Ernest Istook is recovering from serving 14 years in Congress and is now a distinguished fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
Rather than investigating alleged voter registration fraud, the Barack Obama campaign wants the Justice Department to investigate those who have sounded the alarm.
And if that fraud exists – which the Obama campaign belittles – they want any investigations delayed until after the election is over and the damage is done.
Twice in the last week, the Obama campaign’s general counsel, Robert F. Bauer of the Perkins & Cole law firm, has written U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, seeking to shut down the reported FBI investigation of ACORN and others. Instead, Bauer says, there should be a probe of those who have voiced concerns of voter registration fraud, claiming it’s an intimidation effort designed to suppress voter turnout.
As the Obama campaign’s first letter claimed on Oct. 17, “Voter registration impropriety does not constitute actual vote fraud.” It asserts that registration concerns are “manufactured allegations of fraud.”
Federal law treats registration fraud more seriously, as it should. Even an attempt to register falsely is a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in prison. The penalty is the same for those who aid or abet that effort.
And the Obama campaign’s Oct. 20 letter, referring to Associated Press and other news accounts of multi-state investigations that involve the FBI as well as state law enforcers, says the U.S. attorney general should “stop any further participation in these activities by the [Justice] Department.”
Instead, the Obama campaign wants a special prosecutor to investigate whether the department has coordinated investigations and press 1eaks illegally with the McCain campaign, plus probes by the inspector general and the Office of Professional Responsibility within DOJ.
Republican efforts, the letters claim, are “in violation of the law to harass voters and impede their exercise of their rights.”
Evidently, the Obamans disagree with law enforcement in at least a dozen states that are probing fake registrations (under names as spurious as “Mickey Mouse”) and who have raided and searched ACORN offices.
Yet, as the Commission on Federal Election Reform, chaired by former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, concluded, the “electoral system cannot inspire public confidence if no safeguards exist to deter or detect fraud or to confirm the identity of voters.”
Voter ID is at the heart of everything. Too few states have laws requiring voters to show photo ID, although the U.S. Supreme Court approved such laws earlier this year in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board, upholding Indiana’s law.
Without positive ID, the Supreme Court noted, we can see a repeat of the practice perfected in the New York City elections of 1868. The Court cited a book account (“The Tweed Ring” by Alexander Callow):
William (Boss) Tweed set about solidifying and consolidating his control of the city. One local tough who worked for Boss Tweed, “Big Tim” Sullivan, insisted that his “repeaters” (individuals paid to vote multiple times) have whiskers:
“When you’ve voted ‘em with their whiskers on, you take ‘em to a barber and scrape off the chin fringe. Then you vote ‘em again with the side lilacs and a mustache. Then to a barber again, off comes the sides and you vote ‘em a third time with the mustache. If that ain’t enough and the box can stand a few more ballots, clean off the mustache and vote ‘em plain face. That makes every one of ‘em good for four votes.”
Voting four times in 1868 was nothing compared to 2008. One Ohio man says ACORN pressured him to sign 72 different voter registration cards over an 18-month span. (He could have topped the man who voted 37 times in an old 1940 movie, “The Great McGinty,” thanks to lack of voter ID.)
But did Boss Tweed have lawyers as good as those that work today for Obama and other campaigns skilled at turning the tables? As the recent letter from Obama’s lawyer states, “The current surge of Republican activity must be understood … in context of years of concerted partisan activities to use bogus claims of ‘vote fraud’ to suppress voting and to influence elections in the eleventh hour.”
Fraudulent registration is the enabler for fraudulent voting. And it often uses the mails. Hans A. von Spakovsky, former member of the Federal Election Commission and now a visiting scholar at The Heritage Foundation, relates the conclusions of a New York federal grand jury:
One of the key factors in the success of this scheme was the “advent of mail-in registration [in New York] in 1976 [which] made the creation of bogus registration cards even easier and less subject to detection.” Congress mandated the same type of New York-style mail-in registration nationwide in 1993 with the passage of the National Voter Registration Act, thus ensuring that the security problems caused by unsupervised mail-in registration in New York were spread nationwide. In fact, according to the grand jury, “mail-in registration has become the principal means of perpetrating election fraud” in New York.
The Obama campaign has asked for investigations and the silencing of others who have opposed them, but the latest controversy focuses on the crucial part of any campaign – the casting of ballots.
They propose that investigations should wait. As the second Obama letter tells the Justice Department, “Conducting investigations and leaking their existence in the weeks immediately prior to an election … cannot be justified by any legitimate law enforcement interest.”
The winner of the election will control the Justice Department, with the ability to launch, or suppress, inquiries into voter fraud. But that would be after the fact. We’re less likely to have voter fraud if we’re alerted in advance. Stolen elections are a blight on democracy; but letting one be stolen in plain sight is unforgivable.