Government Investigators Launch Probes About Republican Registration Contractor

Prosecutors in California and Florida have launched investigations against Young Political Majors (YPM), a company contracted by the Republican Party to seek voter registrations. YPM is accused of fraudulently changing voter registrations and impermissibly registering voters as absentee.

It is a bait-and-switch scheme familiar to election experts. The firm hired by the California Republican Party — a small company called Young Political Majors, or YPM, which operates in several states — has been accused of using the tactic across the country.

Election officials and lawmakers have launched investigations into the activities of YPM workers in Florida and Massachusetts. In Arizona, the firm was recently a defendant in a civil rights lawsuit. Prosecutors in Los Angeles and Ventura counties say they are investigating complaints about the company.

The firm, which a Republican Party spokesman said is paid $7 to $12 for each registration it secures, has denied any wrongdoing and says it has never been charged with a crime.

Between this issue and the issues surrounding ACORN, it’s clear that something needs to change with the way we register voters. A slip of paper that can be filled out by anybody as long as they have some information is clearly not a satisfactory method. What’s more, perfectly reasonable laws in this case can be exploited. For example, most states require that any registration card that is completely filled out has to be turned in, even if it’s obviously wrong–which is how “Mickey Mouse” gets registered.

Something’s gotta change here. I’m not sure I have any good suggestions, but the status quo is clearly a problem.

(link via Mark Kleiman)

FILED UNDER: US Politics, , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    Something’s gotta change here. I’m not sure I have any good suggestions, but the status quo is clearly a problem.

    It is wrong to equate the fraud on the voter being perpetrated by YPM and ACORN.

    In the latter, it is ACORN who is the victim of fraud.

    One of the dumber things the crazy and frightened McCain said at the debate was that ACORN’s drives were “the greatest menace to our democracy.”

    The only ones being defrauded here are ACORN since they create an incentive for their contractors to give them boatloads of registrations.

    If someone fills out “Mickey Mouse” on a registration form, the registration is invalidated and they dont vote.

  2. Bithead says:

    Bull.

  3. John Burgess says:

    Something that could be done is to require positive proof of identity when registering and when voting.

    This means that all voter registration polls will have to be trashed after this election and everyone will need to register anew. That’s no fun, but it’s necessary to the integrity of the process.

    Start the process in Feb. or March 2009. Go ahead and have ACORN run its trawl through the homeless and the disinterested. But ACORN will also have to help people get copies of the documentation needed to affirm positive ID.

  4. Jeffrey W. Baker says:

    John: There are two problems. One, you don’t want precinct workers being the judge of identification papers. Should the ancient retirees working my precinct be able to deny me a ballot, just because of their opinion about my ID card? No, they should not.

    Secondly no identification is needed to vote by mail. Therefore you have created two classes of voters: those who need ID papers to vote in person, and those who vote by mail and don’t need papers. This is not to mention that a surprisingly large number of people lack adequate identification papers entirely.

    It’s all a moot point because the actual instances of vote fraud in the USA every year are in the low single digits if not zero. Your identification scheme is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Fraudulent voting is a felony, and Republican prosecutors have been scouring the countryside for perpetrators for the last decade, but almost nobody has ever been successfully prosecuted for vote fraud.

  5. Kilo says:

    Something’s gotta change here. I’m not sure I have any good suggestions, but the status quo is clearly a problem.

    What exactly would the problem be with sending out registration forms in the post to every address that is registered for land taxes, etc ?

    Either you fill it in, quote your SSN and personal details and lodge it before the registration deadline and you can vote, or you don’t and you can’t.

    The system you are describing makes sense if illiteracy was the norm or everyone had agreed that self-form-filling-out was just out of the question.

  6. carpeicthus says:

    There are a LOT of problems here, and the current system isn’t as bad as some of the solutions would be. After all, Mickey Mouse isn’t going to actually vote, and should you just turn away a registration card immediately because it says Mickey Mouse? After all, there’s a guy in Kansas legally named Optimus Prime. What happens to his card?

  7. Eric says:

    It is wrong to equate the fraud on the voter being perpetrated by YPM and ACORN.

    In the latter, it is ACORN who is the victim of fraud.

    Bull.

    Bitsy, I take your reply to mean that despite all the facts emerging that voter registration fraud was committed against ACORN, you’ll choose to believe your own ossified version of reality and instead believe ACORN was perpetuating voter fraud. I suppose it’s also safe to assume that you believe YPM is the victim of a liberal conspiracy, yes?

