astounding number of people already pay no income tax,(I have heard numbers as high as 40%) yet they are able to vote to impose more taxes on the rest of us. National suicide by largess.



"Think about it: ACORN is paying peanuts to people who have time to stand around and get signatures."

Unless they are being paid by the signature i don't understand the incentive. If they are bribing people with money or cigarettes as has been claimed, it makes even less sense economically.

Re: #23 from Glen Wishard: I am totally on board with this campaign that you regard as idiotic, and I just want the "everyone must vote" campaign to succeed more, with more honest voting and fewer fraudulent votes canceling out valid votes. This is the point of "the purple proposition".

#24 from Eric Wilner:

"I think absentee ballots should be reserved for those who really can't show up at the polling places - the physically disabled, college students, deployed troops, and the like - and the rest of us should have to show up in person and get our fingers inked. Less opportunity for fraud, less opportunity for intimidation... oh, that won't go over too well, will it?"

Good thinking. I agree. There are other reforms I think should happen, like a return to old-fashioned all-paper ballots with no machines. But I think this is worth pursuing seriously in parallel with other reforms.

Now before this could happen everywhere, it has to happen somewhere, and California looks like the place to get innovative propositions happening.

What do you think it would take to make this work politically, despite the opposition? (And yes there will be lots of opposition.)

The point being is that while vote fraud is possible, it has always been unsubstantiated to the level it has been brought up as a problem instead of a weakness

Not always. The version I'm most familiar with is the 1997 case in Miami (since I was living there at the time), where a guy drove around and paid homeless people $10 cash to hop in his van and vote at County Hall. And the recent WA election is another good example.

But Mark B. nailed the problem:

There is no evidence of voting fraud because the existance of such evidence has been systematic made impossible to exist. Think about it, just HOW would voter fraud be exposed in our current anything goes system? This is not accidental. Even in principle it is impossible to expose fraud.

AJL's suggestions in #28 are a start, but woefully inadequate and somewhat infeasible for many precints. Besides, how do you propose to get them implemented past the local Democrat screaming about voter intimidation? Apparently it's beyond the pale to ask for valid state ID, how well do you think the "guy stands around trying to recognize you" proposal will go over?

I have proposed elsewhere that there are some simple, straightforward things we can do to reduce the possibility of fraudulent votes, and increase the trustworthiness of the system. These include:

1. Require that states offer free identity cards, sufficient to meet the needs of voter registrars, to those who qualify for them. In fact, require them to, on demand, present themselves at a person's home or hospital bed to validate and present the credentials. This eliminates the argument that voter id requirements deny people the ability to vote, as long as their vote would be legitimate in the first place. (That is, as long as they are who they claim and live where they claim.)

2. Require that all ballots be on paper, or at least with a paper backup, and that only the paper ballots be valid in a recount.

These, taken together, ensure that people can get identification to vote, and that votes would be untainted (at least on recount) by the possibility of untraceable tampering.

3. Require proof of identity and residence anywhere one is registered to vote. Because of motor voter laws, that should be relatively easy in most cases. Note that even voters voting absentee should be required to register with checkable identification. This may require voters to register further in advance of elections than is now the case, but I don't see that as a bug. If you're too lazy to register until the last minute, should you really be voting?

4. Require that the voter present equivalent identification to vote (name and residence).

These will take care of in-person fraud, unless the person also has fraudulent documents, but not mail-in vote fraud, which is much easier to commit.

5. Absentee ballots should be put into a separate pool. They should be counted for overall volume only, and not opened. If the number of absentee ballots exceeds the margin of the election, then the absentee ballots should be tallied. If and only if this would change the election outcome, then the absentee voters should be contacted and it should be verified that they voted. In that event, the vote would be counted. (It should be fairly easy to devise a double-blind system where no one has enough information to connect a voter with their vote, but it is easy to ensure that a voter voted before his ballot is counted. Since this would only have to happen in a handful of disputed elections, it seems reasonable that it would be harder to vote this way, because again the alternative is accepting susceptibility to fraudulent voting.

In reality, either side could blow up over this election. Say that McCain wins, despite the polls. After 2000, it was bad. This would be worse. There would certainly be muckrakers (*cough* Kos cough) stirring up the "they stole the election" frenzy. Much of the Democratic party could utterly lose faith in the electoral process. On the other hand, let's say that Obama wins, and even one case of an ACORN-registered voter is found to have fraudulently cast a ballot in a swing state, and in that state the number of ACORN-registered voters is higher than the margin of victory of the election. In that case, a significant fraction of the Republicans would go nuts, and completely lose faith in the electoral system.

Look, elections are just a substitute for violence. Since I know that if you win, it was fair, and I can try again, I don't have to kill you to get or maintain power. But if faith in the system goes away — especially if the nuttier Democrats in Congress get their way and start "war crimes" trials of Bush administration officials just as that faith has gone — there could be a return to putting faith in other means. I think it's worth going a long way to prevent that outcome. A reliable, trustworthy, verifiable electoral system is in all of our interests, and we should be able to unite on this at least. It is not necessary to reach beyond that to claim that it's only one party doing the fraud: fixing the system eliminates the possibility of both parties acting fraudulently.

[ Formatting tweaked -- M.F. ]

#25 Mickey: Fun's fun, but we generally disallow sock puppets... and sock mice... here at WoC. In that spirit, I ask that you please return to your usual appellation.

Marshal Nortius "Big Tuna" Maximus, in that capacity

It is not necessary to reach beyond that to claim that it's only one party doing the fraud: fixing the system eliminates the possibility of both parties acting fraudulently.

