We were expecting conservatives to immediately blame their election defeats on voter fraud, and predictably their claims don’t have a leg to stand on. Yesterday, Buster Wilson of the American Family Association on AFA Today said that Rep. Allen West lost his campaign for re-election because of Democratic voter fraud, a point also made by AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer. Just like when Wilson thought he discovered Obama’s student ID proving he wasn’t born in the U.S. or exposed the militarization of the National Weather Service, Wilson now believes he uncovered massive voter fraud in Florida.
Allen West is one of the greatest Americans I’ve ever met. I just love this guy. I want to tell you, Allen West is the kind of American that after being around for just a few minutes you just go, man, I’m proud to be an American! Just being around him does that to me. His life story is awesome, his conservative politics is admirable, I’m not happy to see this. However, Rep. West is unwilling to concede because of the fraud in the voting in his district. He said there is one voting district there that had 141 percent of registered voters voting. 141 percent? That’s a little bit over the right number, isn’t it?
The number Wilson points to is actually the percentage of “cards cast.” Since the ballot contains two cards, or the number of pages on the ballot, the voter turnout rate is approximately half of the cards cast [PDF].
As Chris Haire explains:
As for the case of St. Lucie, Fla., where 141 percent of registered voters apparently voted, I talked to a source there who says that only 70 percent of registered voters cast ballots. The reason for the mix up: This year's ballot was two-pages long, and for whatever reason, the St. Lucie Election Commission election day report notes the number of "cards" cast and not the number of ballots. Which means that the number of votes that were actually cast were half of what WND and others are now reporting.
And the county supervisor of elections notes:
Turnout percentages will show over 100% due to a two page ballot. the tabulation system (GEMS) provides voter turnout as equal to the total cards cast in the election divided by the number of registered voters. Also note that some voters chose not to return by mail the second card containing the amendments.
UPDATE: Wilson’s colleague at AFA Sandy Rios also claimed on her radio show that the presidential election and West’s race were “stolen,” making the same exact false claim that in “Allen West’s congressional district, initially on the first count, I think 140 percent of the people registered to vote, voted.” Rios added that the overwhelming support Obama received in inner-city precincts is proof of fraud, even though such overwhelming margins are neither without precedent nor evidence of fraud.
I just heard Paul Ryan in the news, in an interview he was saying that President Obama deserves to be congratulated because he won fair and square. I am not quite sure why he would say that, I don’t agree with that. I find myself increasingly believing that this election was indeed stolen and I’ll tell you why, I’ve been telling you why. Allen West alone in Florida, 4,000 voters were added to his opponent's tally just in mere minutes late at night, 1:00 in the morning, 4,000 votes were flipped to his opponent and at that time Allen West was ahead by like 2,500 votes or something like that. In many precincts Ohio, in over one hundred of them, President Obama got over 99 percent of the vote, which is statistically impossible. In Allen West’s congressional district, initially on the first count I think 140 percent of the people registered to vote, voted. So you see what I’m saying?
Naturally, the far-right fringe is blaming Obama’s election victory on voter fraud. WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah released a new column which started with the line, “I am not a conspiracy theorist.” Farah said that Obama must have won through fraud because he won in states with Republican governors and legislatures, and also claimed that Obama “welcomed foreign contributions,” including one donation under “the name Osama bin Laden.” The bin Laden donation hoax has been debunked before – the Obama campaign notes that while some contributions “may have initially appeared to have gone through when the donor completed the transaction,” they were later rejected.
Tim Wildmon of the American Family Association and his fellow staff members appear to believe any conspiratorial column which reaches their desk, and so he once again invited Farah onto his radio show to explain how voter fraud swung the election to Obama, since it is inconceivable to them that the majority of Americans would vote for him.
But Farah said that WND’s possibly illegal donation to Obama using bin Laden’s name is just like “what Martin Luther King did, sometimes you’ve got to actually commit civil disobedience to get people’s attention to the injustices that are going on.”
Later, Wildmon talked about the decision by UPS to pull funding from the Boy Scouts of America over the group’s ban on openly gay members, which is making the prolific boycotters at the AFA consider a pressure campaign. Farah said that the decision is proof that the “culture is deteriorating” and urged Religious Right activists “to figure out how to reverse this or stop this real fast.”
Wildmon: Have you heard about the Boy Scouts and UPS?
Farah: I saw that and it’s just astonishing. It’s harder to get packages delivered—
Wildmon: I know, pretty soon we’re going to have to move to the mountains and live off the land. It really is and that’s why we here at the American Family Association, we don’t call for boycotts very often despite our reputation, and when we do we’re serious about it and we’ve exhausted every means of appeal to a particular company, like we have done with Home Depot and their sponsorship of gay pride parades. At the same time it doesn’t hurt to inform people about what these corporations do, if you don’t call for a boycott just let people know because if they do business with these companies and they might say if you do any business with UPS just tell your driver or your local office, ‘hey guys, you realize what you did, and I will have to consider how much business I see with you because of this,’ and that moves up the food chain.
