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How to Stop the Rigging of Election '08

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Don't be fooled by all the accusations about ACORN. The real voting scandal is the voter suppression methods that likely swayed election results in 2000 and 2004, and are in process again.

Most of the news has focused on John McCain's accusations that ACORN is perpetrating a major vote fraud. In fact, the challenges point to ACORN's efforts to register voters, not to anyone ineligible actually voting. The truth is that ACORN, a group that organizes poor people, has been registering record numbers to vote: a jaw-dropping 1.3 million -- mostly low-income people, people of color, and young people.

ACORN readily admit that a tiny fraction of the 13,000 canvassers they hired turned in faulty registrations. "If they had too many mistakes or problems, we fired that person," Brian Mellor, senior counsel for Project Vote, said in an article in the New York Daily News. But the organization has no choice about turning in the faulty forms; most states require that every registration form filled out be handed over to election officials.

"I personally went to the office of the Clark County [Nevada] board of elections in July and told them we're bringing these forms in, we've separated the ones that have problems," he said. "You should investigate and prosecute those you feel necessary. They told us they weren't interested." Nevada state officials raided the ACORN office in early October.

But there's little chance that these errors will result in improper voting on election day, much less affect outcomes. According to researcher Lorraine C. Minnite, of Columbia University, a total of 24 people, across the U.S., were found guilty of voter fraud between 2002 and 2005 -- an average of eight per year.

This video features ACORN leaders and others responding to the charges of election "fraud."

This issue of voter fraud is a smokescreen designed to cover a much more serious issue with a long and ugly history: the suppression of the vote of groups that tend to vote Democratic -- especially the poor, minorities, and young people. Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said as much when I interviewed him last year.

In the current issue of Rolling Stone magazine, Greg Palast and Robert Kennedy Jr. show that thousands of voters have been disenfranchised in key swing states, dating back to the 2000 election, and continuing today. Techniques include purging voter registration rolls in targeted districts, challenging voters, requiring excessive identification, and discarding ballots.

There are also cases where heavily Democratic districts get few voting machines, resulting in long lines, while Republican precincts in the same county are well stocked, with no waiting to vote. Reports are already coming in of scare tactics repeated from the last two elections, especially flyers and posters warning that voters will be arrested at the polls if they have so much as an unpaid parking ticket.

Then there are the infamous black box voting machines, which, computer scientists warn, can't be secured or audited. There are already reports of voting machines in West Virginia flipping Obama votes to John McCain during early voting.

This country has a long and ugly history of suppressing the votes of minorities and poor people, and today's voter suppression tactics follow in that shameful tradition.

So what do we do protect the votes now that the election is just days away?

YES! Magazine is sending out an email to thousands of our readers entitled 12 Ways to Protect the Vote. Click on this link for simple things you can do, and forward on these instructions for safeguarding your vote.

Here are other resources available at the YES! website. Click here for information on: Maybe this will be the year that voter suppression efforts fail and faith in the honesty of our election system is restored. A lot will depend on responsible election officials, alert reporters, Internet watchdog groups, and perhaps most important, the vigilance of voters.

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