Absolutely. But we should prioritize the problems and tackle them in order of importance or impact (just as you suggest for counting absentee ballots).

Electronic voting machines that leave no paper recored and can be easily hacked are certainly the #1 problem.

Voter access is another important problem. Let's compare the lines in minority or urban districts at voting places to those in affluent suburbs in the coming election.

Fraudulent registration is a potential problem but one of minimal impact. Because of the checks and controls that ACORN applies in it's registration efforts, it is in fact a positive, not a negative, element in the process. As Senator McCain himself certainly recognizes as a past supporter of ACORN.

I strongly oppose misguided efforts that function to displace our attention and resources away from real problems and focus on trivial ones. It's not the American way.

Unless they are being paid by the signature i don't understand the incentive.

Well, norms / expectations that have the effect of quotas can also have an effect. "You were out all day and only got five registrants? The average around here is forty! Do better or hit the road."

AJL, Re #28:

Perhaps you should talk with the Secretary of State in Ohio, who is apparently willing to go to court to avoid checking voter registrations. The SoS also actively prevented poll watchers during early voting. She doesn't seem to like your #1 or your #2. Should I be concerned?

David Blue:
I am totally on board with this campaign that you regard as idiotic ...

Well, I am standing athwart it yelling stop, as WFB attempted to do with History, so don't run over me with your insanely huge ROCK THE VOTE bus. Which is probably being driven by that idiotic DeCaprio kid, and pulling a triple-trailer full of condoms behind it.

Acorns and Oak Trees

You guys are missing the 60s connection to this registration fraud activity. Fake registrations are deliberate and not designed to register every registrant.

Return with me now to the thrilling days of yesteryear, when nothing that was any fun was legal but we did it anyway. Back then it was discovered that if you overrun a website, government office, or business with frivolous data you can overwhelm the system and render it useless for the purpose it was designed. This was used to assault Draft Boards, local police, and credit agencies rendering them near useless. The object now is to deluge the system so that it functions improperly and if the election doesn't turn out to your liking??? Sue them, get injunctions, file every grievance possible. Mickey Mouse and Matt Damon have a purpose, but you guys miss it. Paralyzing the system itself is the purpose. Invalidating election results is the purpose. Destroying faith in the system is the purpose.

Back then it was discovered that if you overrun a website, government office, or business with frivolous data

I look back fondly on those 1960s websites.

Destroying faith in the system is the purpose.
And Fox News is telling its rabid viewers that John McCain is going to lose because of International Acornish Conspiracy fraud. That really promotes "faith in the system", yes, indeed!

No one has yet explained how ACORN is making pre-election polls in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, and Missouri swing to Obama, but what do I know?

"And Fox News is telling its rabid viewers that John McCain is going to lose because of International Acornish Conspiracy fraud."

Link?

Andrew seems to be ok with election fraud as long as it doesnt decide the election. How that works out in close elections is beyond me.

OK, Mark. McCain personally suggests Acorn may take FLorida from him by voter fraud.

Fox News mentions Acorn over 300 times in one weekend.

Sarah Palin fundraising letter:
"The truth is that far-left groups in this country will do anything to help the Obama-Biden Democrats win the White House and maintain their majorities in Congress," Palin says in a fund-raising e-mail. "The left-wing activist group, ACORN, is now under investigation for voter registration fraud in a number of battleground states... We can't allow leftist groups like ACORN to steal this election."

Thank you for not answering the question. Fox reported on registration fraud. Which is a news story. YOU may not be concerned with voter fraud in an election that doesnt look close (at the moment), but for the rest of us it is a concern no matter what the polls say (there are other elections if im not mistaken). Fox apparently DID NOT claim Obama or ACORN were going to steal the election.

McCain, on the other hand, assumes he is going to run well in Florida (whatver you think). Being the candidate, people tend to encourage him to think he may win. He and Palin have every right to preempt voting fraud, whatever the polls say. Would Obama have rolled over for fraud when he was down in the polls?

G_Tarhune:
I strongly oppose misguided efforts that function to displace our attention and resources away from real problems and focus on trivial ones. It's not the American way.

Yes, I was thinking the same thing recently when I saw a film called Rounders. Two guys get caught cheating at cards - in a police union hall, of all places. The cops took their money, beat the shit out of them, and threw them out in the parking lot.

It's as if those cops didn't care at all about real issues, like world hunger and nuclear proliferation. Boy, they sure were un-American.

Glen, get in touch with the screenwriters and complain if you want.

You're comment has nothing to do with mine.

"And Fox News is telling its rabid viewers that John McCain is going to lose because of International Acornish Conspiracy fraud."

Link?

Andrew seems to be ok with election fraud as long as it doesnt decide the election. How that works out in close elections is beyond me.

Links provided.

Thank you for not answering the question. Fox reported on registration fraud.

What, you were asking him if his real name was Link?

To answer some upthread questions, IIRC ACORN folks get paid per completed registration they hand in. So if they want to make extra dough, just fill out a bunch of bogus ones with the real ones. That's why those made up people don't show up to vote ever, except for Mickey.

Mark B said:

Andrew seems to be ok with election fraud as long as it doesn't decide the election. How that works out in close elections is beyond me.

Sure, reasonable point. Let's take a look at how close the election needs to be in order for potential voter fraud to become an issue.

