Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
A Minnesota organization whose investigation concluded comedian Al Franken might not have been chosen by voters is encouraging citizens nationwide to take back their elections by monitoring polling stations and letting authorities know immediately of anything improper.
“They should observe and report,” Dan McGrath of Minnesota Majority told WND today. “They shouldn’t get involved in confrontations or asking questions.”
But citizens should notify authorities immediately of intimidation, electioneering, suspicions about improper influence or illegal voters, said McGrath, who said organizations of interested voters concerned about the integrity of America’s vote are multiplying.
His organization probed Franken’s 312-vote victory in the U.S. Senate rate in Minnesota in 2008. Incumbent Norm Coleman was found to have more votes at the end of the polling, but the victory was given to Franken after challenged recounts.
According to records, however, at least 341 convicted felons voted in Hennepin County, where Minneapolis is located, and another 52 voted illegally in Ramsey County, home to St. Paul.
“The number of felons voting in those two counties alone exceeds … Franken’s victory margin,” according to the analysis.
McGrath said there’s no effort to invalidate the Franken election, but his group showed how the system failed to provide voters with reason to have confidence in the results.
“I don’t presume to know how those [ineligible voters] cast their ballots. I can’t say,” McGrath told WND. “What I do know is that because of the fraud that was in the system, we don’t know if we elected the person the people really wanted to elect.
“It was a serious blow [and revealed] people can’t necessarily trust the election system,” he said.
McGrath noted his organization’s investigation into the 2008 election already has resulted in 75 people charged with voter fraud and about 40 convictions. Several hundred more cases still are developing.
The organization is fighting with election officials who, in their training, targeted the pro-voter movement with warnings that their buttons — which discourage voter fraud and suggest election officials “I.D. me” — were inappropriate electioneering.
In that dispute, U.S. District Judge Joan Erickson today refused to issue a temporary restraining order sought by the Election Integrity Watch organization run by Minnesota Majority and others.
Officials with the counties closed their offices by 4:30 p.m. and could not be reached by WND for comment. Nor did Franken’s office return a WND request for comment.
The ruling from Erickson now sets the stage for election judges to have the authority to rule just about anything out of line, according to Erick Kaardal, the attorney who argued for the traditional definition of electioneering, which prohibits advocacy for or against a candidate or issue in the polling place.
He told WND the ruling allows far too much discretion for election judges. Under the provisions of the judge’s decision, he explained, parents wearing school-logo materials could be subjected to penalties should a school-related initiative be on the ballot. So could anyone wearing a Sierra Club T-shirt if an environmental measure were at issue. Even someone wearing a sports-team logo could be a problem if taxpayer funding for a stadium was up for a vote.
The Ramsey County attorney’s office contended that “Please ID Me” buttons are political because candidates Tom Emmer and Dan Severson support requiring photo ID to vote.
The Minnesota order already is at odds with a ruling from another federal judge in Arizona, who said Maricopa County cannot ban clothing worn by voters that refers to a “tea party” unless there’s also a message that tries to influence voters.
The ruling came from Judge James Teilborg, who addressed a request from the Goldwater Institute for the order. Poll workers had been telling voters to hide or remove clothing that referred to a “tea party.”
The order also prevents poll workers from recording the names of voters who wear such clothing.
The Minnesota lawsuit over the rules will be resolved only after the election, officials said.
Member groups of Election Integrity Watch maintain that it is legal to wear the “I.D. Me” buttons and tea-party apparel into the polling place, because they don’t advocate for or against a specific candidate or issue.
But officials suggested voters not get into arguments.
“We don’t want to see people disenfranchised by these unfair policies, so if you get hassled at the polls by an election judge, don’t be discouraged. Vote. You’ll have to make a choice: Take the button off and vote – then report the violation of your rights immediately and we’ll seek a temporary restraining order and injunctive relief,” said Jeff Davis of Minnesota Majority. “Voters who refuse to remove challenged materials will still be allowed to vote, but may be subjected to petty misdemeanor charges that would have to be challenged in an administrative hearing.”
