/ 19 October 2008

Early fraud claims ‘taint’ poll

An elder statesman of the Republican Party cast doubt on the legitimacy of the presidential election this week — three weeks before Americans go to the polls — by declaring that the process was already ”tainted” by voter fraud.

The assertion from John Danforth, a former Missouri senator and ambassador to the United Nations, dramatically escalates charges by the John McCain camp that Barack Obama and the community organisation Acorn are trying to steal the election by bringing new voters into the electoral system.

Danforth said canvassers for Acorn, which has registered 1,3-million new voters — mostly African-Americans, Latinos and young people — had committed widespread fraud in several battleground states.

”This election now has been tainted by something that is just plain wrong,” he said. He raised the spectre of the 2000 elections, which were undermined by the ”hanging chad” issue. ”We believe that this is a potential nightmare,” he said.

”The issue could be whether it is fair at all and whether the losing side believes it has been fairly defeated or has been cheated.”

Danforth’s appearance on Tuesday at a press conference in Washington marked the first time such a prominent figure — Republican or Democrat — has questioned the legitimacy of the November 4 elections because of the dramatic rise in voter participation this year.

It comes as the McCain camp turns increasingly vocal in accusing Obama and Acorn of seeking to steal the elections.

The charges against Acorn have grown more pointed with McCain’s slide in the opinion polls. This week Sarah Palin sought to rally the party base with a fundraising email attacking Acorn.

”We can’t allow leftist groups like Acorn to steal this election,” the email said.

The attacks on Acorn have also become a running thread on rightwing talk radio.

A number of press reports have surfaced recently about a large number of invalid registrations submitted by Acorn — some of which were revisited by Danforth.

In Nevada, canvassers submitted the names of members of the Dallas Cowboys football team and Mickey Mouse as new voters. In Indiana, they put in the name of a local restaurant — Jimmy John. In Ohio, one man registered 73 times. In Missouri, 10 registrations were submitted in the name of a dead woman.

Danforth noted that state election officials had rejected large numbers of the new registrations: 57 000 out of 233 000 in the Philadelphia area alone. However, when asked, he could not say how many were rejected because of incomplete or incorrectly filled forms, or fraud — or how many were later reinstated on appeal.

Democrats and voting rights experts say that the incidence of actual voter fraud is minimal in US elections, and easily outweighed by the number of people, mostly poor and members of minority groups, who are denied the right to vote. —