    We all await your rationalization how YPM are sweet, innocent buttercups while ACORN are dark, hirsute infidels, ahem, “destroying the fabric of our democracy.”

  8. Kilo says:

    After all, there’s a guy in Kansas legally named Optimus Prime. What happens to his card?

    It turns into a toaster oven.

  9. sam says:

    @Kilo:

    What exactly would the problem be with sending out registration forms in the post to every address that is registered for land taxes, etc.?

    Nothing, of course, but how would that capture folks who rent?

    @ John Burgess:

    Something that could be done is to require positive proof of identity when registering and when voting.

    Some folks, e.g, Matt Yglesias, according to Kevin Drum, have made the argument for a national id card. I know that idea raises the hackles of a lot of people, but we do have something agin to that with our Social Security cards.

  10. just me says:

    Nothing, of course, but how would that capture folks who rent?

    Maybe the government should buy some of the lists off the junk mail out folks-they hit every address.

    That said, I think the real answer is that you do not have a paid or volunteer person stand outside Wal-Mart trying to register voters.

    You require that if they want to vote they go to an approved registration station and have them produce proof of who they are, and where they live with photo ID and some type of utility bill. Not sure where they leaves the homeless-maybe require they provide a social security number or some such.

    But you could have a few valid registration places-maybe the post office, city or town hall, and some other city municipal type places.

    ACORN and the like could help get unregistered voters to those places, and in that case paying them to haul people to voting registration spots would at least provide real work that doesn’t involve filling out fake registrations.

    There is a problem here, and even if it doesn’t necessarily lead to fraudulent votes (although i am not convinced it can’t and doesn’t-I am more convinced the registration fraud is so good you can’t catch the fraudulent votes) the way voters are registered needs to change.

    And sure some people will be too lazy or uninterested to register to vote, but honestly if you can’t be bothered to go someplace to register, then whether or not you get to vote is your problem.

  11. cas says:

    It is wrong to equate the fraud on the voter being perpetrated by YPM and ACORN.

    In the latter, it is ACORN who is the victim of fraud.
    We all await your rationalization how YPM are sweet, innocent buttercups while ACORN are dark, hirsute infidels, ahem, “destroying the fabric of our democracy.”

    Eric, let me make sure I understand you and your sarcasm correctly:
    Allegations are made against two organizations, concerning voter registration fraud, and alleged absentee ballot fraud.
    So, ACORN is the falsely accused organization?
    After their members have been tried and convicted in the past, one is supposed to believe that ACORN has always just been the victim of “bad management practices”, i.e., they hired the wrong people?
    Reading the cited article, it appears that the major allegations against Young Political Majors deal with changing PARTY AFFILIATION, not fraudulent voter registration. This is not even required in all states, especially those who have open primaries, and has NO effect on general election voting.
    I say prosecute ALL parties who pull this sh*t to the full extent of the law!!
    Enough people already believe (incorrectly, IMO) that our election systems have “broken down,” denying people their right to vote, etc. Every instance of voter fraud steals some one else’s civil rights.

  12. sam says:

    You require that if they want to vote they go to an approved registration station and have them produce proof of who they are, and where they live with photo ID and some type of utility bill.

    There’s a lot of merit in that, but where I live, the only place to go is downtown to the county clerk’s office. That’s not terribly convenient for a lot of people. What I’ve always wondered is why desks aren’t set up in post offices where people could register. A trip to the local post office would be easier than having to go downtown — at least where I live.

  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    And sure some people will be too lazy or uninterested to register to vote, but honestly if you can’t be bothered to go someplace to register, then whether or not you get to vote is your problem.

    Right.

    Let the people who care register and vote, they will, leave the people who don’t care alone.
    It’s that simple.

  14. just me says:

    There’s a lot of merit in that, but where I live, the only place to go is downtown to the county clerk’s office. That’s not terribly convenient for a lot of people. What I’ve always wondered is why desks aren’t set up in post offices where people could register. A trip to the local post office would be easier than having to go downtown — at least where I live.

    You can already do pass port photos at the post office, I see no reason that you couldn’t work it out that it could also be an approved place to register.

    And honestly, ACORN and other organizations that want to get people registered would just need to work it a different way. Instead of paying people to fill out false registrations, they could pay them to get people from where they live to a registration place and back to where they live.

    But people getting people to fill out a piece of paper and then the first group being responsible for getting it turned in isn’t working, and it is creating more problems and bringing into question the validity of the voting process.

