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Fraud Potential Impacted by Early Voting, ACORN

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Four weeks before Election Day, Ohio is back in the national spotlight with Republicans arguing that, under its new early-voting law, first-time voters are being allowed to cast ballots without meeting the state’s minimum registration requirements. The GOP complaint puts new focus on the issue of voter fraud, which took on new meaning following the contested presidential election in 2000.

From quirks in state voting laws to concerns over fraudulent registration practices, lawmakers and watchdog groups have also raised the red flag elsewhere over the implications of having different rules in different states, not least of which is the impact of early voting on an ever-changing race.

Early voting “changes the dynamics of the campaign,” said Colorado State University political science professor John Straayer, who noted that voting by mail has already begun in Colorado.

“What that means is that you have a shortened election cycle and a lot of candidate advertising and candidate visits will have a shrunken impact. If something extraordinarily unusual happens in the race, people who have dropped their ballot in the mail are unable to change their minds,” Straayer said.

The intent of early voting, which any state can implement, in accordance with the 10th Amendment, is to increase voter turnout and decrease the costs of maintaining the polls on Election Day. But the practice can unduly influence results, depending upon what issues are dominating the campaign trail at the time people vote, said James Terry, chief public advocate at Consumers Rights League.

He added that altering the election cycle also increases the potential for fraud.

“There’s a variety of different mechanisms that vary greatly from state to state and county to county to prevent potential fraud,” Terry said. “Registration fraud and voting fraud are inextricably linked.”

Indiana, for instance, requires ID cards to prevent fraud, Perry said. Other states check registration against internal databases to verify voters’ identities.

Verifying registration becomes more difficult as Election Day approaches. It’s hard in some states, like Wyoming and Maine, that begin voting as early as 40 days prior to the election. It is much harder in a state with a large population, like Florida, which permits voting to begin 15 days before Election Day.

This year, fraud prevention is even more challenging in Ohio, the “deciding” state in the 2004 election. For one week this year — Sept. 30-Oct. 6 — Ohioans were permitted to register and vote on the same day.

Ohio voters line up to cast ballots early in the 2008 presidential race. Election Day is Nov. 4

Ohio voters line up to cast ballots early in the 2008 presidential race. Election Day is Nov. 4

Three years ago, Ohio changed its law to allow absentee voting to begin 35 days before Election Day, which is Sept. 30 this year. But residents of the state are allowed to register to vote as late as Oct. 6, creating a one-week overlap in which they can register and vote on the same day.

That overlap has come under fire by the Ohio Republican Party and some Ohio voters, who point out that state law requires voters to have been registered for 30 days before they can cast an absentee ballot. This, they say, creates an unfair situation because it is difficult to immediately verify a voter’s identity.

“This window has created an opportunity for voter fraud,” said Ohio GOP spokesman John McClellan, who faults Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, for allowing the practice to occur.

McClellan, who called the overlap “illegal,” said the law mandates that a resident be registered for 30 days before he or she can be considered a “qualified voter.” In order to receive an absentee ballot, McClellan said, a registrant must sign a ballot indicating that he or she is qualified.

“Clearly, the Democrats in Ohio have publicly stated that they were going to take advantage of this loophole and we believe strongly that these shenanigans are the responsibility of the secretary of state and the Democratic Party,” he said.

But the Ohio secretary of state’s office refuted the claim, saying the overlap “is a legal process” that was actually a result of Republican-led legislation.

In a statement Kevin Kidder, a spokesman for Brunner, said, “The Ohio Supreme Court, composed of seven Republicans — with one Democrat on this particular case who substituted for a justice who is on the ballot and recused herself — a federal district court and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals have all ruled that Secretary Brunner has properly interpreted and applied Ohio law regarding the overlap for registration and absentee voting in Ohio.”

“This is the first election in which issues have been raised regarding the overlap, though it has existed in some form since 1981,” Kidder added.

Inconsistencies in state voting procedures have long been a point of contention.

“In any given state, the laxity of the rules will correlate with greater Democratic voter turnout,” said Georgetown University government professor Chris Hull, citing the overlap practice in Ohio as an example.

He said charges of voter fraud historically have more often been associated with the Democrats,  a majority of which were substantiated, while charges of voter suppression, never substantiated, have been associated with the Republicans.

But perhaps more troubling to lawmakers is the widespread discrepancy in early voting — and the method by which registrants cast their ballots.

Oregon, which requires all voters to cast their ballots by mail only, has effectively “created two election days,” Perry said.

Many voters in Oregon return their ballots by mail immediately after receiving them, while others wait until the deadline several weeks later, creating “a huge spike at the very end,” he said.

An investigator enters the ACORN office in Las Vegas, 10/7/08, as part of a voter fraud raid

An investigator enters the ACORN office in Las Vegas, 10/7/08, as part of a voter fraud raid

Radical leftist Organizations like The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), where Barack Obama once worked, and is still associated with,  have also faced many charges of fraud in their efforts to drive voter turnout during the election, most of them substantiated, as in Washington state in 2006, and October 2008 in Nevada.

Twenty-seven thousand registrations handled by the group from January to July 2008 “went into limbo because they were incomplete, inaccurate, or fraudulent,” Terry said, claiming the group recently came under investigation for registering deceased individuals in certain states. Not so odd, such happenings are dismissed or never reported on by the radical liberal media, like The Atlantic and New York Times.

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