Despite the elevated law enforcement priority, the federal government indicted only 40 voters for election crimes related to illegal voting between 2002 and 2005, obtaining 26 convictions or guilty pleas, for a nationwide average of eight to nine illegal voters a year.

Link to report (pdf file).

My proposal would be that voter fraud should only become an issue if the election is close enough to warrant the scrutiny; the same approach as is used to count absentee or paper ballots in many districts.

So let's agree on a generous number, just for same of comity.

How about if the national election is within, say, 100 votes (that's 10x the annual average number of documented cases)?

I'm sure you'll all agree that this is more than equitable.

Vista #53 --

I'm sure you'll all agree that this is more than equitable.

Sounds good.

By the way, I'm interested in estimating how much money was embezzled in the US in 2006. If I take 10x the amount reported to have been stolen in those cases from that year where there has been a conviction on this count, that should provide a generous upper limit. I'm sure you'll agree.

My proposal would be that voter fraud should only become an issue if the election is close enough to warrant the scrutiny

Well, that's a nice principled position. On a related note, I vote free speech only be protected for "important" speech.

Alternatively, we can go back to the point made upthread that it is intentionally made nearly impossible to detect voter fraud, and therefore your numbers are a little less reassuring.

My proposal would be that voter fraud should only become an issue if the election is close enough to warrant the scrutiny; the same approach as is used to count absentee or paper ballots in many districts.

How about this?
Since Jan. 1, Ohio has 666,000 newly registered or updated voters -- all of whom fall under scrutiny by this latest court ruling. Brunner said an initial review found that at least 200,000 of them might have mismatched information.

That's 200,000 potentially fraudulent voters; well above the margin of difference in Ohio last time. Is that enough to warrant some scrutiny?

Or are you saying you only want to investigate after the election is held, and the secret ballots are cast, so fraud is impossible to prove and there's no remedy available?

That's 200,000 potentially fraudulent voters; well above the margin of difference in Ohio last time. Is that enough to warrant some scrutiny?
No, that's 200,000 people who got their drivers license with their middle initial and registered to vote with their full name. Put their street address for voting but a lockable PO Box for welfare checks. Do you really think 200,000 "fraudulent voters" signed up? Who do you think they were? Existing voters who made up a totally false name? Illegal immigrants? Space aliens?

You can come out from under the covers. It's all a crock.

No one's ever proven a case of electronic voting machine fraud, either, but that doesn't stop a lot of us wanting them abolished because they allow the APPEARANCE of impropriety, which is all-important per #37:

Look, elections are just a substitute for violence. Since I know that if you win, it was fair, and I can try again, I don't have to kill you to get or maintain power. But if faith in the system goes away — especially if the nuttier Democrats in Congress get their way and start "war crimes" trials of Bush administration officials just as that faith has gone — there could be a return to putting faith in other means. I think it's worth going a long way to prevent that outcome.

Anyone who doesn't think what ACORN's doing is producing at least the APPEARANCE of impropriety, is either smoking something strong or a partisan hack. And had better be prepared to have his/her bleats about Diebold ignored henceforth: it's all about the hypocrisy.

AMac,

Agree to what?

Unbeliever,

we can go back to the point made upthread that it is intentionally made nearly impossible to detect voter fraud.

This is a point made without evidence, and is likely untrue.

And those aren't my numbers, they're from a report. Feel free to find one that refutes it.

That's 200,000 potentially fraudulent voters

Not by any legal definition. You're definition of "fraudulent" is likely different, I'm guessing, to have something to do with demographic criteria that tend to segregate with party affiliation.

Or are you saying you only want to investigate after the election is held, and the secret ballots are cast, so fraud is impossible to prove and there's no remedy available?

Now you're scaring me. Are you suggesting that votes might be cast but that there would be no way to verify their accuracy, post-election?

Sure glad we got that electronic voting/hacking problem solved, right?

Vista:
Sure glad we got that electronic voting/hacking problem solved, right?

Are you speaking to some defender of electronic voting? Because I don't recall seeing such a creature around here, ever. Somebody correct me if I'm wrong.

Unless they are being paid by the signature i don't understand the incentive.

They're not paid by the signature, but they do have to meet a signature quota in order to keep the job. Much the same effect.

What's necessary? Step one: An election in which significant numbers of incumbents nearly lose their seats due to obvious vote fraud.

Let me state the obvious: Incuments are getting reelected under the present system, at rates comparable to Stalinist show elections. If there's ballot fraud going on, they're quite certain it's not hurting THEM. Maybe they suspect it's helping them, instead.

Why should they do anything to reform the system, and maybe mess up a good deal?

I'm speaking about priorities, Glen, and efficacies.

I do not think either the left or right inclined here would seriously dispute we have what amounts to a New American Aristocracy.

"Links provided."

I still haven't seen a link to Fox announcing ACORN is going to cost McCain the election. Do you have that ellusive link? Reporting on ACORN is not equivalent, only in Andrew's mind.

"They're not paid by the signature, but they do have to meet a signature quota in order to keep the job. Much the same effect."

The question is, why is ACORN, hardly novices in this realm considering they've been doing this for 30 years, being raided by the FBI in 11 states due to the results of this practice?

The people beating the bushes for registrations are one thing. The people who set them loose to do this is another. That is called a criminal conspiracy.

ACORN is intentionally flooding the system with phoney registrations. The only rational reason to do that... to PAY people to do that is that it makes it much easier to execute the actual fraudulent voting.

Andrew posted a couple of ways to combat voter fraud upthread, all things being equal. But as we have been saying, groups like ACORN and their political allies and donators like Obama have spent years making challenging shady votes difficult, if not illegal.