Farah: Tim, I want you to think back to twenty years ago and try to imagine that we would have corporations essentially declaring war on the Boy Scouts of America.
Wildmon: We live in the Twilight Zone.
Farah: Try to imagine going back twenty years and you’d have a real powerful movement for same-sex marriage, and it’s actually winning now on ballot initiatives in several states, this is how rapidly the culture is deteriorating. It’s not happening in a vacuum, it’s happening because there are people and forces, powerful forces, that are making it happen and we have to figure out how to reverse this or stop this real fast.
Wildmon: That’s exactly right.
Leading up to what promises to be a very close presidential election, the Right has been working hard to lay the groundwork for blaming an Obama victory on “voter fraud.” The same strategy worked wonders last time around, when, one year after President Obama’s decisive victory a full half of Republicans believed that the community organizing group ACORN had stolen the election. In-person voter fraud, as John McCain strategist Steve Schmidt admitted today, is a convenient part of “the mythology now in the Republican Party,” one that as Josh noted earlier has helped to fuel decades of voter suppression measures.
At an Eagle Forum conference in September – attended by Todd Akin, among others – two speakers addressed the issue of voter fraud: Catherine Engelbrecht, whose group True the Vote has been challenging registered voters across the country, and John Fund, a conservative columnist and author of a recent book on the issue.
Fund claimed that President Obama wants the election to go to the Supreme Court, and that in a close election, the president would use the now-defunct ACORN to change the outcome: “The election is close, and he puts his thumb on the scale of democracy, and he sends his old ACORN friends the signal, you know what’s going to happen.”
After Engelbrecht’s speech, Schlafly joined her on stage to share news she had heard from “somebody” that in Pennsylvania, “at two o’clock in the afternoon they have no Republican observer, the Democrats just vote [for] the rest of the people who haven’t voted.”
“I think it goes on,” Engelbrecht agreed.
Shortly before the 2000 election, the state of Florida undertook a massive purge of its voter rolls, eliminating the names of 12,000 residents who the state believed ineligible to vote because of felony convictions. The problem? The sloppy purge eliminated the names not just of felons who had lost their right to vote under Florida law, but also of people who had just committed misdemeanors; felons who had regained their voting rights; and even of people who simply shared the name of an ineligble voter. The result was a mess which left countless eligible Floridians, disproportionately African American, stripped of their right to vote in a state that ultimately decided the presidential election by 537 votes.
Now Florida, under the leadership of Gov. Rick Scott, is poised to start another disastrous voter purge. Think Progress reports that a purge of “non-citizens” from Florida’s voting rolls has already struck hundreds of eligible citizens. Many more have not replied to a letter that informs them they will lose their right to vote if they don’t reply with proof of citizenship. Despite the clear inaccuracy of the purge, the burden is on registered voters to prove that they are eligible, not on the state to prove that they are not.
Rep. Ted Deutsch is now calling on Gov. Scott to suspend the flawed purge, saying it will “create chaotic results and further undermine Floridians’ confidence in the integrity of our elections.”
As we investigated in our report “The Right to Vote Under Attack,” right-wing politicians have been using the specter of “voter fraud” to carry out a number of programs meant to suppress the vote of progressive-leaning groups. The flawed voter purge in one of the closest of swing states is just the most recent blatant example.
"I’ve always thought in this state, close elections, presidential elections, it means you probably have to win with at least 53 percent of the vote to account for fraud. One or two points, potentially."
That’s enough to change the outcome of the election. “Absolutely. I mean there’s no question why they went to court and fought [to undo] voter ID.”
This is a blatant lie.
Every single time the federal government or a state has gone looking for evidence of widespread voter fraud, it’s come up short – including in Wisconsin, where an investigation of the 2008 election turned up 14 instances of voter fraud out of 3 million votes. As has been proved time and again, the myth of widespread voter fraud is in itself a fraud.
Gov. Walker claims that the reason progressives worked to overturn the Voter ID law he imposed was so that they could win elections with fraud. That is also a blatant lie. Progressives oppose Voter ID and other voter suppression laws because they keep eligible voters from voting – the Brennan Center for Justice estimated that these laws could keep 5 million eligible voters from the ballot box in 2012.
The voter-fraud fraud isn’t a misunderstanding. It’s a lie perpetuated by politicians like Gov. Walker to cast doubt on the election of progressives and build support for suppressive measures like Voter ID laws. The fact that Gov. Walker can parade totally made-up “facts” about voter fraud to a conservative publication and not get called out for it shows just how much traction the myth has gained.
