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McCain Campaign "Stoking" Unjust Fears of Vote Fraud

Katharine Seelye: McCain's comments "threw another log onto a fire already burning in the conservative blogosphere and on talk radio..."

Katharine Seelye's "McCain's Warning About Voter Fraud Stokes a Fiery Campaign Even Further," dismissed the McCain campaign's warnings about the threat of vote fraud from groups like the left-wing ACORN. (Even the headline stoked the idea that McCain's concerns were irresponsible and purely political.)


Seelye's Monday story underlined the fact that thevote-fraud allegationwas a big hit in "the conservative blogosphere and on talk radio," no doubt marginalizing the issue's weight with the self-styled sophisticates who read the Times. Seelye quoted five voting rights experts (not including those connected to the GOP or the Democrats), all of whom arguing that vote fraud wasn't a valid concern.


Senator John McCain warned at the last presidential debate that the Nov. 4 election could be marred by voter fraud and added that Acorn, an organizing group in minority and low-income communities, was "now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy."


The comments by Mr. McCain, the Republican nominee for president, threw another log onto a fire already burning in the conservative blogosphere and on talk radio, where McCain supporters contend that the Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama, is trying to "steal" the election through groups like Acorn (an accusation the Obama campaign calls outlandish).


The disclosure on Thursday that 30 percent of the 1.3 million voter registrations gathered by Acorn were faulty turned the issue into a roaring bonfire. Among the problems were registration forms filled out by "Mickey Mouse" and the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys.


Seelye hid liberals like Wade Henderson of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights under the protective clothing of "voting rights advocates" who just happened to believe the GOP is engaged in an anti-vote conspiracy:


Voting rights advocates say the Republicans' accusations of fraud (even though party operatives themselves face possible charges of fraud, most notably in California) are part of a deliberate strategy to create confusion among voters, to galvanize the conservative base and to set the table for possible legal challenges of voters at the polls and of the election results.


Later, Seelye lined up three liberal sources in a row to knock down concerns about vote fraud:


[Liberal lawyer Jonah] Goldman said his concern with what he called pre-election hysteria was that it "ripens the climate for challenges" by undermining confidence in an already-vulnerable election system, one with incomplete voter rolls, long lines, misinformation and unreliable machines....Richard L. Hasen, a professor specializing in election law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said the Republicans were intentionally trying to foster an atmosphere of mistrust....Alexander Keyssar, a voting expert at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard...suggested another possible strategic reason for Mr. McCain's comments: an effort to "reinforce an image of the Democrats, or at least some Democrats, as the party that, A, will steal elections, and B, will steal elections by somehow mobilizing this threatening nameless mass of people who are 'other,'" a reference to the mostly minority and low-income people registered in drives like Acorn's.


More soothing words near the end of Seelye's story:


Voting rights advocates say that there is no correlation between fraudulent registrations and fraudulent voting and that past elections have shown little evidence of actual voter fraud. While it does occur, they say, it is hardly rampant.