This flood of phony registrations have made Andrew's suggestions untenable. There are limited numbers of poll watchers allowed in polling stations by state laws. 4 per side are allowed in Illinois (2 for the candidate, 2 for the party). The election judges can eject some if it becomes 'overcrowded' in their estimation. So 4 poll watchers get to sift through tens of thousands of fraudulent registrations to try to figure out which of the thousands of voters rolling through are legit.

Challenge a voter? Here's the law in Illinois:
"If a majority of the judges overrule the challenge, the voter will continue to vote as if no challenge had been made."

Who are election judges? In Illinois, 3 are appointed from one party, and 2 from the other, as dictated by the County Board. So lets take Cook County. Under Andrews program for detecting illegal voting, Todd Stroger the democratic County Board assigns 3 Dems and 2 Republicans as election judges. The majority vote of these 5 are the SOLE DETERMINATION of whether a vote may be challenged at all. Not cast out, just challenged. If they vote no, the vote is treated like any other.

Anybody remember counting dented chads in Florida? The two Dems see a dent, the Republican doesnt, hey, its a vote!

Great system.

Put it another way. Why should ACORN be excused for generating thousands of fraudulent registrations, undermining the public trust in the integrity of elections, just because it's necessary for their business model?

I don't mean to say that we should institute some sort of draconian method of controlling registrations or anything. But given that we've largely abandoned efforts to control for whether, on Election Day, the voter is actually the registrant, mostly due to pressure from the same political party on whose behalf ACORN organizes...

Nobody expects each and every one of these phantom registrants to show up to vote Democratic, sweeping the Republican candidates before them like some kind of tidal wave. But if you were going to do some small-scale voter fraud, burying your efforts in a tidal wave of registrations of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck would be a good first step, no?

It's a mistake to think that voter fraud would have to be huge to be effective. You wouldn't even have to organize it, per se. Just give lots of individual activists - people who are already much in favor of an Obama victory, naturally - all the opportunity they want to do some small-scale chicanery. That activist turns in a few dozen "extra" registrations which get voted with, among hundreds that don't, and all it takes are a few friends traveling from precinct to precinct. The higher-ups, of course, know nothing, nor do they want to know; it's not on them if some crazy college kids want to pull a prank.

Not a large effect, by itself, no. But if your election is already a 1%-margin affair, could it be just enough? And even if it's not, what about all the down-ballot races where the pool of voters is much smaller? Not every instance of voter fraud is about electing the President, you know.

Mark said:

...groups like ACORN and their political allies and donators like Obama have spent years making challenging shady votes difficult, if not illegal.

Couple of questions, Mark:

1) What other groups "like" ACORN are you talking about?

2) Wouldn't you consider Senator McCain to be a "political ally" of ACORN as well, since he's supported them in the past and even spoke at a recent meeting in 2006?

This flood of phony registrations have made Andrew's suggestions untenable.

Mark, if you're going to level a charge, you better be a little more clear about what you mean by "phony" and how that relates to the more serious issue of "fraud".

The vast majority, perhaps 100%, of the problems with the recent registration surge relate to minor discrepancies between the information provided on the form and other public records that are used to crosscheck the info.

The more complicated the form, the more likely this will be (I'd like to see a voter registration form for Ohio). Nevertheless, any discrepancy that is flagged by the crosscheck system that ACORN itself uses must be reconciled.

Categorizing these as "phony" implies, without justification, an effort to defraud the system. This is an illegal act that ACORN has a strong incentive to avoid, of course.

So, I'd have to conclude that your efforts to paint ACORN as a partisan election rigging issue falls flat on it's face once you consider the inaccuracies in your beliefs and the unsubstantiated and likely false presumptions that you are making.

And it was a desperate and despicable act of self-preservation for McCain to raise this issue in the debate last night in the vague manner that he did. Another dog-whistle to his rabid base to inflame their already overheated civil hatred and, potentially, disrupt the election, perhaps?

"1) What other groups "like" ACORN are you talking about?"

Well, there's PIRG which Obama worked for after college and has a similar reputation to ACORN and is well known on college campuses for forcing student activity fees to go towards their partisan activities.

There's the Gamaliel Foundation, another Saul Alinski inspired extremist group that Obama actually worked for instructing activists in Alinksiism.

Thats just two more off Obama's bio...

"2) Wouldn't you consider Senator McCain to be a "political ally" of ACORN as well, since he's supported them in the past and even spoke at a recent meeting in 2006?"

No. Not really. I don't have any information about McCain working with William Ayers on a foundation that funneled ACORN hundreds of thousands of dollars. If that information is available, please forward it to me. I don't count giving a speech in that category. But thats just me.

"The vast majority, perhaps 100%, of the problems with the recent registration surge relate to minor discrepancies between the information provided on the form and other public records that are used to crosscheck the info."

Really? Is that what has spurred the investigations of ACORN in 15 states?

And please explain to me how 'minor address discrepancies', say, led to there being 5% more names on the voter rolls in Indianapolis than there are adults over the age of 18? link That seems a bit odd to me.

"Categorizing these as "phony" implies, without justification, an effort to defraud the system. This is an illegal act that ACORN has a strong incentive to avoid, of course."

Well, if you're just going to assume they aren't breaking the law intentionally, i guess that's one way to excuse them. However the justice department seems to be thinking this widespread pattern across the nation is indeed intentional.

