Federal Election Agency Altered Voter Fraud Findings
by Project Vote, Wed Apr 11, 2007 at 12:50:01 PM EDT
By Nathan Henderson-James and Michael Slater
This New York Times front page reports that the Elections Assistance Commission(EAC) altered a report to exaggerate the prevalence of voter fraud, contrary tothe authors' findings.
"A federal panel responsible for conducting election research played down the findings of experts who concluded last year that there was little voter fraud around the nation, according to a review of the original report obtained by The New York Times."
Instead, the Election Assistance Commission, issued a report that said the pervasiveness of fraud was "open to debate." A comparison between the researchers' original report and the report as released by the EAC shows that the EAC substituted its judgment for the researchers in way that completely changed the findings. The Times writes:
"Though the original report said that among experts "there is widespread but not unanimous agreement that there is little polling place fraud," the final version of the report released to the public concluded in its executive summary that "there is a great deal of debate on the pervasiveness of fraud."
Time's reporter Ian Urbina uncovered an email from the report's Republican co-author, Job Serebrov, an elections lawyer from Arkansas.
"Tova and I worked hard to produce a correct, accurate and truthful report," Mr. Serebrov wrote, referring to Tova Wang, a voting expert with liberal leanings from the Century Foundation and co-author of the report. "I could care less that the results are not what the more conservative members of my party wanted."
He added: "Neither one of us was willing to conform results for political expediency."
The findings in the unaltered report foreshadowed some of those in a more detailed report released recently by Project Vote. The Politics of Voter Fraud (PDF), written Barnard College Political Science Professor Lorraine Minnite, documents that instances of fraudulent voting, far from being the bogeyman of American politics is, in fact, vanishingly small(We also did several diaries on the issue, which you can find here, here, and here.)
The Times quotes Minnite:
"Had the researchers been able to go even further than they did, they would have come to same conclusions but they would have had more analysis backing them up," said Lorraine C. Minnite, a political science professor at Barnard College who is writing a book on voter fraud. "Instead, the commission rewrote their report and changed the thrust of its conclusions."
This story comes as evidence mounts that a central reason for the dismissal of at least two of the eight US Attorneys was their failure to satisfy Karl Rove's interest in voter fraud indictments against Democrats and organizations involved in political advocacy. In fact, this pursuit of voter fraud is something of an obsession with Rove, as reported by this article from TPM Muckraker.
The real tragedy in these stories is that the machinery in place to enhance the ability of all Americans to cast ballots for the candidates of their choice has been co-opted to pursue a partisan political goal of disenfranchising minority voters.
Americans who are concerned about the integrity of US elections should keep an eye on more than just voting equipment. The machinery of democracy is complicated and the laws, rules procedures and personnel that make it up have proven to be fertile ground for mischief and voter suppression in the past. Readers can learn more about these issues at the Project Vote website.
Nathan Henderson-James is the Director of Project Vote's Startegic Writing and Research Department.
Michael Slater is Project Vote's Deputy Director and runs its Election Administration program.