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A Pockmark Upon Both Houses

As Dahlia Lithwick has shrewdly pointed out, vote fraud—that is, an illegitimate voter actually going to polls and pulling the lever—is purely a canard. The allegations being leveled against ACORN aren’t about vote fraud; they’re about voter registration fraud, and the two are hardly synonymous. As Lithwick says, “even if [Mickey] Mouse is registered to vote, he still needs to show up at his polling place, provide a fake ID, and risk a felony conviction to do so.” It’s hardly part of some grand conspiracy by politicians to steal an election—and even if they wanted to do so, it wouldn’t be a very effective tactic. In reality, allegations of registration fraud have cropped up because of a few dubious, isolated actors in scattered locales—a pesky problem that’s afflicted both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Take what’s happened this past weekend in California, where the head of Young Political Majors—a signature-gathering firm hired by the state GOP—was arrested on suspicion of voter registration fraud. The firm’s owner, Mark Jacoby, has been charged with fraudulently registering himself to vote at a Los Angeles address where he no longer resides. As the Los Angeles Times reports, Jacoby’s firm is also under investigation. Dozens of Democratic voters in California say that YPM duped them into joining the GOP through a bait-and-switch scheme:

Voters…said they were tricked into switching parties while signing what they believed were petitions for tougher penalties against child molesters. Some said they were told that they had to become Republicans to sign the petition, contrary to California initiative law.

The Democratic voters who say they were victims of this ruse are understandably outraged. But have these faulty registrations somehow brainwashed them into voting Republican? Nope. Has the state’s Democratic Party begun hyperventilating about how Jacoby and his ilk are “perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history” through their nefarious scheme? Not that I can see.

The point is that these types of incidents have been limited to a few bad apples, occasionally resulting in irregularities that have pockmarked both parties’ registration drives. But it’s the Democrats who get accused more often of voter fraud far more often—they’re the party who’s typically been trying to boost voter registration and turnout, so they will statistically suffer from greater “quality control,” as Jack Shafer explains. As such, it’s in the Republicans’ interest both to blow the issue entirely out of proportion and to pretend as though their own party is immune to the problem.

--Suzy Khimm