"So, I'd have to conclude that your efforts to paint ACORN as a partisan election rigging issue falls flat on it's face once you consider the inaccuracies in your beliefs and the unsubstantiated and likely false presumptions that you are making."

I'd say you are the one having trouble grasping the troubling facts. When the Democrat AG of Nevada kicked in ACORNS door last week and seized their files, i somehow doubt they felt unsubstantiated in their cause.

Its this pathetic attempt to sweep the most obvious and odious election fraud in recent memory under the rug, as though registering tens of thousands (that we KNOW OF) fake registrations doesnt affect elections, that is wrongheaded, to be kind.

Mark:

A word of caution: seizing files does not indicate guilt. Only after a trial can we say they are guilty. We can say the government had concerns and acted. Doesn't mean they're guilty (yet). It will probably be a long time before this case is concluded.

Long after this election sadly.

Another county, this one in Ohio with more registrations than eligible voters.

I'm sure every voter in the county just accidently registered twice with different addresses. Thats reasonable.

#68

Your links don't provide any evidence at all to back up your claims. In fact, the one in #71 refutes them.

It is, supposedly, a reprint from a newspaper article written in 2004, and includes these statements from a Republican working under the infamous Ken Blackwell:

"It's not a cause for alarm," said Board of Elections Director Matthew Damschroder. "It's not an indication of fraud."

Damschroder, however, said double-checks started by registration-drive organizers since the May incident have virtually eliminated problems with fraudulent registrations in Franklin County.

That's 200,000 potentially fraudulent voters

Not by any legal definition. You're definition of "fraudulent" is likely different, I'm guessing, to have something to do with demographic criteria that tend to segregate with party affiliation.

Not only did you not read the link, you didn't even read the quote I pulled from it. I'll repeat it here:

Since Jan. 1, Ohio has 666,000 newly registered or updated voters -- all of whom fall under scrutiny by this latest court ruling. Brunner said an initial review found that at least 200,000 of them might have mismatched information.

See that part about the "court ruling"? Yes, this definitely goes to the legal definition.

Now, of course I don't think all 200,000 registrations with mismatched information are fraudulent. That's why I wrote "potentially fraudulent". But the whole point of registering with identifiable and verifiable information is to prevent fraud. You (and #57) seem to be arguing that it doesn't matter if voter registration information don't match - even if all 200,000 are honest mistakes (and I don't believe that either), once you establish a policy that registration errors aren't a mater of concern, you can be sure that the next 200,000 erroneous registrations will be fraudulent.

And for the record, I think purely electronic voting is also a dumb idea. All elections should produce auditable results. But while that's necessary for a fair election process, it's not sufficient - if you don't limit the election to one vote per legal voters, the election process is just as flawed.

I can't construct a good faith argument that erroneous voter registration is not a problem that warrants investigation. Sure, a lot of the mistakes will be honest, but it's important to identify and address those errors, not simply assume the problem away. Confidence in the electoral process depends on it.

Here's the link to the math in Indiana.

Does it jive with anyone's anecdotal experience that over 80% of eligible voters are registered? Let alone 105%.

This comes back to the big problem- everything you guys are arguing is built on quicksand because intentionally there is no legal (much less pragmatic) way to verify that ANY of his is legit. 90+% of eligible voters are registered in these disputed counties? No, there are registrations in a ratio of 90+% to the eligible population, that is not the same thing.

In my experience, voter registration is probably around 3/4s, and demographically the more affluent register more and vote more according to the census. Low income voters seem to register nationally around 60% as of 2004 (assuming there was no registration fraud then, which seems silly at this point).

Now you are trying to tell me these heavily democratic areas are registering over 90%? Oh, and don't argue, because you can't prove its not legit. Well I can read statistics, and this is not legit.

SG, the other 400,000 registrants who cross-checked might also be potentially fraudulent. They just happened to use the same name and address more consistently. Whereas with nearly all—probably over 99.99 percent—of these 200,000 registrants you are worried about, it will all turn out to be much ado about nothing.

I'm having a hard time following one of the arguments on this thread. I wrote that Fox News was planting the rumor that McCain's victory will be subverted by ACORN manipulations. Mark Buehner on the one hand demands proof of this from me, while in the same thread he makes clear that he, himself, believes this rumor to be true. Hunh?

The VRWC is moving ACORN center stage, and it isn't to support their community organizing efforts. It's to allege that they are trying to throw the election to Obama.

SG, the other 400,000 registrants who cross-checked might also be potentially fraudulent. They just happened to use the same name and address more consistently. Whereas with nearly all—probably over 99.99 percent—of these 200,000 registrants you are worried about, it will all turn out to be much ado about nothing.

Even if all the mistakes are honest, if the policy is to assume that, it will cease to be true.

And do you give voter roll purges the same benefit of the doubt?

My apologies. The fraudulent voter has been found!

Alleged undecided Joe the Plumber turns out to be a registered Republican (big surprise!) under a fake name!

All morning he's been calling himself Wurzelbacher, but the voting database shows a registration, with matching birthdate, for someone named Samuel Joseph Worzelbacher. Note how Joe changed a vowel to throw off the scent.

Jail time, fer sure. If not the death penalty. Although I can't yet figure out the role of ACORN.

#77

So, assuming the alternate spelling refers to the same person, should Joe Wurzelbacher be able to re-register under the correct spelling? How does the erroneous registration get purged? Given multiple registrations, does "registered Republican" Joe get to vote twice? How would he be prevented from double voting?