  15. G.A.Phillips says:

    Bitsy, I take your reply to mean that despite all the facts emerging that voter registration fraud was committed against ACORN, you’ll choose to believe your own ossified version of reality and instead believe ACORN was perpetuating voter fraud. I suppose it’s also safe to assume that you believe YPM is the victim of a liberal conspiracy, yes?

    And talk about a troll, lol Dude the only thing that will save us this year is purple fingers, and I’m talking about ink that won’t wash off for six months, and if you vote absentee, the two inks should be sent with the form and ballot in two shades of pruple, if need be, if Just voting one ink.

    You dip your finger the ink then you press your finger on your registration forms. And I know it’s to late this year, but we should still ink the voters at the polls.

    Now I know we have computers smart enough to run finger prints, match up duplicates, check for felons still on paper and be secure.

    After the election all registrations everywhere should be destroyed and we should start over, with inking.

  16. Moral equivalence strikes again. Well done Alex.

  17. […] 19th, 2008 By JAZZ SHAW, Assistant Editor Over at Outside the Beltway, Alex Knapp brings you the story of a new voter registration group, this time working for […]

  18. Dutchgirl says:

    In the Netherlands, where I vote, everyone is required to register their residency in the municipality where they live in order to receive any public services (such as trash pick up, welfare, and passport renewal) At that time you provide an address, and when voting time comes around, a voter card is sent to that address. That card is turned in at the polling place and checked against a voter roll. Then the ballot is given out. This scheme works fairly well, and there are exceptions, such as citizens living abroad (me) can vote absentee by mail. So there’s an alternative by placing registration in the hands of local officials, But could it work in the US? Maybe if it were linked with social security?

  19. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    ACORN is a victim of fraud. Yeah, right! I guess if you are a democrat you suspend rational intelligence for the party. Fact is, Saul Alinski would be proud of what Obama has accomplished so far. If you think the least experienced, farthest left ever candidate with direct ties to America hating radicals, who believes in wealth redistribution is who should be President, move to Venezuela. That is the model Obama is shooting for.

  20. John Burgess says:

    I know it sends some people up the curtains, but there are ways to validate absentee ballots.

    One–not very convenient–is to have the signature on the outside of the envelope notarized. Another is to have two unrelated people witness the signature (that’s something some states already do). Neither is 100% proof against fraud, but they would entail an additional criminal act, perjury, for which there is a considerable record of prosecution.

    You might even tighten up the witnessing by specifying what kinds of ID are adequate to substantiate identification. Overseas, a US passport is pretty definitive.

    In any event, by noon tomorrow, the election will be over for me, except for the counting. I plan on using the option of voting early. My county has eight locations in which this can be done. I need to present my voter ID card and government-issued photo ID in order to get my paper ballot.

    Right now, no matter which TV channel I turn to, I’m being flooded by Obama ads. The only places to avoid them are TCM and the CSPANs, it seems. I’ll be very happy when the electioneering is over. Just how happy I will be depends on what happens on the evening of Nov. 4.

  21. […] You’re BLACK!” Hello pot. Have you met […]

  22. anjin-san says:

    Having contractors solicit signatures for political goals, be they voter registration or to get someone or something on the ballot is probably a bad idea.

    That being said, the current GOP/Fox obsession with Acorn is nonsense, a smokescreen designed to obscure the fact that their candidate is not doing very well.

    And then there are the GOP voter suppression efforts, which we should spend a little time on…

  23. just me says:

    Anjin I care about voter fraud and voter registration fraud and what ACORN is doing even though I fully expect obama to win the election and likely win it with enough votes that fraud isn’t going to matter all that much.

    But party affiliation aside, what is happening with ACORN and any other organizations is wrong. It corrupts the system and a corrupted system isn’t going to appear to be free or fair or all that open.

    Something should be done about ACORN and their shenanigans, and the fact that ACORN has had this problem for three election cycles running indicates that there is a systemic problem that they aren’t willing to fix.

    Ending third parties from registering voters makes the most sense at this point. It isn’t working. It results in thousands of fraudulent forms that bog down the election boards trying to cross check voters.

    How we do things is the problem, and that needs to change, because no matter who wins elections, I would like to have the confidence that the process was free, fair and did what it could to be legal.

  24. anjin-san says:

    Just Me,

    The fact that you have so much to say about Acorn, and not a peep about voter suppression casts a bit of doubt on your commitment to free and fair elections. There are issues on both sides of the aisle…

  25. Floyd says:

    “Motor voter” and “vote early” ought to be illegal! Absentee voting ought to be restricted to good reasons with restrictions. Registration campaigns are wrong minded and undermine the republic.
    If you are too apathetic to know there’s an election coming up, and/or too stupid to find the registrar or the polling place on time, then you ought not vote! Leave the voting to those who are paying attention. If you don’t like that, then campaign on the issues and pay attention yourself.
    An uninformed electorate is a bane to a free society.

