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Monday, October 01, 2012

Registration Fraud May Give the GOP a Taste of Their Own Medicine

voter registration drive
They say Karma is a bitch. After pushing voter ID to disenfranchise groups that tend to vote Democratic, the Republican Party is at the heart of a growing scandal over voter registration fraud. That would be the same crime the right -- falsely, it turned out -- accused ACORN of doing. It was a crime so heinous that ACORN had to be defunded, thereby killing off the organization. Logical consistency demands that the GOP must meet a similar fate.

But no one's seriously going to demand the organizational death penalty. Still, this may be in the neighborhood.

Los Angeles Times:

[A California voter registration fraud scandal] has also raised anew the question of whether the state should ban firms that pay workers for each voter they register or signature they secure on a petition rather than paying them an hourly rate. Workers have an incentive to cut corners under such arrangements, according to Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Natomas), who has proposed barring the practice in a bill that is on the governor's desk.

Registration fraud's becoming a bit of a scandal for Republicans. The story broke big in Florida, followed by the California story this weekend.

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Pan's California bill would be a blow to the GOP's election efforts because Republicans tend not to rely on volunteers to register voters. If they were forced to, they'd probably have trouble finding them -- which explains why they rely on volunteers. Would this disenfranchise voters like a voter ID law would? No. But it would affect Republican efforts almost exclusively.

Registration fraud works this way: you find a mark who's either unregistered or registered with the "wrong" party, then you register them or re-register them as Republicans -- whether they want to or not. This is accomplished through various methods. In some cases, the forms are just forged or altered. In others, people are duped into signing a "petition" that registers them as a Republican. In California, people who signed a petition to legalize marijuana were told they'd have to sign a registration form as well. The form was later completed by the petitioner to switch the signatory's party.

So what's the big deal with voter registration fraud? I mean, just because you're registered Republican doesn't mean you have to vote Republican, right?

"Have to?" No. But it's less black and white than that.

The fact is that people who are registered Republican are more likely to vote Republican -- even if they're unaware that they're registered GOP. Voter lists are public information, so political organizations use them to make call lists and mailing lists. If you're registered Republican, you're getting mail and robocalls from every wingnut organization under the sun. You're being bombarded with rightwing propaganda and false information, as well as fundraising appeals. You are the target in a targeted advertising campaign. And, when election day comes, the call you get tells you that the Republican is counting on your vote. It suppresses the liberal vote in some cases by convincing them the Democrat is scum not worth voting for and, in other cases, actually converts voters from left to right.

"Democrats say bogus registrations are more than just an issue of workers trying to make an extra buck," L.A. Times reports, "that they're a trick to prevent the Democratic party from getting supporters to the polls as well as to draw more money to the area's Republican races."

Now imagine all the perks of having registered Republicans drying up. Democrats are sending volunteers door to door, signing up new voters and creating relationships with new voters, while Republicans are trying to scare some up in a base unused to real volunteerism. Sure, they'll staple tea bags to their hats and make asses of themselves at rallies held once in a blue moon, but an ongoing effort where doors may be slammed in their faces? Glenn Beck never told them about any of that. They don't think they need to volunteer, that's what the free market is for. They'll just write a check.

Banning hired voter registration workers wouldn't be the blow to Republicans that voter ID is to Democrats. Not even close. But it would hurt pretty much only Republicans. And, unlike voter ID, this law would fight an actual ongoing campaign of fraud. While voter fraud is mostly imaginary, registration fraud is very, very real -- and very, very Republican.

Not only might Pan's bill be necessary on a national level, but it would be poetic justice.

-Wisco

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