Is there a reasonable argument that erroneous registrations don't, at the least, introduce opportunities for election fraud?

Andrew, stop stoking racial tension and inciting violence.

free coke for purple fingers. That gaurantees 100% turnout. Nobody will object or if they do they will quickly shut up.

If the exit polling and pre-election opinion data does not substantially agree with the voting results, then investigations into these discrepancies can and should be launched.

Otherwise, given the multitude of problems with voting machines and registration anomalies that have already been raised, the number of potentially problematic voting districts is too high to do anything about now.

Of course, without a way to positively verify votes, we're kinda stuck, aren't we?

Seems that all of our various and mutual concerns stem from the same basic flaw in the system.

The names "Wurzelbacher" and "Worzelbacher" are equivalent; both are English transliterations of the German name Würzelbacher.

I'm sure Ohio is accustomed to difficulties of this kind, since there probably have multiple registrations for Leo Tolstoy/Tolstoi.

"If the exit polling and pre-election opinion data does not substantially agree with the voting results, then investigations into these discrepancies can and should be launched."

How?

And whats substantial?

And doesnt that happen all the time? People lie to exit pollers. Like the old saw goes, why bother voting if you have polls?

Same question you can ask about registration. If we are now officially ignoring massive discrepancies in registrations, why bother having registering at all?

No one is suggesting we "ignore" discrepancies in registrations, Mark, massive or otherwise; nor are they being ignored.

I'm asking what it is you think can be done to determine the validity of your charges (which appear to me to be overblown) at this point in the election cycle?

People lie to exit pollers.

At a predictable rate, most likely, making it possible to control for this in considering the definition of "substantial", which can be defined on the basis of statistical probability, as has been done in the past.

Alleged undecided Joe the Plumber turns out to be a registered Republican (big surprise!) under a fake name!

This is why I don't vote in primaries. You do it once, like JTP did this year, and your a hard-core idealogue.

I told a pollster last week that if the election were held that day, I would vote for Obama. It's about 50/50 I will vote for McCain on the day of the election, but (a) I was forced to choose, and (b) the poll started with what struck me as an unfair question about gun regulations.

I think my comments on this website would reveal me to be a very weak representative of an Obama supporter.

"I'm asking what it is you think can be done to determine the validity of your charges (which appear to me to be overblown) at this point in the election cycle?"

Fortunately the FBI is taking care of that. If there is a conspiracy to flood the system with noise there will probably be emails etc.

If nothing ACORN is at least guilty of setting up a national system that subsidizes registration fraud, a felony. Even if its through sheer neglect that may be a crime. It should definately affect their public funding. IF there is no conspiracy here, ACORN's training practices and QC will tell us a lot about how this came about. Theyve been in this business for decades, the idea that they just didnt realize flooding the streets with untrained and unsupervized workers being paid to bring in as many 'registrations' as possible would lead to massive fraud doesnt wash. No corporation in the private section would be allowed to get away with claiming ignorance on something this widespread.

Finally- waiting til the election had ended and then exploring charges of fraud seems a bit beside the point doesnt it? I still havent even heard of a method to do that systematically that meets the prevailing legal and privacy standards.

And for those that still claim voting fraud is minimal or non existant I point you back to the last time (to my knowledge) the justice department investigated fraud on a large scale- Chicago 1982 when the US Attorney estimated 100,000 illegal VOTES had been cast. As i maintain, we havent found voter fraud because nobody is looking, and nobody is looking because it has become systematically almost impossible.

Well that's fair PD, the question is who would you vote for today, and obviously if it never changed over an election, we could predict the winner months ago.

I'm sure all of this is figured into the error of the polls statistically, and it also explains why ever poll is a little off. I mean really, a poll with 1,000 people cannot determine how 300 million people think, it's just a single snapshot in a role of film.

And you know how they apprehended those individuals Mark? They had these crazy contraptions... computers I think they're called. I'm sure if we had some though, we could probably catch more fraud lickity-split.

True. Of course the resources required:

"Armed with that information, Locker did some­thing unprecedented: He convinced his supervisors to dedicate all of the agents in the FBI field office in Chicago for an entire week to nothing but review­ing all of Chicago's voter registration cards and bal­lot applications.23 So many signature comparisons were needed that the FBI flew in handwriting experts from its headquarters in Washington.24 The Justice Department and the FBI have never concentrated that much manpower and resources, before or since, on investigating a voter fraud case."

havent been seen since. And its an interesting argument that the registration logs are so rife with errors can't be used to expunge voters ( here's a good primer on the court battles and the footdragging involved in trying clean up voter rolls) can be reliably used to crosscheck votes.

On the front end you can't rely on the rolls to stop people from voting because the rolls are faulty, on the back end you cant conclude that voter fraud has taken place for the same reason. Oh, and attempting to clean up the lists disenfranchises. Odd how it all comes together so nicely for those wishing to commit fraud. And no coincidence.

I have been wondering lately if there is not a better explanation for ACORN's behavior. Yes, on the one hand, if you overwhelm the system, you can probably get fraudulent votes in. And we know for a certainty that in every election, there are a certain number of demonstrably dead people who vote. So it's likely that there is at least a component of what ACORN is doing that is attempting to create fraudulent votes.

But what if that's an incidental target? Isn't it just as likely that in addition to trying to get a few thousand illegal votes for Democrat candidates, they are also trying to drive down Republican turnout? Bear with me here for a second, because I think the logic is sound.

