Voting fraud in Election 2012: How common is it?

The son of Rep. Jim Moran has resigned from his father's campaign for apparently condoning voter fraud. In the lead-up to Election Day 2012, both Democrats and Republicans have had such episodes.

Robert F. Bukaty/AP
Voters cast their votes through absentee ballots for the Nov. 6 election at the town hall in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Thursday.

With less than two weeks before Election Day, charges of voter fraud continue to mount up.

The latest involves the son of US Rep. James Moran (D) of Virginia – Patrick Moran, Representative Moran’s campaign field director – shown on a secretly taped video apparently discussing a plan to use forged documents to cast ballots for 100 registered voters who seldom vote.

The video was shot by an individual working for controversial conservative activist James O’Keefe, best known for his undercover work leading to the demise of the community organizing group ACORN.

In the latest video, Patrick Moran is shown going along with a man posing as a campaign worker who urges the use of voter fraud. At first Mr. Moran suggests the man’s time would be better spent on the campaign’s legal get-out-the-vote effort, but then he is drawn into discussing ways to fraudulently pad voting rolls, including the use of forged utility bills.

Patrick Moran quickly resigned from his father’s campaign.

“At no point did I take this person seriously,” he said in a statement. “He struck me as being unstable and joking, and for only that reason did I humor him. In hindsight, I should have immediately walked away, making it clear that there is no place in the electoral process for even the suggestion of illegal behavior: joking or not.”

Mr. O’Keefe’s methods – including posing as a pimp in the ACORN case – have been criticized, especially by liberals targeted by his organization Project Veritas. In 2010, O’Keefe and three colleagues were arrested for illegally entering the offices of US Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) of Louisiana. O’Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, for which he was sentenced to three years' probation, 100 hours of community service, and a $1,500 fine.

Still, he’s had a clear impact on electoral politics.

“This is a fact, and it will [make liberals mad], but: James O'Keefe has had more of an impact on the 2012 election than any other journalist,” writes Slate political reporter David Weigel.

Responding to the Moran episode Thursday, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) of Florida said her party has “zero tolerance” for voter fraud.

“It’s just indefensible and [Patrick Moran] was right to resign,” Representative Wasserman Schultz said on CNN.

But she also noted that in Florida, “Republicans paid a firm that was caught deliberately, fraudulently registering voters, tossing out some registrations that were Democratic voter registrations.”
 The reference was to a voter registration contractor fired last month by the GOP after the firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, turned in illegible, incorrect, and falsified voter registration forms to Florida election officials. Like the DNC’s Wasserman Schultz, Republican officials at the time said they had “zero tolerance” for vote fraud.

More recently, Rep. Jim Moran and two other congressmen have asked the US Justice Department to investigate voter registration fraud connected to Strategic Allied Consulting and its subsidiary Pinpoint in Virginia.

“As you are aware, Strategic Allied Consulting is currently under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and faces more than 200 allegations of voter registration fraud including registration of the deceased. Allegations of voter registration fraud by Strategic Allied Consulting also have been raised in Arizona and Colorado,” the Democratic lawmakers wrote this week to Attorney General Eric Holder. “The number of allegations in a multitude of locations would seem to suggest something more than the isolated acts of ‘a few bad apples.’ ”

Earlier this year, the Pew Center on the States reported on why the potential for voter fraud exists. Approximately 24 million voter registrations in the United States are no longer valid or have significant inaccuracies, Pew reported in February. Among the highlights of the report:

• At least 51 million eligible citizens remain unregistered – more than 24 percent of the eligible population. 

• More than 1.8 million deceased individuals are listed as voters.

• Approximately 2.75 million people have registrations in more than one state.

• About 12 million records have incorrect addresses, meaning either the voters moved, or errors in the information make it unlikely any mailings can reach them.

There’s another reason as well, writes Dan Froomkin, senior Washington correspondent for the Huffington Post: “The main reason voter registration fraud is so common is that canvassers are sometimes rewarded based on how many applications they submit – which can incentivize padding.”

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