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Commentary: ACORN issue not vote fraud, but vote suppression

  • Story Highlights
  • Donna Brazile: With all the big issues we face, ACORN is a distraction
  • Brazile: ACORN is a public spirited organization that pointed out the problems
  • No fraudulent votes cast, only fraudulent voter registrations, Brazile says
  • Brazile: Republicans hyping ACORN story to discourage people from voting
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By Donna Brazile
CNN Contributor
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Editor's Note: Donna Brazile, a Democratic strategist, serves as a political contributor for CNN. She also serves as the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee's Voting Rights Institute, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and founder of Brazile & Associates, a Washington-based political consulting firm. Brazile, who served as the campaign manager for the Al Gore-Joe Lieberman ticket in 2000, wrote "Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pots in American Politics," a memoir about her life in politics.

Donna Brazile says ACORN is dedicated to supporting social justice and better communities.

Donna Brazile says ACORN is dedicated to supporting social justice and better communities.

(CNN) -- Our nation's economic foundation is crumbling like sand beneath our feet. Middle-class families are losing their jobs, homes, savings accounts and college funds.

Retirement nest eggs are fried to a crisp. Nine million children in America don't have health care coverage. We're fighting wars on more fronts than we can handle.

And John McCain is talking about ACORN?

Just as a top McCain adviser admitted that his candidate wouldn't campaign on the economy because it's a losing issue, so too it seems that the GOP has made a collective decision to abandon any real discussion of the issues in favor of distortion and distraction.

Through its 850 neighborhood chapters in more than 100 cities across the United States, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now organizes the powerless to work together for social justice and stronger communities through affordable housing, quality education and better public services. They are dedicated to looking out for those with little means in our society.

In the world of some elites, low- and moderate-income families and the organizations that work to empower them are the bad guys. There is all-out class warfare going on here, folks.

Another example of it is how people in the low-income bracket are being blamed for the subprime market crash -- rather than the unscrupulous lenders who redirected them from the fixed 30-year prime rates they could have paid to the subprime and adjustable rate mortgages destined to implode. The victims are revictimized.

It is an unfortunate reality that "poor" and "racial minority" are invariably overlapping circles in a Venn diagram. But the class animosity now being bred is, as it always has been, a cover for racial antipathy. And, make no mistake, this is exactly what's going on here. How pathetic and immoral in the face of the challenges we must confront as a nation.

Experts who have examined the allegations against ACORN have concluded that there is no significant threat of voter fraud. For the fraudulent registration forms to turn into fraudulent votes, they would have had to get through the election officials' vetting systems and make it onto the voter rolls.

Next, someone would need to arrive at the assigned polling location with valid identification that lists the same name and address as the fraudulent registration. (This is fairly difficult to do if you're dead or named Mickey Mouse.)

Then, having passed all these hurdles, that someone would cast a vote that will cost him or her 10 years in jail. Just find me someone willing to spend 10 years in jail just for a chance to vote for Obama or McCain?

Let's look at the facts. ACORN labeled as "suspicious" the fraudulent registration forms a few of its paid volunteers submitted. Moreover, ACORN delivered them to election authorities under that heading. ACORN offered to help election officials pursue prosecutions against those who filled out the fraudulent forms.

The so-called ACORN scandal is no more than a few canvassers trying to meet their quota and make easy money by cheating the system.

Ask yourself how likely is it that someone would go through the effort and risk of submitting multiple false registration forms, find an accomplished forger capable of producing IDs of sufficient quality to trick election officials, and then spend Election Day racking up a couple extra votes at the potential cost of spending a decade in jail?

A simple cost-benefit analysis tells us this is not a reasonable or significant threat. The real threat here is the Republican Party using attacks on ACORN as a calculated strategy to justify massive challenges to the votes cast in Democratic-leaning voting precincts on Election Day. And this is what is truly outrageous, but where is John McCain's concern when it comes to people being harassed at the voting booth?

The same Republican Party shouting "Voter fraud!" is also furiously trying to prevent Ohio from registering voters at early voting sites and suing to shut down some early voting sites in Indiana.

Just as the GOP will use the so-called "Bradley effect" to explain away voting irregularities it created through voter suppression, it will use allegations of voter fraud to cover its efforts of voter suppression.

McCain and Republican candidates up and down the GOP ticket don't want increased voter turnout.

Let them sputter and fret. A swelling of the voter rolls strengthens our democracy. The more eligible voters we have participating in the process, the stronger we are as a nation -- and the more accurately the results on November 4 will reflect our nation's choice for president.

We must be vigilant in protecting people's right to vote, not vigilant in suppressing it. We must be vigilant that new voters aren't threatened, harassed or turned away. And we must be vigilant that resources like voting machines and poll workers are distributed appropriately to accommodate the projected influx of new voters.

Finally, we must be vigilant that this election, unlike 2000 or 2004, doesn't return conspicuous voting irregularities, and that those irregularities aren't left unchallenged.

We must be vigilant in the protection of our democracy because the way things are going in the United States right now, democracy may be the only valuable left in our national treasury.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

All About Elections and VotingRepublican PartyJohn McCain

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