Assume that you want to drive down turnout for one party and drive up turnout for the other, how might you do that? One way, certainly, is to ensure that people think that the candidate you want to win is going to win in a walk, that the election may as well be over now because the issue is decided. People may love an underdog, but they also want to be on the winning side, and at least in some cases, will change their votes to a candidate that they "know" is going to win, so that they can claim to have voted for the winner. When the difference in the election is, in reality, only a few per cent (and in the Presidential election, this only has to be true in a couple of battleground states), but it is perceived as being much larger, a small proportion of the population changing their vote to the one they "know" is going to win can be enough to swing the election. The undecided vote is generally about 25% of the population, and about a third of that group both does not vote consistently on party identification, and also changes their vote frequently according to social conditions, perception of the winner and other factors. This means that an effective effort to change their votes based on perception tops out at about 8% of the electorate. Let's say that you can only move a tenth of that 8%, in reality, to change their vote. That's still nearly 1% of the vote total, and a great many of the swing states end up within that margin.

So let's say that you wanted to create the impression that one candidate was going to win in a walk, to both depress your opposition's turnout, fire up your own base, and win over the fringe voters that make up their mind on a whim, but vote as a duty. How might you do that?

Well, the perception of who is going to win is driven by opinion polls. And opinion polls work in a curious way. A typical poll might sample only 1,000 people to represent a voter population of 125,000,000 voters. Let's be generous and say that the 1,000 figure is likely voters, with those registered to vote but not likely to do so removed. (This is a more fair measure of how the election will go, as opposed to how public opinion stands, and my understanding is that about 20% of the voters sampled in any given poll are registered but not likely voters. So let's assume for this example that after that 20% is taken out, they have 1,000 likely voters, which is actually larger than most real polls I've seen.) Let's say that off that 1,000 people you have 360 who self-identify as Democrats, 320 who self-identify as Republicans and the remainder (320) identify as independents, some minor party, or refuse to answer that question. OK, so can you just take the percentage of support for a given candidate from this group and assume that this is the percentage support for the group of all voters? No, because your sample is potentially skewed to have more from one party than the other, so the raw number is not meaningful. Instead, you have to approximate the votes to the population's actual composition.

The way that you do this involves three steps:

1. Break out the support shown in your poll by party affiliation.
2. Determine the ratios of the three party groups in the actual electorate.
3. Scale from the groups in step 1 to those in step 2.

To continue the example, let's say that the answers in your poll look like this:

Democrats: Obama 300 (83%), McCain 20 (6%), Other or undecided: 40 (11%)
Republicans: Obama 8 (3%), McCain 280 (88%), Other or undecided: 32 (10%)
Others: Obama 120 (38%), McCain 160 (50%), Other or undecided: 40 (13$)

Total: Obama 428 (43%), McCain 460 (46%), Other or undecided 112 (11%)

OK, so that gives step 1. Now, what is the ratio in the actual electorate? How does one determine that? Well, one way is to look at how people have voted historically, based on their registrations, exit poll results, or some combination of the two. Another is to look at how many people identified their party in which way in the poll sample, which is inaccurate because of the small sample size. Another way is to look at the party affiliation of registered voters and use that as your scaling factor. Another way is to pull the numbers out of the air to represent how you think people will vote.

Most polling organizations seem to do the last of those methods, basing their numbers on the first three factors plus some fudge factor, such as "Obama is pulling in lots of young people, and this time they really will vote, yep" or "The electorate is angry and McCain's support in his own party is weak, so more Democrats will turn out than normal and fewer Republicans will." Regardless of how you get the numbers, let's say that you end up with the following ratios:

Democrats: 38%, Republicans, 32%, Others 30%

That's step 2. Now we have to scale. The votes for each candidate by group from step one are multiplied by the percentages of the electorate from step 2, and you get:

Democrats for Obama = 300 / 360 * 125,000,000 * 0.38 = 39,583,333
Democrats for McCain = 20 / 360 * 125,000,000 * 0.38 = 2,638,8 88
Democrats for Other = 40 / 360 * 125,000,000 * 0.38 = 5,277,777

Republicans for Obama = 8 / 320 * 125,000,000 * 0.32 = 1,000,000
Republicans for McCain = 280 / 320 * 125,000,000 * 0.32 = 35,000,000
Republicans for Other = 32 / 320 * 125,000,000 * 0.32 = 4,000,000

Others for Obama = 120 / 320 * 125,000,000 * 0.3 = 14,062,500
Others for McCain = 160 / 320 * 125,000,000 * 0.3 = 18,750,000
Others for Other = 40 / 320 * 125,000,000 * 0.3 = 4,687,500

Total for Obama = 39,583,333 + 1,000,000 + 14,062,500 = 54,645,833 (43%)
Total for McCain = 2,638,8 88 + 35,000,000 + 18,750,000 = 56,388,88 8 (45%)
Total for Others = 5,277,777 + 4,000,000 + 4,687,500 = 13,965,277 (11%)

(Pardon the extraneous spaces; they are to get around the blacklist.)

So there is a tight race, despite there being more Democrats, because the independents are breaking for McCain. But now let's instead assume that the breakdown from step 2 is:

Democrats: 48%, Republicans 27%, Others 25%

Then the math looks a little different, and you get:

Obama = ((300 / 360 * 0.48) + (8 / 320 * 0.27) + (120 / 320 * 0.25)) * 125,000,000 = 62,562,500 (50%)
McCain = ((20 / 360 * 0.48) + (280 / 320 * 0.27) + (120 / 320 * 0.25)) * 125,000,000 = 44,583,333 (35%)
Obama = ((40 / 360 * 0.48) + (40 / 320 * 0.27) + (40 / 320 * 0.25)) * 125,000,000 = 14,791,666 (11%)

Here, we have a runaway Obama victory; in fact he's broken 50% (barely).

