With the election just over two weeks away, Washington insiders are ramping up their discussion about voter fraud and voter protection (something we recently talked about here at W&M ACS). In fact, the FBI recently leaked information that they would begin an investigation as to whether ACORN “helped foster voter registration fraud around the nation before the presidential election” and whether there is “any evidence of a coordinated national scam.”
However, this leak to the press appears to contradict the new Justice Department policy established in 2007 in the wake of the scandal about the politicization of U.S. Attorney firings. Specifically, the language of the “Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses” (PDF) manual states:
Election fraud cases often depend on the testimony of individual voters whose votes were co-opted in one way or another. But in most cases voters should not be interviewed, or other voter-related investigation done, until after the election is over. Such overt investigative steps may chill legitimate voting activities. They are also likely to be perceived by voters and candidates as an intrusion into the election. Indeed, the fact of a federal criminal investigation may itself become an issue in the election.
In fact, the mere rumors of this FBI investigation have already become a campaign issue (see e.g. final presidential debate commentary on voter fraud “destroying the fabric of our democracy” (Sidenote: What fabric is our democracy? Polyester-Cotton hybrid? Hypercolor?!!!)).
Election law experts have challenged the assertion that widespread voting fraud even exists, and have countered that argument with the suggestion that voter identification laws will disenfranchise thousands of new legitimate voters. National ACS recently hosted a panel titled “Voting Rights in the 2008 Election: How Do We Ensure Every Vote Counts?” in order to shed some light on this topic.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user BHowdy.