In the Minnesota case, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., crashed a news conference held by the organization to announce its lawsuit and criticized those who were concerned about voting rights:
A dispute already has arisen in this year’s election in Texas. A poll-watching organization discovered thousands of apparently fraudulent signatures in voter registrations and then suffered the attack of a George-Soros-funded organization.
Those poll watchers said they also discovered election judges and clerks allegedly voting for citizens who were undecided, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee allegedly electioneering in a polling location and other infractions.
“Only a week into early voting, volunteer poll-watchers also are being verbally and physically harassed by people loitering at the polls with no intention to vote at the time, including a man identified as a reverend and Houston Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who was seen inside the polling location electioneering and threatening to turn a poll-watcher’s name to the Department of Justice for voter intimidation,” said a statement from Liberty Institute, which is representing the poll watchers.
The dispute has its roots in the bitter fight over elections that has developed in 2010, as Democrats both nationally and locally are feeling the sting of abandonment by voters enraged by President Obama’s big-government policies.
WND reported when the U.S. Department of Justice confirmed it would investigate Democrat complaints of “intimidation” by “white middle-class” poll observers in minority precincts in Harris County, Texas. They were accused of “hovering” around voters.
The investigation followed by only months a decision at the highest levels of the DOJ that the charges in a case against members of the New Black Panther party, caught on video swinging a baton in front of a Philadelphia polling station in 2008, mostly would be dropped.
The situation in Houston erupted after workers with a volunteer organization called True the Vote investigated the work of a Houston Votes group and found that, of the 25,000 voter registrations submitted, only 7,193 apparently were actually valid.
And, in Illinois, there even was concern about Michelle Obama’s actions at a polling place, highlighted on the Drudge Report, where she let other voters take photographs with her.
“She was telling me how important it was to vote to keep her husband’s agenda going,” reported electrician Dennis Campbell, who was voting at the time.
But Drudge quoted a state law that prohibits electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place.
A state board-of-elections official argued, “You kind of have to drop the standard for the first lady, right? I mean, she’s pretty well liked and probably doesn’t know what she’s doing.”
As WND reported, the Justice Department originally brought the case against four armed men who witnesses say derided voters with catcalls of “white devil” and “cracker” and told voters they should prepare to be “ruled by the black man.”
One poll watcher called police after he reportedly saw one of the men brandishing a nightstick to threaten voters.
“As I walked up, they closed ranks, next to each other,” the witness told Fox News at the time. “So I walked directly in between them, went inside and found the poll watchers. They said they’d been here for about an hour. And they told us not to come outside because a black man is going to win this election no matter what.”
He said the man with a nightstick told him, “‘We’re tired of white supremacy,’ and he starts tapping the nightstick in his hand. At which point I said, ‘OK, we’re not going to get in a fistfight right here,’ and I called the police.”
Subsequently, former DOJ attorney J. Christian Adams testified before the U.S. Civil Rights Commission that the Voting Section of Attorney General Eric Holder’s organization is dominated by a “culture of hostility” toward bringing cases against blacks and other minorities who violate voting-rights laws.
Further, two other former U.S. Department of Justice attorneys later corroborated key elements of the explosive allegations by Adams.
One of Adams’ DOJ colleagues, former Voting Section trial attorney Hans A. von Spakovsky, told WND he saw Adams was being attacked in the media for lack of corroboration. He said he knew Adams was telling the truth, so he decided on his own to step forward.
It was Adams who had been ordered by his superiors to drop the case prosecutors already had won. When they were ordered to stop prosecution, Adams and the team of DOJ lawyers had already won the case by default because the New Black Panthers declined to defend themselves in court. At that point in the proceedings, the DOJ team was simply waiting for the judge to assign penalties against the New Black Panthers.