  26. just me says:

    Anjin what would you like me to say about suppression.

    Give me a specific example and I will give you my opinion on it.

    This one happens to be about registration fraud-so I have an opinion on the topic specific to this discussion. It is wrong-no matter who is doing it, and when it is pervasive to the point that it currently is, then something should be done to stop it.

    I fully support requirements to prove you are who you are, when voting-if that is suppression in your book-then so be it.

  27. anjin-san says:
  28. Kilo says:

    “Nothing, of course, but how would that capture folks who rent? “

    Because if you rent you live at a house that is on the land tax rolls.
    Here in Oz they send out forms that say “we currently have no record of anyone at this address being registered to vote”.

  29. tom p says:

    Something should be done about ACORN and their shenanigans, and the fact that ACORN has had this problem for three election cycles running indicates that there is a systemic problem that they aren’t willing to fix.

    From ACORN’s web site (I would put up the link but it will stretch the page) go to their main page, scroll down to “Recent News” and click on “Bogus Voter Fraud Charges”

    “Fact: ACORN has implemented the most sophisticated quality-control system in the voter engagement field but in almost every state we are required to turn in ALL completed applications, even the ones we know to be problematic.

    Fact: ACORN flags in writing incomplete, problem, or suspicious cards when we turn them in,. Unfortunately, some of these same officials then come back weeks or months later and accuse us of deliberately turning in phony cards. In many cases, we can actually prove that these are the same cards we called to their attention.”

    There are more “Fact” listings, including “No criminal charges related to voter registration have ever been brought against ACORN or partner organizations.”

    One may or may not agree with their politics, but that is not the problem here. The problem is the system currently in place, so I agree that

    Ending third parties from registering voters makes the most sense at this point. It isn’t working. It results in thousands of fraudulent forms that bog down the election boards trying to cross check voters.

    to some extent anyway. (I have read the above elsewhere, so I am confident it is accurate)

    I do wonder though, why this “FBI investigation of ACORN” was anonymously leaked to the press so shortly before an election(in express violation of DOJ policy)? And why is McCain using this by saying he might lose Florida because of voter fraud, when he already knows that voter fraud, when it does occur, is so infrequent and minor, that it is a complete non factor in results?

    The real problem is people’s seeming growing lack of trust in the present system, one that McCain is fanning the flames of, and the very real problem of E-voting.

  30. just me says:

    And why is McCain using this by saying he might lose Florida because of voter fraud, when he already knows that voter fraud, when it does occur, is so infrequent and minor, that it is a complete non factor in results?

    Because Florida has pretty much given up on cross checking all the registrations and leaving the them on the books, because they don’t have the manpower to sort through all the bogus and ineligible voters.

    There are apparently a large number of felons registered to vote in the state, but because of the number of registrations they can’t sort through all of them to check against the lists. Whether felons should vote is a different debate, but basically the state has said they are giving up and many felons will be left on the lists and that doesn’t include the sheer number of bogus registrations.

    The advantage of overloading a system with bogus registrations is that it keeps election workers from doing their jobs effectively.

    Whether that translates into actual votes cast is a different discussion, but the system is broken and apparently nobody really wants to fix it, and the lack of fixing ends up with a whole process that is corrupted.

    Anjin-I am not playing follow the link. List a few examples, and I will address them. I take you think registration fraud is acceptable?

  31. rodney dill says:

    This issue isn’t whether voter fraud exists, it exists on both sides, the issue is that Obumble has been implicitly linked to ACORN in word and in funding.

  32. tom p says:

    Because Florida has pretty much given up on cross checking all the registrations and leaving the them on the books, because they don’t have the manpower to sort through all the bogus and ineligible voters….

    Agreed, and as such it is because we lack the will to put in the resources to deal with the problem… But I don’t think that is why McCain is making these somewhat inflammatory comments.

    The advantage of overloading a system with bogus registrations is that it keeps election workers from doing their jobs effectively.

    I don’t think it is advantageous for anyone, and in light of ACORNS efforts to make it easy to spot the bogus registrations, they are doing the best they can with the system that is currently in place. After all, they could just turn them all in, as required by law, unflagged, as not required by law, and let the election workers “do their job”.

    Whether that translates into actual votes cast is a different discussion, but the system is broken and apparently nobody really wants to fix it, and the lack of fixing ends up with a whole process that is corrupted.

