Late last week, I was pleased to have the opportunity to interview the Wall Street Journal’s John Fund about his book, “Stealing Elections, Revised and Updated: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.” With the election coming up in November, it’s a timely and important read.
What follows is a very slightly edited transcript of our phone conversation. Enjoy!
Here’s something from your book that a lot of people may not know: “Eight of the 19 hijackers who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had registered to vote.” How did that happen?
The Motor Voter Act of 1993, which was the first piece of legislation that Bill Clinton signed into law, mandated that states have to accept postcard voter registrations and also offer people applying for drivers’ licenses the chance to register to vote. Several of the hijackers — they registered to vote when they got drivers’ licenses and other false ID. I have no evidence they voted, but they were registered. They certainly could have voted.
One group I keep seeing over and over in stories about election irregularities is ACORN. Can you briefly tell me about them and their connection to Barack Obama?
ACORN is a fairly radical poverty rights, public housing rights organization founded in the 1970′s and they do a lot of agitation on behalf of liberal and progressive causes. Part of what they do is register voters and get out the vote. They have constant problems with the law. Their employees in city after city, from Kansas City to St. Louis to Seattle, have been indicted and convicted of registration fraud.
They have a highly problematic record and Barack Obama was not only the chief trainer for their annual conferences, he was their lawyer, litigating cases in which election laws were weakened in the 1990′s in Illinois. ACORN’s political arm has endorsed Obama and Obama has spoken at their national conference as recently as last year, full of praise for them.
Ughh. There is a lot of concern out there from the general public, particularly on the Left, about voter machines being rigged… Has that happened anywhere to the best of your knowledge and how big of a concern is it?
There are two issues with electronic voting machines.
The first issue is with some of the companies that are doing it on the cheap because they have low-bid contracts and some of the software is questionable. (So), yes, we have some kinks, and that is unacceptable.
But, the conspiracy theories, that the electronic voting machines are somehow manipulated by Manchurian hackers behind some curtain who alter the election results — that doesn’t pan out.
There is no better authority on that than Joe Andrew, who was the chairman of the Democratic National Committee under Bill Clinton. He gave a speech a couple of years ago in which he said,
“When it comes to electronic voting, most liberals are just plain old-fashioned nuts.” He said conservatives are interested in winning elections, but “that does not mean there is a vast right-wing conspiracy trying to steal votes in America, as the loudest voices on the Left are saying today.” He went on to say, “Conspiracy theories aren’t good for democracy or the Democratic Party and it’s unfortunate that they’re leading Democrats toward rallying behind the anti-electronic vote bandwagon in a big election year because they think this movement is good for Democrats.” Then he went on to say, “Any Democrat who thinks that getting rid of direct electronic voting machines will help the Democrats win is simply out to lunch.”
So, I think you have to distinguish between legitimate problems, in which we have to make sure the machines work better and that there is a trail that can help insure public confidence in the system and conspiracy theories.One thing that is interesting from your book is that many Americans think of Mexico as being incredibly corrupt compared to the US — however, tell people a little bit about how their voting system stacks up to ours. You seem to imply that it’s a better system than ours in a lot of ways — and more honest.
I don’t imply. It is better. These countries have election systems that are far more secure than ours. To obtain voter credentials, the citizen has to present a photo, write a signature, and give a thumb print. The voter card the citizen gets includes a picture with a hologram, a magnetic strip, a serial number to guard against tampering — and then to cast a ballot, voters have to present this card and then be certified by thumb print scanner.
The system was designed because elections had so little credibility that they had to go to that to restore public confidence. The danger we have in our country is that although we have never had systems as corrupt as Mexico’s nationwide, lack of confidence is increasing. 40% of Americans, according to polls I cite in my book, really believe that either vote fraud or voter suppression and intimidation are serious problems that compromise election results.
A related question: are there illegal aliens voting in the U.S.? Any idea how many there may be?
Since voting fraud is a felony, it’s not as if we’re going to get them to announce that. But, the problem is serious in some places and not so serious in others.
There was a congressional investigation in California a decade ago that found that several hundred illegal aliens had probably voted in a congressional race that was very close although it didn’t meet the burden of proof to overturn the election. Certainly, Arizona has been very concerned with it. They’ve asked people to prove their citizenship when registering to vote.
I think it’s a potential problem. I don’t think it’s a problem as big as the problem of absentee voting fraud, simply because most illegal aliens don’t want a lot of encounters with government officials. So most of them, most of the time, would not want to register and present a bigger target.
However, in concentrated areas, south Texas border counties, California — I think illegal aliens represent a problem in voting. For example, the assassin of the Mexican presidential candidate in the 1990s, Mr. Colosio …he was a Long Beach resident, an illegal alien, who had registered to vote three times.
So, it’s a problem, but not the most serious problem.
Simple question: a lot of liberals have accused George Bush of stealing both the 2000 and 2004 elections. Is that true? Did it happen?
