Mitt Romney's lead over President Barack Obama in the states most likely to decide the presidential election could diminish over the next few weeks if left wing pressure groups work successfully to block ballot integrity efforts. Catherine Engelbrecht, president and founder of “True the Vote,” is blunt. She warns that 2012 could mark the end of free and fair elections in America.
“Year after year we have seen key races go down to the courts, and some real head scratching about what election law actually requires,” she said during an interview. “But the good news is that voter integrity is now part of a national movement. There’s no question that the other side is very well-organized, and very well-funded, but we have already demonstrated that even a small group of volunteers can make a significant difference.”
This was most certainly the case in Wisconsin where Tea Party activists went toe-to-toe with organized labor to help Gov. Scott Walker emerge as the winner by a clear margin in Tuesday's recall election. Another key test comes in Florida where ACORN’s Project Vote affiliate, the Fair Elections Legal Network, Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, LULAC Florida, and the Hillsborough Hispanic Coalition are pressuring Gov. Rick Scott to keep non-citizens who tend to favor Democrats registered as voters. A Quinnipiac University poll shows Romney with a slight lead in Florida.
While media attention continues to focus on Project Vote, and its history with ACORN, it is the Advancement Project that is now the lead player in the assault against voter fraud probes and photo identification requirements.
“The right to vote is the fundamental pillar of democracy,” Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, has said in media interviews. “Florida has a shameful history of purging minority voters based on false information and inaccurate lists right before presidential elections. This year’s deeply flawed process disproportionately targets Latino voters and is discriminatory, unfair and antithetical to the values of our nation.”
Founded in 1999, by civil rights attorneys, The Advancement Project describes itself as “a policy, communications and legal action group committed to racial justice.” It has offices in Washington D.C. and Los Angeles. The group’s board of directors includes activist and singer Harry Belafonte, SEIU vice-president Gerry Hudson, and Bill Lann Lee, former assistant attorney general for civil rights in the Clinton administration. Lee is currently co-director of the NAACP Los Angeles office.
Like many anti-voter integrity groups, the Advancement Project invokes a false narrative built around the disputed 2000 elections results that deliberately overlooks the many recounts that showed George W. Bush winning over Al Gore in Florida.
In a letter addressed to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, top officials with the Advancement Project, Project Vote and other allied groups argue that the current efforts aimed at purging thousands of ineligible voters from the rolls actually violate federal law. Fortunately, Detzner shows no signs of relenting. His office correctly notes that under Sec. 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) state officials are actually required to purge ineligible voters from their rolls and to maintain updated registration lists. This means they will be busy in Florida where Detzner has just announced that 53,000 dead voters are still on the rolls. The discovery was made by matching up voting rolls with the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).
Nevertheless, attorneys with the Advancement Project, the Brennan Center for Justice, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other liberal groups, claim the problem of voter fraud is greatly overstated and even non-existent. They are all part of what J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department attorney, terms an “industry of voter fraud deniers.”
The industry’s overriding priority now is to weaken voter ID laws in states where the presidential race is competitive. In Virginia, they appear to have been successful. Gov. Bob McDonnell recently signed off on voter ID legislation that Adams described as “extraordinarily timid.” The original version of the bill had strict identification requirements for voters, but under the final version that is now law cards, which do not include photos, can be shown at the polls, Adams explained. This means Gov. Romney can expect to be at a disadvantage in a state that should be his.
While the Virginia legislature was debating voter ID, an on-going state police investigation of irregularities from the 2008 election resulted in at least 40 arrests statewide, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. So far, most of the indictments brought to light in the press involve felons who are not permitted to vote unless the governor reinstates their rights. Nevertheless, felons have been approached by activists who falsely claim that they are permitted to register and to vote, Richmond Commonwealth Attorney Michael Herring told the Richmond-Times Dispatch.
That’s interesting because the Advancement Project has released several reports within the past few years aimed at restoring voting rights for convicted felons; the reports concentrate mostly on Virginia.
Anita MonCrief, an ACORN whistleblower turned conservative activist, expects the Advancement Project to assume a large profile for itself during the 2012 elections.
“The reason is obvious,” she said. “Anything Project Vote does backs up into ACORN and the Advancement Project is not as well known.”
The Advancement Project also benefits financially from George Soros-funded foundations, and politically, from President Obama’s Justice Department, which refuses to enforce the federal law against voter fraud.
Two foundations established by George Soros direct major funding to the Advancement Project. The Open Society Institute has made grants totaling $3,925,000 since 1999, and the Foundation to Promote Open Society has given it $552,775 since 2009, according to the Capital Research Center (CRC).
Other major donors compiled by CRC include the Ford Foundation ($5,266,000 since 2003), California Endowment ($2,638,212 since 2001), William & Flora Hewlett Foundation ($2,303,500 since 2001), Rockefeller Foundation ($2,150,000 since 2001), James Irvine Foundation ($1,650,000 since 2002), David & Lucile Packard Foundation ($1,230,000 since 2003), Tides Foundation ($875,540 since 2007), Charles Stewart Mott Foundation ($650,000 since 2001), and the Carnegie Corp. of New York ($584,000 since 2001).
So Engelbrecht of “True the Vote” isn’t kidding when she says the voter fraud movement is well-funded. But it is finally drawing a sharp response. Former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell recently initiated a new campaign to support measures like photo identification requirements. Their campaign, a project of the American Civil Rights Union (ACRU), is named Protect Your Vote U.S.
As Meese and Blackwell provide institutional support for legislative and legal battles against voter fraud, investigative reporter James O’Keefe is supplying publicity to highlight the problem. O’Keefe, who helped to expose ACORN with video stings in 2009, has established a non-profit Project Veritas. His undercover operations, which are available on BigGovernment.com, have exposed the complacency of poll workers toward voter fraud.
Still, by any reasonable yardstick, ballot integrity advocates remain at a disadvantage in 2012. The Left, and its allies within Democratic Party, have been adept at manufacturing fraudulent votes since John F. Kennedy was narrowly elected over Richard Nixon in 1960 with a little help from dead voters.