One of the more interesting stories of the election is playing out right now in Nevada, but it doesn’t have to do with the polls, or the candidates. It has to do with the voters, and the people who register them to vote.
There is either voter fraud or voter intimidation going on in Las Vegas – and I can’t say that I know which it is.
The raid was ordered by Republican politicians at the state level, on the basis of criticisms that ACORN has submitted some duplicate voter registration information and some voter registration forms that haven’t been filled out properly. These mistakes have led the Republicans to accuse ACORN of purposefully engaging in voter fraud, and trying to get fake votes cast in order to manipulate this year’s elections.
I’ve worked on voter registration drives and petitioning drives before, and to tell the truth, I’m not surprised that there were a few duplicate registrations and mistakes. It’s pretty difficult to run a voter registration drive or a petition drive and not have those kinds of problems – especially when you’re working with volunteers as ACORN does.
Of course, I don’t absolutely know that ACORN has not been involved in some kind of voter fraud scheme. However, in cases like these, there ought to be a presumption of innocence. That’s just what’s been missing, however, in the publicity surrounding this case. I can’t say, either, that I know what exactly motivated this investigation, but it’s possible that intimidation of ACORN was the underlying purpose.
Whatever the truth in this case, voter turnout ends up being a much more important issue than voter registration, voter fraud or vote suppression. For every election in memory, there have been huge numbers of people registered to vote who didn’t bother to show up – much larger than the number of votes that are alleged to have been “stolen” or fraudulently cast.
If ACORN is in earnest about community organizing, focusing on turnout is where its focus ought now to turn.
As for registering to vote in Nevada, well, if people really want to vote they can always go down to their local board of elections and register themselves. Being registered by a third party is risky. I’ll never forget what happened to me back in the year 2000, when I signed a voter registration form at a Green Party booth in Memphis, Tennessee. The local Green Party people down there never bothered to turn the form in, and so my change of address was not noted, and I was turned away from the polls, and had to run miles across town in order to cast my vote.
Why would citizens who truly care about their communities need community organizers to register them to vote? It seems to me that the biggest challenge is voter apathy, not vote fraud or suppression.