    Or at least we end with a process about which, it is possible to smear as being “corrupt”. Again, I have yet to read of a credible report where “voter registration fraud” turned into actual “voter fraud” on a scale possible to swing an election.

    I agree with you that the current system is not working properly (defined as a “system people have faith in”) but the problem is nobody wants to pay for one. Homeland Security has backed down on the enforcement of standardized driver licenses because so many states balked at the associated costs.

    I suspect that we will be here again come the next election, not because we can not come up with a fair and equitable system for dealing with this, but because we are too cheap to put our money where our mouths are.

  33. tom p says:

    This issue isn’t whether voter fraud exists, it exists on both sides, the issue is that Obumble has been implicitly linked to ACORN in word and in funding.

    Rodney: You say that like being

    “the nation’s largest grassroots community organization of low- and moderate-income people with over 400,000 member families organized into more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in 110 cities across the country”

    is a bad thing.

  34. rodney dill says:

    ACORNS actions says it’s a bad thing

    Jay Tea says if far more eloquently than I ever could. Excerpted.

    […]

    First up, setting up the circumstances that could enable voting fraud is bad. At best, it’s a form of negligence — negligence like leaving a loaded gun in a playground. No, you won’t kill anyone directly, but you WILL be making it a hell of a lot easier for someone else to kill someone.

    Second, even if none of those voter registrations is actually used to vote, it can be used to undermine the validity of any elections. Non-existent registered voters who don’t show up count as a “suppressed turnout,” and that is often cited as “proof” of some election shenanigans.

    Third, ACORN has gone to great lengths to avoid any kind of quality-control process in its collected registrations. They do not perform any kind of verification process on the registrations their employees collect. Instead, they simply turn them all over to public officials and let THEM deal with the inevitable, copious fraudulent forms.

    […]

  35. JT says:

    It’s a clouded issue, and politicizing it as the media and both parties have makes the mucky waters even muckier.

  36. tom p says:

    ACORNS actions says it’s a bad thing

    No offense Rodney, but Jay Tea should get his facts right. For instance:

    First up, setting up the circumstances that could enable voting fraud is bad.

    ACORN did not set up the circumstances… our various elected gov’ts did.

    Second, even if none of those voter registrations is actually used to vote, it can be used to undermine the validity of any elections.

    Indeed, as “just me” and I have already stated. But again, this is not ACORNS fault, this is the fault of those who made the rules.

    Non-existent registered voters who don’t show up count as a “suppressed turnout,” and that is often cited as “proof” of some election shenanigans.

    The only thing I have ever seen it cited as proof of is “voter apathy”

    Third, ACORN has gone to great lengths to avoid any kind of quality-control process in its collected registrations. They do not perform any kind of verification process

    This has already been amply demonstrated to be a falsehood, and I suspect “Jay-tea” knows it. Go back and read my earlier posts. You can go to ACORNS web site and read it youself. If you choose not to beleive them, that is fine. There is independant verification out there. You can start with Diane Rheeme’s early show today, which was on this very subject. She had a reporter on who confirmed it.

  37. rodney dill says:

    ACORN did not set up the circumstances…

    With every ‘Mickey Mouse’ false registration, they are doing just that. With every false ‘Fred Jones’ the implications for wrong doing are even greater.

    But again, this is not ACORNS fault, this is the fault of those who made the rules.

    ACORN is an intentional enabler.

    ACORN has gone to great lengths to avoid any kind of quality-control process in its collected registrations.

    Apparently not enough if ACORN themselves tells election officials to check their submissions.

  38. just me says:
  39. cas says:

    Anjin-san:
    Are you citing the April 1, 2008 article in The American Prospect, “The Republican War on Voting” as an unbiased, authoritative source of information that we can rely upon?
    I can cite some sources and articles with an opposite but equal slant and bias that I doubt you would accept as authoritative, but at least I ADMIT that fact!

  40. Bithead says:

    We all await your rationalization how YPM are sweet, innocent buttercups while ACORN are dark, hirsute infidels, ahem, “destroying the fabric of our democracy.”

    So, we have one arrest… not a conviction, mind.
    One.

    And how many states is Acorn under investigation in again?

    Interesting how you defend ACORN in spite of years of investigations and printed evidence… and yet on the basis of one story attack YPM, and try to base a moral equivalence argument, or perhaps even a moral superiority argument out of that.

    Perhaps you’ll be good enough, Eric, to explain to us how this double standard thing works in your world, again?