Well, let’s look at the evidence. In 2000, a bunch of media organizations including the New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press went through a recount. They found that if Al Gore had gotten the statewide recount that he wanted that George would have won in almost every conceivable scenario.
The New York Times report from Nov 21, 2001:
“A comprehensive review of the uncounted Florida ballots from last year’s presidential election reveals that George W. Bush would have won even if the United States Supreme Court had allowed the statewide manual recount of the votes that the Florida Supreme Court had ordered to go forward.”
USA Today recount team. (Their) conclusion:
“Who would have won if Al Gore had gotten the manual counts he requested in four counties?”
Answer: “George W. Bush.”
So…these newspapers, which aren’t exactly Bush partisans, (concluded Bush won).
In 2004…(John Kerry) lost Ohio and he lost the election. It’s passing strange that some Democrats continue to insist on (the election being fraudulent). William Crawford, who’s the African American chairman of the election board in Columbus, Ohio says he’s personally insulted at some of the accusations because he said,
“Look, I want people in my community to vote. I did everything I could to get them to vote and make it easier for them to vote. There were some mistakes made, but to say that this was some kind of conspiracy beggars the imagination. Election boards in Ohio are bipartisan. They’re divided equally between Democrats and Republicans and most of the people making these accusations about the Ohio election in 2004 were from out of state. The ones in state defend the process even if they lost the vote.”
Have there been elections for the Senate or presidency stolen in U.S. history? Can you tell us about some of them?
Certainly. I think there are real questions about the 1996 Louisiana Senate election between Mary Landrieu and Woody Jenkins. I think there are serious questions about the shenanigans at the Indian reservations in the race between Democrat Tim Johnson and John Thune in 2002, in South Dakota.
Thune decided not to contest that election and he went on to beat Tom Daschle two years later. …One of the reasons, I think, that Thune won in 2004 was that there was much more ballot integrity and oversight on the Indian reservations than there was in 2002.
I think the most infamous case was the 2004 governor’s race in Washington. That highlighted a particular problem: that you can have election laws that are so vague, loosey-goosey, and lack so much detail — that you can end up having a confused situation in which you can’t tell where incompetence ends and the fraud begins.
If you have a state that doesn’t have a long tradition of accurate, honest, and competent election administration, you can end up with a situation, as in Washington State, where they found new ballots 16 times during the recount. It’s almost impossible to conceive of discovering ballots 16 times in a single recount, but they did. Basically, the election officials said we’re not doing our jobs very well, but it’s not purposeful. We will never know what happened in Washington State, but the majority of the state’s voters believe the wrong candidate was seated as governor.
At the presidential level, have we ever had a presidential election decided by fraud?
I think the 1960 election. You can go to Seymour Hersh’s book on the Kennedy family and he makes a compelling case that both Texas…and Chicago, where Mayor Daley blatantly bent the rules to increase the vote total for John F. Kennedy — both in Illinois and Texas, there may have been enough vote fraud to swing the election to John F. Kennedy.
Since then, I think that most elections haven’t been so close. The Florida election is, of course, an exception because it was so close it was even within the random error margin in Florida. But, we’re always one step away from another meltdown. Larry Sabato, who is the Director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said that,
“From voter fraud to election chicanery of all kinds, America teeters on the edge of scandal every November. Unless we do some of the things Fund recommends, sooner or later we’re headed for more disasters as bad or worse than what we saw in Florida in 2000.”
People who look at our system say it needs more work, we haven’t made nearly as much progress as we should have after Florida, and these new tactics, methods, and groups like ACORN only complicate the problem and make a fair, honest, and competent count harder to achieve.
Last question here: there seems to be a lot of emphasis in our political system on getting as many people to vote as humanly possible, but shouldn’t there be even more …emphasis on making the system honest if we have to choose between the two of them?
There’s a healthy tension between those goals. I think we can make it easy and simple for people to vote, but we should also make sure they do so within the rule of law and follow the rules.
There is a conflict of visions here as the economist Thomas Sowell would put it…There are some people who believe that almost any increase in the people voting animates the ideals of democracy and the best election is the one with the highest turnout. There are some people who believe that in a stable democracy, there are many people who are not fascinated or fixated on politics, and low voter turnout can mean that some people feel the system is working well enough that they don’t have to care that much.
I think people should vote, but I don’t think the health of a democracy is defined by the number of people who participate.
…There are two civil rights here and that’s what I would conclude with. We fought a great civil rights struggle in the sixties to make sure we got rid of poll taxes and other impediments to people voting and we should preserve and extend those gains.
There is another civil right. Each of your readers has a civil right not to have his vote cancelled out by someone who shouldn’t be voting, someone who is voting twice, or someone who doesn’t even exist. That’s a civil right, too.
So, you are absolutely right. We need to do both and I think the pendulum has swung so that there are a lot of people who believe we have the first problem, 40 years after the voting rights act, but not the second one. I think we have to be vigilant about both.
John, I really appreciate your time!
You can buy John Fund’s book, Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, here.