Obama campaign: GOP targeting ACORN to 'intimidate, suppress' voters
Barack Obama's campaign is pushing back at what's been a concerted effort from John McCain, the Republican Party and conservative media outlets to drum up outraged accusations of voter fraud on the part of an independent organization that has been spearheading efforts to register low-income voters.
Obama campaign manager David Plouffe accused the GOP of trumping up claims of voter registration fraud to create a "smokescreen" aimed at hiding the party's own concerted efforts to intimidate voters and suppress turnout.
"What they're doing right now is a form of intimidation," Plouffe told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. He was referring to the repeated smears and legal challenges Republican operatives and the McCain campaign were hurling at the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, saying their goal was to keep legitimate voters registered by ACORN away from the polls.
The Obama campaign has never relied on ACORN workers to register voters, despite GOP accusations to the contrary, Plouffe said, although he did acknowledge the campaign paid an affiliate of the organization to canvass voters earlier in the election cycle. The campaign has also conducted its own in-house registration drive.
Enormous interest in the presidential campaign and reports of skyrocketing registration is "something we think should be celebrated in our democracy, rather than challenged," Plouffe said.
"They seem to be setting up a strategy here to make it more difficult to vote," he charged.
The GOP accusations rest on reports of fake or duplicate names being used on voter registration forms. What they don't say is that there's virtually no evidence of faulty registrations essentially leading to fraudulent votes being cast. ACORN also pays employees to gather registrations, sometimes either paying per form that is filled out or requiring a minimum number of forms per day; these incentives further compel dishonest or lazy workers to fill out fake forms. But the group works to flag these forms -- which it is legally required to hand in -- to prevent inaccurate names making it onto voter rolls.
Plouffe noted that conservative outlet seem most interested in repeatedly hyping the ACORN claimes. He said Fox News "is turning themselves into the 24-hour ACORN channel."
Matt Yglesias further outlines the problem's inherent in the GOP's argument.
I find that an awful lot of problems are caused by people’s inability to understand things like error rates and big numbers. If a pharmaceutical company came out with a new anti-depression drug and gave it to a million people suffering from depression, of whom 970,000 were helped you wouldn’t turn around and conclude that the company was perpetrating a deliberate fraud based on the fact that “tens of thousands” of patients got no relief. You’d say that the medicine was helpful in 97 percent of the indicated cases. ACORN is trying — and succeeding — in an effort to register a lot of new voters.Josh Marshall says the GOP's complaints are part of a broader effort of disenfranchisement.
There’s simply no way to gather over one million new voter registration forms without some of the forms having been filled out with bogus information. You could ask the group to automatically toss out the obviously wrong ones — some guy saying he’s Tony Romo, someone else saying he’s Mickey Mouse — but the law requires them to hand all the forms in to prevent them from tossing out forms filled out by people who say they want to register Republican. Consequently, if you go out and register over a million voters you’ll wind up with a lot of bad forms being submitted. But just as 30,000 is a lot of people and also only a very small fraction of one million people, when you’re talking about registering over a million new voters you’d need orders of magnitude more bad forms to constitute real evidence of a systematic fraud campaign.
The level of lying, bad faith or at best ignorance of the people making these claims is really beyond imagining. This isn't vote fraud. There's no evidence of vote fraud. Nothing. This is an effort of a losing political party to a) lay the groundwork for challenging their defeat at the polls b) lay the groundwork to pass laws to make it harder for poor people and minorities to vote.On the conference call, Obama campaign lawyer Bob Bauer called the Republican efforts "fairly shameful," citing reports of caging schemes and attempts to disqualify voters in Montana, Michigan, Ohio and other states.
Bauer went on to point out McCain's own connection to ACORN, speaking to a benefit sponsored by the group two years ago, and accused the Republican candidate of smearing the group because he lacks any other campaign strategy.
"He's now decided that this is the only way he can make his case," Bauer said. "But the case is ludicrous."
ACORN spokesman Kevin Whelan spoke to reporters at The National Press Club today.
This video is from The Associated Press, broadcast October 14, 2008.
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