Fraud Allegations Cripple GOP Registration Drives

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Registered to vote (Flickr)

The darkly comic irony of it all has only been lost on Republican Party officials. They were the ones who had to scramble last week to disassociate themselves from a company hired by the GOP to register voters in Florida and several other states that allegedly has engaged in “irregularities.” Irregularities like the ones Republicans in the recent past have accused Democrats and such left-leaning groups as the now-deceased ACORN of committing.

Those past allegations from Republicans and others have been used as talking points in the current wave of voter ID and other registration and election legislation, including the purging of voter rolls. Many of those new rules are being fought in court as opponents insist that they’re thinly veiled attempts to keep minorities and others from casting their ballots.

But now, as reported by The Los Angeles Times:

“Election officials in at least 11 Florida counties have uncovered potentially fraudulent voter registration forms submitted on behalf of the state GOP, a debacle that has punctured a hole in the Republican National Committee’s get-out-the-vote operation less than six weeks before election day.

By Friday, elections supervisors had found dozens of forms turned in by the party that had wrong birthdays or spellings of names that didn’t match signatures. In other cases, multiple forms were filled out in the same handwriting. One voter in Palm Beach County was registered to an address that is a Land Rover dealership.”

Strategic Allied Consulting is the creation of Nathan Sproul, an activist and political consultant with a checkered past when it comes to “irregularities.”
The company in question, Strategic Allied Consulting, was hired to increase Republican registration in seven swing states and reportedly was paid at least $3.1 million by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and state Republican committees which were to be reimbursed by the RNC. In addition to Florida, problems have appeared in some of the other states as well and as of Monday, according to The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, with the election little more than a month away and registration deadlines rapidly approaching, the party has suspended its sign-up drives in all seven states.

Strategic Allied Consulting is the creation of Nathan Sproul, an activist and political consultant with a checkered past when it comes to “irregularities.” Allegations go back as far as 2004. Correspondent Michael Isikoff told MSNBC’s Martin Bashir:

“He had been accused of voter suppression, throwing away Democratic registration forms. There are more recent allegations relating to an electoral scheme in Arizona to allegedly violate election laws by running an independent expenditure campaign on behalf of an attorney general candidate there. I should point out that there have been no charges filed against Mr. Sproul or any of his companies, but they were concerned enough so that when Sproul got hired in just this past June, he acknowledges that he set up a separate company under this name, Strategic Allied Consulting, so that it wouldn’t [be traced] back to the other names that he’s operated under, Lincoln Strategy Group is the main one, and so it was clear that they were concerned, both he and the RNC… Sproul told me that he did this at the request of the RNC, so there was clearly concern on both parties’ part that some of these past controversies would get some attention if it was known that he was conducting this very major nationwide battleground registration effort on behalf of the RNC.”

Voter registration fraud is registering people to vote who don’t exist or signing up legitimate voters without their signatures or permission and so forth.”
A spokesman for the Republican National Committee disputed Sproul’s claim that they had condoned his establishment of Strategic Allied Consulting as a separate entity. And Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall cautioned,

“… Before going any further, let’s clarify one point. Voter registration fraud is not vote fraud… Vote fraud is what most of us think of: voting twice, voting when you’re not eligible to vote, stuffing ballot boxes with phony ballots and so forth. Voter registration fraud is registering people to vote who don’t exist or signing up legitimate voters without their signatures or permission and so forth. Big difference.

“Ironically it’s been Republicans, in their effort to pass vote-suppressing voter ID laws, who’ve intentionally conflated the two (often with the help of ignorant reporters). To be clear, just because you register Mickey Mouse or Mary Poppins to vote doesn’t mean they’re going to show up to vote. Indeed, they’re not going to. Because they don’t exist. And even when it’s John Smith or Party Morgan, conspirators don’t show up to vote in those people’s name either. There’s abundant evidence and simple logic that attests to this. Most of what voter registration fraud does is clog up voting lists with phony names.”

Nevertheless, as The Los Angeles Times notes, “If fraudulent forms were inadvertently processed, they could create obstacles for voters at the polls. Poll workers can challenge voters if their signature is different than that on their registration. Voters can cast a ballot if their address has been changed within the same county, but only once poll workers are able to establish that they are in the correct precinct.”

Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, Democrat and ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has begun an inquiry and on Monday requested documents from and an interview with Nathan Sproul. A press release from Rep. Cummings’ office states:

“Cummings asked Sproul to provide copies of all contracts and correspondence with the RNC, state political parties, and other entities in establishing the company, all materials used for voter registration training, and any information alleging irregularities with its voter registration efforts.”

Meanwhile, in a separate investigation, the LA Times reported, “Aggressive recruitment efforts in one of California’s most hotly contested voting districts has created a surge of newly minted Republicans like Marleny Reyes. Except she had no intention of joining the GOP…

“Formal complaints filed with the state by at least 133 residents of a state Senate district there say they were added to GOP rolls without their knowledge, calling into question the party’s boast that Republican membership has rocketed 23% in the battleground area.”

Many of those who were falsely registered said they thought they were signing petitions to get measures on the November ballot. Marleny Reyes said “she was told that for her signature to be counted she would also have to fill out a registration form” but because she already was registered as a Democrat did not check off a party preference.

A spokeswoman for the Golden State Voter Participation Project, the group overseeing the Republican registration drive, denied the charges and told the Center for Investigative Journalism’s California Watch that there was “zero tolerance” for fraud.

Addendum: There’s a new and fascinating piece by David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post on the actual purchasing of votes. The price, he writes, “varies from place to place. But it is rarely more than a tank of gas. Indeed, as a rising furor over voter fraud has prodded some states to mount extensive efforts against illegal voters, election-fraud cases more often involve citizens who sell their votes, usually remarkably cheaply. In West Virginia over the past decade, the cost was as low as $10. Last year in West Memphis, Ark., a statehouse candidate used $2 half-pints of vodka.”

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