Analyzing what ACORN says in its defense
Since mid-September, when it had become apparent that ACORN workers had committed extensive voter registration fraud in at least eleven states, ACORN has issued a series of statements defending itself.
Organizations whose donors, in some cases, overlap ACORN’s have similarly issued a series of statements defending ACORN.
The main legal claim made by ACORN and its supporters is that the organization had no legal choice but to turn in deficient forms. As one group puts it in many states, laws require the submission of the registration forms — faulty or not.
The Los Angeles Times paraphrases an ACORN spokesperson, but does factcheck the claim: “The group is barred by law from destroying such applications, but flags them and notifies local election officials in every case, he said.”
The ACORN defense on this question is weak. The facts are that:
* The law about turning in voter registration cards differs from state-to-state, but the defenses typically act as if all states where voter registration fraud occurred have basically the same law–a law that compels voter registraton workers to turn in any registration cards, including fraudulent cards. Several states where significant Acorn voter registration fraud occurred have no such laws, including Michigan. The news media has failed to pursue this point with Acorn and its apologists.
In the states where there are laws about turning in voter registration cards, Acorn and its apologists are mis-representing the laws.
With the exception of Nevada, the only requirement in states with any requirement in this area is that when a voter registration worker takes in a card from a real person who is eligible to be registered, Acorn is legally required to provide that card to election officials in the state. (These laws were passed to protect voters who thought they had registered, but whose registration was unbeknownst to them tossed in a dumpster.)
So far, so good. However, Acorn and its apologists, and the media, haven’t made the follow-on point, which is that there is no law in these states requiring Acorn to turn in fraudulent cards, because what the laws say is that if a worker registers a real person, that card must be turned in. There is no legal requirement to turn in cards from fictional characters, or ten-year-olds. There is no requirement that if an Acorn worker sits at his or her kitchen table, fraudulently filling out hundreds of faked registration cards, that those cards must be turned in, because the trigger that requires cards to be turned in (that is, a real person agreeing to be registered) hasn’t been triggered by someone sitting at his kitchen table, filling in hundreds of fake applications.
The media should be more persistent on this point. If it were true that Acorn was legally required to submit any and all faked, fraudulent, duplicated and felonious voter registration cards…how, then, is it that Acorn workers can be prosecuted for turning in these cards?
In general, the mainstream media has given Acorn a free pass because in order to seriously fact check Acorn’s excuses, their reporters would have to become familiar with voter registration laws in over 15 states. But the righty blogosphere doesn’t need to buy into what Acorn is selling.