Saturday, October 11, 2008

What's This About Acorns?

In the past week or so, you may have heard rumblings about something called ACORN. It's the newest meme on the right, and-- with the Ayers/terrorist stuff blowing up in their face, pardon the pun-- it's the one they will be pushing big time between now and the election (seriously, go read the National Review's Corner blog; this and Ayers is all they are talking about. Economy whatnow?). It is being used as an all-purpose boogeyman by the right... blaming it for the economic crisis on one end (debunked here), and even accusing it of pre-stealing the election on the other (see this Daily Show clip at about 0:26 for one example).

But what is it? According to Wikipedia, "ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is a community-based organization that advocates for low- and moderate-income families by working on neighborhood safety, health care and other social issues." How did this organization become the topic du jour for partisan Republicans? TPM's Josh Marshall explains-
The Republican party is grasping on to the ACORN story as a way to delegitimize what now looks like the probable outcome of the November election. It is also a way to stoke the paranoia of their base, lay the groundwork for legal challenges of close outcomes in various states and promote new legal restrictions on legitimate voting by lower income voters and minorities. The big picture is that these claims of 'voter fraud' are themselves a fraud, a tool to aid in suppressing Democratic voter turnout. But I want give readers a bit more detail to understand what is going because the right-wing freak out about ACORN happens pretty much on schedule every two years. The whole scam is premised on having enough people who don't remember when they tried it before who they can then confuse and lie to.

Indeed I do remember reading these exact same stories and freakouts by the same GOP folks before the 2006 elections. And probably before in 2004 as well. Marshall elaborates, getting into the specifics of all this-
ACORN registers lots of lower income and/or minority voters. They operate all across the country and do a lot of things beside voter registration. What's key to understand is their method. By and large they do not rely on volunteers to register voters. They hire people -- often people with low incomes or even the unemployed. This has the dual effect of not only registering people but also providing some work and income for people who are out of work. But because a lot of these people are doing it for the money, inevitably, a few of them cut corners or even cheat. So someone will end up filling out cards for nonexistent names and some of those slip through ACORN's own efforts to catch errors. (It's important to note that in many of the recent ACORN cases that have gotten the most attention it's ACORN itself that has turned the people in who did the fake registrations.) These reports start buzzing through the right-wing media every two years and every time the anecdotal reports of 'thousands' of fraudulent registrations turns out, on closer inspection, to be either totally bogus themselves or wildly exaggerated. So thousands of phony registrations ends up being, like, twelve...

...If I successfully register Mickey Mouse to vote, on election day, Mickey Mouse will still be a cartoon character who cannot go to the local voting station and vote. Logically speaking there's very little way a few phony names on the voting rolls could be used to commit actual vote fraud. And much more importantly, numerous studies and investigations have shown no evidence of anything more than a handful of isolated cases of actual instances of vote fraud.

Ding ding! And that is the key point here. Marshall concludes-
Vote registration fraud is a limited and relatively minor problem in the US today. But it is principally an administrative and efficiency issue. It is has little or nothing to do with people casting illegitimate votes to affect an actual election. That's the key. What you're hearing right now from Fox News, the New York Post, John Fund and the rest of the right-wing bamboozlement chorus is a just another effort to exploit, confuse and lie in an effort to put more severe restrictions on legitimate voting and lay the groundwork to steal elections.

I've written about that aspect of this issue myself just last January (and another post last year). The GOP's faux-concerns are never about real and serious vote fraud or theft-- for which there has been ample evidence in recent elections-- but rather always, and only, on these before-the-fact registration issues, which have never been proven to have an impact on modern elections. As Marshall noted, it's a sleight of hand trick.

For what it's worth, ACORN responds here.

[UPDATE: Here's the stupidity of this GOP attack summed up... Sen. McCain's had more personal connection to/with ACORN than Obama ever has. Erratic much, GOP?]


At 8:07 PM, Blogger Adam said...

Ah hah. I've seen that acronym floating around but wasn't sure what it was all about. Thanks for explaining.


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