Republican campaign strategy in Indiana: the other guys are cheating

 

As part of what is either an incredible series of coincidences or a last minute political strategy, Republicans in Indiana spent every day of the past week laying the groundwork for how they plan to explain defeat, should it come on Nov. 4.

It’s an explanation offered most succinctly by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham as he campaigned for the McCain-Palin ticket here in Indiana on Thursday, “I think the only way we lose a state like North Carolina or Indiana is to get cheated out of it.”

To prove that point, Republicans spent every day of the week pointing fingers and crying foul.

On Monday, Republicans questioned the number of registered voters in Marion Co. and questioned Clerk Beth White’s math and ability to do her job after the Election Board released a statement saying that there are now 674,436 registered voters in Marion County.

“So we have 644,197 people eligible to be registered in Marion County/Indianapolis, and 677,401 people registered,” wrote a local Republican blogger as part of his examination of White’s numbers. “Congratulations go to Indianapolis for having 105 percent of its residents registered!”

Local and national media outlets quickly picked up on the story, and soon even the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. was citing the 105 percent number as evidence of cheating.

But just how does Marion Co. end up with more registered voters than eligible voters? John Riordan,  the Democratic co-director of Marion Co. Voter Registration  explains.

“When we receive a registration from a voter, we add them to the list. If we can absolutely confirm that the same voter is registering at a new address by matching the name, DOB, driver’s license or SSN as well as the signature, we will cancel the earlier registration. Barring a match of all of those criteria, we end up with a duplicate registration. To cure that problem, we perform mandatory voter list maintenance activities.

“There was a statewide mailer program in 2006 that allowed us to identify roughly 50,000 voters who appear to no longer live here,” he cites as but one example of the maintenance. “They will be eligible for removal after this Presidential Election.”

“In light of this,” Riordan says, “it is clear that ALL voter lists, not just Marion Co., carry some people who simply no longer reside in the county.”

On Tuesday, Marion Co. Republican Party Chairman Tom John called for an investigation into whether Marion Co. Clerk Beth White “misused her office by encouraging voters to early vote for Barack Obama.”

“Beth White took an oath to uphold the laws of the State of Indiana. Yet, Beth White went on television to promote efforts by Barack Obama that are legally questionable, if not downright illegal,” said John. “Those in a position to do so, should immediately investigate whether Beth White and Barack Obama have broken the law.”

John was reacting to a TV news interview with White on Sunday, asking if she expected heavier than usual turnout for early voting in her office, which began the following day.  As part of her answer, White mentioned that the Obama campaign was reportedly giving those who voted early preferred seating at the upcoming rally.

“This was not some idle comment to a reporter. Beth White looked straight at the camera and the voters at home and told them they would get special seats to the Obama Rally if they voted early. That was wrong, and she should be ashamed of herself for misusing her office in such a blatantly partisan manner.”

White’s office rejects the allegations. “The question was asked in context of why we believed early in-person voting would be heavy on the first day (Monday, Oct. 6),” says Angela Nussmyer, Public Information Officer for the Clerk’s Office. “Beth mentioned the rally, using it as a reason for expected high, in-office traffic. We can’t control the clips the stations use.”

And then it was Wednesday, and it was a question of ballot error that had John and Marion County Republicans holding another press conference. Where White was enticing voters a day or so earlier, this time she was disenfranchising them.

After learning that a handful of the 13,000 Marion Co. voters who have requested absentee ballots from the clerk’s office had received ballots for races outside their congressional district, Republicans held another press conference warning that White was “possibly endangering the votes of countless Indianapolis residents.”

“I am very concerned that voters may not realize they are receiving the wrong ballots, and in turn will never have the chance to cast their intended vote for Congress or the State Legislature,” said Republican Sen. Theresa Lubbers who is up for re-election. “We need to bring attention to this so voters can check their ballots before they are returned.”

“Voters have the right to know their votes may be jeopardized,” John said, “and White has a duty to inform them that she may be disenfranchising them.”

When asked about the ballot mistakes, White’s office explains that human error is regrettable, but expected in an election with more than 240 different ballots and a procedure is in place for making corrections.

“As of this afternoon (Friday, Oct.10), 39 people have contacted our office about receiving the wrong absentee ballot out of the more than 13,000 ballots mailed since October 1,” Nussmeyer told NUVO. “All of those calls had been addressed and paperwork dispatched to correct the problem. It’s unfortunate any time a voter receives a wrong ballot, but it’s not terribly uncommon for it to happen in any county.”

By Thursday and Friday, it was the news of fraudulent voter registration forms being turned in by the non-profit group ACORN that dominated the headlines and had Republican Indiana Secretary of State Todd Rokita, calling for an investigation.

“I’m being made aware of instances of voter registration fraud by ACORN and others, from all corners of the state and across the country. I take these very seriously,” said Rokita.

In a letter to Indiana Attorney General and Republican Steve Carter, Rokita said he received detailed complaints from Lake County residents of “hundreds, perhaps thousands” of registration forms being turned in with inaccurate or fictitious information.

Here in Marion Co., Riordan says there is no evidence of widespread fraud or abuse of the voter registration system.

“ACORN notified us in August of this year that they would be performing registration drives in Marion County, he explained. “While we identified a few, less than five I think, registrations that did not pass our standard screening, we did not see any evidence of fraud or even widespread discrepancy in registrations forms received from ACORN or any other group.”

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