In early April, after she went to cast her ballot in Washington, DC, NBC Latino contributor Alicia Menendez found out that someone else had also tried to cast a ballot in her name. The perpetrator was an ally of right-wing activist James O’Keefe, who has been traveling the country trying to trick Americans into thinking widespread voter identity fraud exists by committing it himself.
Menendez writes that the attempted fraud felt like a personal “violation.” But she’s not buying O’Keefe’s scare tactics:
So why are O’Keefe & company pushing a solution in search of a problem? In 2008, a wave of inspired first-time voters flocked to the polls. That level of participation and infusion of enthusiasm is good for our democracy, regardless of how those Americans vote. But some people couldn’t abide the candidates the voters chose, and so they are trying desperately to keep a similar surge of new voters from voting this year.
O’Keefe and the people who fund groups like his want to stop people who traditionally vote against their candidates, almost all Republicans, from voting at all. To do that, they are trying to re-raise the barriers to voting that we tore down in the civil rights era. They are trying to scare us into believing that there is a massive wave of “voter fraud” sweeping the country. I will not be scared into believing their myths and neither should you.
There is something honest here though: they honestly do not understand why more people don’t try to commit voter fraud. That’s because voter suppression fraud — the kind where you keep people who don’t vote your way from voting at all — has been a standard part of their playbook for years.
For more on the “voter fraud” fraud, see People For the American Way’s report, The Right to Vote Under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box.
On Thursday, February 2nd, a coalition of groups including People For the American Way, Daily Kos and Granite State Progress will deliver over 100,000 petitions to New Hampshire Attorney General Michael A. Delaney, calling on him to conduct a full investigation of the alleged voter fraud conducted by activist James O’Keefe.
“I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”
-- Paul Weyrich, “founding father of the modern conservative movement,”1980
A new Right Wing Watch: In Focus report by People For the American Way Foundation reveals how the Right Wing distorts and exaggerates the impact of improper voting in order to implement policies that keep millions of eligible Americans from casting votes. The report, “The Right to Vote Under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box,” is available here.
“Laws proposed to address the mythical problem of ‘voter fraud’ undermine the very foundation of our democracy,” said Michael Keegan, President of People For the American Way Foundation. “The Right Wing, with no evidence, has propagated the myth of widespread voter fraud as an excuse to create laws that are all about making it harder for people vote. Their clear target is driving down Democratic turnout and installing in office people who will do the bidding of the Right Wing and their Republican allies. Stealing elections by systematically disenfranchising millions of voters is as unpatriotic as it gets.”
The report uncovers:
“This report reveals just how the far the Right Wing is willing to go to win elections,” continued Keegan. “Eroding the achievements of the Civil Rights movement by disenfranchising voters is abhorrent. All Americans have a fundamental right to vote, and we need to be vigilant to make sure that ever eligible voter is ready and able to vote on Election Day.”
The report is available here.
It’s bad enough that the employees of ACORN have had to endure days of baseless and outlandish attacks by John McCain and the RNC. But after McCain outrageously claimed before a national audience on Wednesday night that ACORN was “maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy,” the group came under attack, literally. In the following days, ACORN’s Boston and Seattle offices were vandalized and at least one employee received a death threat.
And for nearly two weeks, ACORN offices across the nation have been subjected to an onslaught of racist and threatening voicemails and emails. We have secured copies of some of the most disturbing and offensive messages and have reproduced them below in order to show the very real consequences of the Right Wing’s overheated and misplaced “voter fraud” rhetoric.
Warning: the emails and voicemails below are highly explicit and have only been edited to remove personally identifying information. Please also note that, where relevant, the proper authorities have been notified.
“Hi, I was just calling to let you all know that Barack Obama needs to get hung. He's a fucking nigger, and he's a piece of shit. You guys are fraudulent, and you need to go to hell. All the niggers on oak trees. They're gonna get all hung honeys, they're gonna get assassinated, they're gonna get killed.”
Email #1: This email was received by the Cleveland office. The subject line was the name of a senior staffer who had recently appeared on TV to defend the group.
According to McClatchy, the email was traced back to a Facebook account featuring a McCain-Palin sign.
"You liberal idiots. Dumb shits. Welfare bums. You guys just fucking come to our country, consume every natural resource there is, and make a lot of babies. That's all you guys do. And then suck up the welfare and expect everyone else to pay for your hospital bills for your kids. I just say let your kids die. That's the best move. Just let your children die. Forget about paying for hospital bills for them. I'm not gonna do it. You guys are lowlifes. And I hope you all die."
People for the American Way (PFAW) will take out a full-page ad (PDF link) in The New York Times charging the right wing with misleading the public in the ACORN voter registration controversy. The ad also challenges the press for failing to examine the fabrications made against the voter registration group and turning a blind-eye toward the right wing's ongoing effort to disenfranchise voters.