The Legal War over Voter Fraud

Robert Knight

6/14/2011 10:57:00 AM - Robert Knight

Even with the demise of ACORN, a lot of people are worried about voter fraud in the upcoming 2012 presidential election.

That's because the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now has not really gone away since two young conservatives posing as a pimp and prostitute administered a very painful video sting in 2009. ACORN has transmogrified into lots of little ACORN groups with misleadingly innocent names, such as Affordable Housing Centers of America (formerly ACORN Housing Corporation) and New England United for Justice.

Another reason to worry is that the ACLU is working overtime to curb laws designed to reduce illegal immigration and to require voters to present identification. Yes, you can't cash a check or open a bank account without a valid ID, but the ACLU thinks it is somehow "racist"; to ensure that only American citizens vote in our elections.

That's why on June 3 they filed a suit to halt Florida’s law shortening the early voter days from 15 to 8 before an election and tightening registration rules. The ACLU contends that requiring people to vote within about a week of the actual election day constitutes “voter suppression.”

If you think that's over the top, listen to plaintiff Arthenia Joyner, a Democrat state senator:

"It is un-American to make it a burden to vote. Too many people fought and died for this right. This is an abomination. And it's unconscionable."

It was only a few years ago that people were expected to vote on election day, and obtain absentee ballots if they couldn’t. Now it’s an “abomination” if they don’t get to vote two weeks ahead of time.

The law that Gov. Rick Scott signed is in part a reaction to Florida election officials in 2009 finding at least 888 phony voter registrations submitted by ACORN officials, including one alleging to be from the late actor Paul Newman. Arrest warrants were issued for 11 ACORN employees.

Florida is not alone. In 2007, Washington State filed felony charges against several ACORN employees and supervisors, alleging more than 1,700 fraudulent voter registrations, Fox News reported. In March 2008, a Pennsylvania ACORN employee was sentenced for submitting 29 fake voter registrations. In 2009, a Cleveland, Ohio ACORN employee was caught reregistering the same person 77 times.

Voter fraud investigations targeting ACORN were launched in 12 states: Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. In September 2009, Congress voted to defund ACORN, three-quarters of whose 2009 budget of $24 million was composed of federal money, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, on the immigration front, the ACLU and other groups are challenging Arizona-type laws in Utah, Indiana, Alabama and Georgia.

In Alabama on June 2, both houses of the legislature passed a law that would require employers to check the legal status of new employees using the e-Verify system. Republican Gov. Robert J. Bentley signed the bill on Thursday, June 9.

The Alabama law would also allow police officers to detain motorists if they have a "reasonable suspicion" that they are here illegally. The ACLU said it will file a lawsuit challenging what they call an “extreme” and “draconian racial profiling law.”

On Wednesday, the ACLU and the Southern Poverty Law Center requested an injunction to stop an immigration law in Georgia pending the outcome of a lawsuit they filed the week before. Republican Gov. Nathan Deal signed the law in May, noting that it differs from the Arizona law that a U.S. District judge struck down in July 2010. The Obama Administration had requested an injunction against Arizona’s law, portions of which – including use of the e-Verify system – were upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court on May 26.

The Georgia law, set to take effect July 1, has already caused some illegal immigrants to head back home, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The law says police can investigate the immigration status of suspects and take illegal immigrants into custody. It also makes it illegal to traffic in or transport illegal immigrants while committing another crime or to use fraudulent IDs when applying for a job.

In Indiana, an immigration reform law signed on May 10 by Gov. Mitch Daniels will take effect July 1. On May 25, the ACLU filed suit seeking a preliminary injunction.

The law, as summarized by WIBC in Indianapolis, “threatens the state tax credits of employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens, revokes state contracts with those companies, and denies unemployment benefits to illegal immigrants. It also ramps up penalties for crimes associated with illegal immigration, including fake ID's and the smuggling or harboring of illegals.”

In September 2009, after the ACORN scandal broke, Barack Obama was asked about it during an interview for a Sunday news show. Mr. Obama replied, “Frankly, it’s not something I’ve followed closely.” That’s odd given that Mr. Obama had an extensive association with ACORN. The Wall Street Journal’s John Fund noted that Mr. Obama’s ACORN-related activities included running a voter registration drive for Project Vote in 1991, training ACORN volunteers and representing ACORN in a 1995 case that forced Illinois to adopt the federal Motor Voter Law.

ACORN, which specialized in compiling voter registrations among minority groups – a good thing in and of itself but not when it’s done with rampant fraud – is still out there in different guise. Meanwhile, the ACLU is trying to take down state laws that would discourage illegal immigration and using false identification. If the ACLU prevails, it could unleash a tsunami of illegal aliens joining the voter rolls, which would benefit one political party in particular.

Given the fact that the Obama Administration is ignoring "sanctuary cities" that flout federal immigration laws and instead is going after states like Arizona that want to enforce the law, you have to wonder how seriously they take voter fraud.

If the question is qui bono? – to whose benefit? – the answer is pretty obvious.

Robert Knight is a Senior Fellow for the American Civil Rights Union.