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Voter Fraud or Voter Suppression?

The 2000 presidential election between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush was marked by midnight ballot-counting chaos. Americans went to bed thinking Gore had won only to awake the next morning to the news that results could not confirm a clear winner. Confusion ensued and all eyes turned to Florida and its disputed Electoral votes, along with reports of voter confusion, misinformation, and ballot irregularities.  

In 2004, several states faced allegations of voter purges and electronic vote tampering. While voters had difficulty casting ballots often and faced being turned away from polling places, Republicans and Democrats accused each other of illegal misconduct. 

This year, voting fraud charges began months before the election. John McCain and the Republican Party accused Democrat Barack Obama’s campaign of being linked to the community group ACORN (the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which they charged with submitting thousands of false voter-registration applications. Republican National Committee spokesman Danny Diaz labeled ACORN a "quasi criminal group," and McCain once again questioned Obama’s ties to community organizations and activists he deemed questionable.

ACORN’s mission is to advocate for low- and moderate-income families, and the organization has a history of registering Americans of color to vote in what they say is an effort to ensure that everyone who is legally able is prepared to vote. The recent GOP accusations lead to a legal battle that placed holds on early voting in Gary, Hammond, East Chicago and Ohio. Republicans claimed opening these early voting satellite locations would strain the election staffs efforts to stop voter fraud while Democrats claimed that the predicted record turnout on election day necessitates that these early sites remain open.  On Oct. 14, Indiana’s Lake Circuit Judge Lorenzo Arredondo sided with Democrats and two unions, ordering election officials to open sites in Indiana. The U.S. Supreme Court also ordered early-voting sites to open in Ohio.

The voter suppression moves may be great fodder for late night comics, but the actions are starting to anger community activists, who feel they are being targeted for their outreach efforts, and Americans who simply want their vote counted.

Are the accusations against ACORN politics as usual? Is voter fraud occurring at the rate that the GOP claims? What kinds of complications should voters expect to face at the polls on Election Day? Is this initial controversy a precursor to what we can expect election night? Can American’s trust the voting system? What are the implications of voter suppression? Is conservative outrage being used to strip away at the momentum of first-time voters? How do these tactics affect the integrity of political campaigns?

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