As more and more fraudulent registrations are linked to ACORN and criminal investigations get under way in more and more states (15, last time I checked), the latest defense of ACORN seems to boil down to this:

“They’re just registrations, not actual votes, so it’s not likely to mess up the election, so what’s the big deal? Besides, ACORN is actually killing two birds with one stone — they’re getting people registered to vote, AND they’re hiring people to do the registering who really need the jobs! So what’s the harm?”

This is so wrong on so many levels, I dunno what to say.

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.

ACORN says that they are required by law to turn in all registrations. But I don’t think the law forbids them from having someone go through them and find ones like “Mickey Mouse” and “Tony Romo” and eighty-three forms all filled out in the same handwriting and putting them in a separate pile with a note saying “these look a little fishy.”

No, instead they are content — perhaps even delighted — to dump that work on the local government officials, flooding them with tens of thousands of fraudulent forms.

ACORN also doesn’t threaten any kind of sanction against its employees who commit these crimes. Yeah, they might get fired if they embarrass the organization too much, but they don’t make them sign agreements to return their pay or pledge to cooperate with any prosecutions for those who are “victimizing” ACORN.

Then there’s the issue of “cost-shifting.” Processing voter registrations takes time and effort, and that means money. It’s done by local governments. I don’t begrudge this expense; it’s part and parcel of being a democratic republic. But fraudulent registrations cost money for no gain whatsoever. And that is what ACORN is doing — flooding local offices with thousands and thousands of bogus forms that have to be treated like every other one, forcing local governments to spend time and money and resources verifying (or disproving) each and every one.

For example: Lake County, Indiana. ACORN turned in over 5,000 registrations. Officials shrugged and waded in, dividing them into two piles: valid and bogus.

After 2,100 forms were checked, the piles were decidedly uneven: the bogus pile had 2,100; the valid pile had yet to have a single entry.

Fraud of that magnitude CAN NOT be accidental. That can only be the result of a system engineered to promote fraud. And as I noted before, at length, ACORN’s model for voter registration seems so engineered to collect and pass on fraudulent registrations that I find it nigh impossible to believe that it is accidental.

The “jobs program” argument really, really irritates me, though. Yes, a lot of the people ACORN hires do need the jobs, and it’s kinda decent of ACORN to do just that. But at what expense?

As I noted, a LOT of these people collecting ACORN paychecks are cheating ACORN — but ACORN doesn’t seem to mind, because they don’t have to pay the price of that cheating.

No, it’s folks like the people of Lake County, Indiana who pick up the tab for cleaning up ACORN’s mess.

But above all that, there is a fundamental issue that bothers me more than anything else here. It’s a philosophical theory at the core of ACORN’s efforts that I find most repugnant.

ACORN, by paying people to register to vote, is turning the electoral process into yet another jobs program. It’s conflating participating in government with financial gain.

I guess I’m an oddball, but I don’t see voting as my job. I see it as my duty.

Unlike a lot of liberals, I don’t LIKE all these efforts to get people to registered to vote. I think that the registration process is easy enough as is, and I think that it SHOULD require a little bit of effort to register and vote.

Because when people have to work for something, even the slightest bit, they take it a bit more seriously. They consider what they’re going to do. They think about it.

The best defense of our democracy is not a fully-involved electorate. It’s an informed electorate. And part of that is self-selecting — there are a lot of people who simply don’t care about such things, and don’t feel like putting any energy into things like registering or voting. And that’s just fine with me.

No, it’s more than that. I prefer it that way.

I will be the first in line should anyone ever try to deny people their right to vote, or even attempt to hinder it. But I do not think that we should be chasing people down and persuading them to vote when they don’t feel overly inclined to do so.

ACORN is diametrically opposed to this. They have set themselves up a business model that depends on an ever-growing list of voter registrations, with absolutely no regard as to whether they are valid or not. And in doing so, they are inflicting grave harm on our electoral process, our registration system, and threatening the validity of this election.

But that doesn’t matter to their supporters, does it?

So far, one group has filed a RICO complaint against ACORN in one state.

As the saying goes: “more, please.”

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