Abrams praises investigation of Limbaugh's Dem primary 'dirty tricks'
David Edwards and Nick Juliano
Published: Tuesday March 25, 2008

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This month's primaries in Ohio and Texas resurrected Hillary Clinton from the political graveyard for the umpteenth time this election season.

Conservative talker Rush Limbaugh is taking credit for Clinton's continued presence in the race after encouraging Republican voters to switch parties before those two big states voted March 4, and he has called on Pennsylvania GOPers to do the same before their state votes April 22. Limbaugh's listeners are worried about an election fraud investigation, which could result in criminal charges for voters in at least one Ohio county.

MSNBC host Dan Abrams says the right-wing radio host's aim is "to subvert democracy and inject dirty tricks into the Democratic nomination process."

"I've said it before, I think it's un-American to encourage people to vote for a candidate they don't want to win, in order to corrupt the process," Abrams said. "But in Ohio, it may also be illegal."

He went on to discuss a probe in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, where Board of Elections officials are launching an investigation into crossover voters to determine whether any are guilty of election fraud, a felony. Results of the investigation will be released March 31.

It's unlikely that Limbaugh single-handedly swung the results to Clinton in either state, as was his stated intention. Clinton and her Democratic rival Barack Obama split Republicans in Ohio, and Obama won Texas Republicans, according to network exit polls.

In Ohio's Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, the Plain Dealer reported that a "staggering" 16,000 Republicans switched parties to vote in the March 4 Democratic primary. Some GOP voters openly acknowledged their intention to meddle with the opposing party, writing messages like "For one day only" on pledges voters are required to sign indicating they will support the party whose primary they are voting in.

As staggering as the Cuyahoga County figure seemed, exit polls suggest crossover voters may have been even more prevalent elsewhere in the state. Nearly 325,000 voters cast a ballot for either Obama or Clinton in the Cleveland area, so Republicans accounted for about 5 percent of the Democratic turnout. Statewide, Republicans made up about 9 percent of the Democratic primary electorate, according to the exit polls.

Obama has touted his support among independents and GOP voters -- so-called Obamacans -- and while some crossover voters told the PD they voted for Clinton to set up an easy target for John McCain in the fall, others said they thought Obama would be an easier opponent. Plenty of Republicans also voted Democratic out of heart-felt beliefs, to be sure, as the GOP struggles in what is expected to be a rocky election year.

In Pennsylvania, Obama's campaign was working hard to get supporters to switch their registration from independent or Republican to Democratic. He even ran a radio ad reminding those voters that Monday was the last day they could register as Democrats to vote in the April 22 primary. Meanwhile, Limbaugh also has said he has "operatives" registering Republicans as Democrats to vote for Clinton.

Between March 10 and 17, the most recent timeframe available, more than 14,000 new Democrats registered to vote in Pennsylvania and 29,000 voters switched their registration to the Democratic party, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Before Pennsylvania goes to the polls, the Cleveland, Ohio-area elections board will release the results of its investigation. Some ballots containt possible evidence of voter fraud, which in Ohio is punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

"I'm looking for evidence," Sandy McNair, a Democratic member of the county's elections board tells the Plain Dealer. "I'm not interested in a witch hunt. But I am interested in holding people accountable, whether they're Democrat or Republican."

This video is from MSNBC's Verdict, broadcast March 24, 2008.