Tuesday, October 14, 2008

ACORN: As a Practical Matter...

...no big deal. It's a pretty inefficient way to grab votes. Let Democrats waste their energy on it.

It goes against the grain to say that for those of us who are concerned with principle as well as practical effect. Also, the fact that it is unlikely to make much difference does not mean that it is impossible that all may hang on it. Voter registration fraud is far less bad than voter fraud, but it still cheapens the legitimate votes. Counterfeit money pushes down the value of the real.

Republicans reason that votes of the homeless and street people are going to tend Democratic, so inflating those numbers are going to generally increase votes for Democrats. Fraudulently. This irks us no end. Seeing the numbers of fraudulent registrations mounting into the thousands raises the specter that those registrations could at least theoretically turn into votes. Appalling.

Democrats like to encourage ACORN because they see the same numbers. They have some interest in winking at fraud; the Republicans have a stake in preventing it.

Tangentially, wouldn't we all like to have an alternate universe where counterfactuals are played out, to observe whether the Republicans and Democrats would switch places on the purging the rolls/inflating the rolls question if poor people were more likely to vote the other way? We can only speculate.

But what are these numbers really? The street-level employee of ACORN needs quantity, quota. Whatever his superiors might hope about increasing votes for Democrats, whatever he may hope himself, he has a financial incentive not to trash Republican registrations. Furthermore, getting caught at that would be far more a criminal problem than merely not scrutinizing registrations that have the right boxes checked but may be suspect. Bad press. Big problem.

Those registrations of the underserved poor may lean Democrat, but they are not 100% Democrat. Anyone who has tried to persuade homeless or marginal people of anything knows it's not a sure bet. If they just wanted Democratic registrations and were going to somehow lose all the Republican ones, they'd send their people everywhere - shopping malls, boat marinas, synagogues. Clearly, some folks at ACORN genuinely want the poor to be registered, and voting as they hope is simply a bonus. Whether that is 10% of the people at ACORN or 90%, I don't know. But that's how they run their show.

So you get 5000 registrations, and you know that most of them are bogus. How many of those can you turn into votes? How many cartons of cigarettes and minibuses are you going to need to make this go? And how will you hide that in the billing?

Interesting personal note: Chris was registered to vote in NH, but moved to Texas August 2007. When I went to vote here in NH in March, his name was still on the rolls. I told them he had moved. Honor system. I had done this before when Jonathan and Ben had moved. I don't think Chris has done anything about this since moving back. He's going to show up to vote (maybe. He's 21, right?) and maybe not be allowed to. Or maybe will be. He could probably vote in both Texas and NH if he worked at it with absentee ballots. How likely is that?

Who's the guy in Cleveland that's going to find people to shuttle around all day to vote in 6 precincts each? How many will still be agreeing to wait in line at the fourth stop? I think that is a great use of time for Democratic volunteers on election day. Knock yourself out. Keep working with homeless people getting them to do something abstract for their own good and you'll be a conservative in five years.


Ben Wyman said...

I toyed with the idea of voting by absentee ballot in NH this year, since none of the elections I would be casting my vote for here are in any way undecided - whereas NH is still up for grabs.

Anonymous said...

Seeing the numbers of fraudulent registrations mounting into the thousands raises the specter that those registrations could at least theoretically turn into votes. Appalling.

And we also get to hear NPR et al. rattle on about how Democrat voter registrations are up this year and Republican ones are down, leading us to the - ahem - inevitable conclusion.

Of any voter registrations that are demonstrably fraudulent, I would be curious to see how the D/R split breaks out.