Now, the underlying poll numbers are the same; it's only the pollster's assumptions of the weighting of the electorate in the population that has changed. If you base your numbers at least in part on registrations, and if there are a dramatic upsurge in registrations by one party, then that party's apparent support will be higher, even though the actual data on voter preferences has not changed. And given that only the top line numbers are presented in the news, without any of the context I just gave, what people think is that the numbers represented are reality, when at best they are a small measurement compounded by an educated guess. Most news stations don't even mention the margin of error very notably, and this stuff, the party affiliation weightings, is something I don't think I've ever seen on the news.

So that gives ACORN a real reason to cheat on registrations even if they don't intend to cast any fraudulent votes: it drives the polls, which in turn can modify turnout in favor of candidates they support. It's not vote rigging, but poll rigging. And it's very plausibly ACORN's actual game.

If nothing ACORN is at least guilty of setting up a national system that subsidizes registration fraud, a felony.

Here you go again Mark with your inflammatory and inaccurate language.

It is not a felony to subsidize registration efforts. If these lead to fraud, which is a felony, then those directly responsible (the registrant/registree) could, and should, be charged if found guilty. But so far, there is no evidence for a conspiracy to commit voter fraud, which is what you are alleging.

Fortunately the FBI is taking care of that.

Well, that's certainly a comforting thought. Good thing the Federal government under Bush has never been accused of politicizing voting or the Justice Department, right?

I told a pollster last week that if the election were held that day, I would vote for Obama. It's about 50/50 I will vote for McCain on the day of the election, but (a) I was forced to choose, and (b) the poll started with what struck me as an unfair question about gun regulations.

Same here. About a month back, Quinnipac called me up and forced me to choose between Obama and McCain. I'm writing in a candidate come November 4th, but that wasn't an option, so I picked McCain just to give him a bump in my demographic slice that I look for once they released the poll.

If the exit polling and pre-election opinion data does not substantially agree with the voting results, then investigations into these discrepancies can and should be launched.

Do you really want to judge the legitimacy of an election, and the probability of fraud, based on what people like me tell annoying pollsters wielding badly worded poll questions, late at night, while waiting for their pizza to arrive?

(FWIW I think the McCain vs Obama choice will result in a lackluster vs disastrous Presidency, respectively; if there were no space to write-in on our ballots and I had to choose between the top 2, McCain would get my vote without earning it.)

One final observation--we already have a system set up to prevent fraud and verify identity-sensitive transactions, in widespread use by both public and private entities: require valid ID. It is quite silly to see the contortions and wild suggestions that are being suggested to detect fraud, in a desperate attempt to avoid the accepted detection mechanism that both our government and the free market has already adopted on their own.

You're ignoring exit polling, #93.

"It is not a felony to subsidize registration efforts."

I was unclear- it is a felony to falsify registration. It may be a crime to encourage this activity through negligence. Or if not a crime, there may be liability, just as gun manufacturers are being held liable for selling guns used in crimes etc.

"But so far, there is no evidence for a conspiracy to commit voter fraud, which is what you are alleging."

There is certainly circumstancial evidence, considering there are big investigations in most if not all the swing states. The coincidence veneer is awfully thin, especially considering how much experience ACORN has in the field.

"Well, that's certainly a comforting thought. Good thing the Federal government under Bush has never been accused of politicizing voting or the Justice Department, right?"

Too true. Kinda seems like every facit of government with any oversight in voting has been attacked as being politicized, dragged into court, subjected to legislative hearings, etc. Strange coincidences, all.

#9 from Nortius Maximus at 7:36 am on Oct 15, 2008

Why don't we just build big pens: Vote. Spend the rest of the day in the pen. Get let out after the polls close. Hey, if we don't, the terrorists win. And it will tend to select for some of the ACORN constituents, so they shouldn't kick. /sarcasm

While I agree that this proposal has some merit on its face, once you delve into it, it obvious that The Pens would have to include troughs and then the troughs would have to include slop.

Who do you expect to pay for all this? The Taxpayer. They are already bogged down in trough construction and Slop supply throughout the Financial system.

Kinda seems like every facit of government with any oversight in voting has been attacked as being politicized

To categorize bringing this corruption and politicization to light as "attacking" it sorely mischaracterizes a critical function of our government, Mark, in a way that is, well, rather political.

I'll stay in a pen, but it better have pizza & beer....

#93 from The Unbeliever:

"One final observation--we already have a system set up to prevent fraud and verify identity-sensitive transactions, in widespread use by both public and private entities: require valid ID."

I'm emphatically for that too, and I've said so here many times before.

I just think many reforms should be pressed shotgun style, simultaneously and without sequence. I think that trying for only the best reforms in the optimum sequence guarantees a debilitating fight over who benefits from having only these reforms now, and others later or never. I think pressing a bunch of reasonable ideas simultaneously without regard for who benefits from each one gives a better chance of getting some worthwhile reform done.

I don’t understand why voter fraud is not being dealt with. This issue occurred four years ago, and the illuminati politicians made a big deal out of it. But now that non-liberal officials want to make sure no voter fraud is being committed, it’s a big ordeal. Organizations such as ACORN should be dealt with, not backed by Ivy-Leaguers.

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