Finally, on the issue of lack of detection: State and local officials have uncovered a fair amount of the absentee-ballot vote-buying I've just described, even though that behavior, too, is illegal and likely hidden from public view. The DoJ devoted unprecedented resources to ferreting out polling-place fraud over five years and appears to have found not a single prosecutable case across the country. The major bipartisan draft fraud report (PDF) (recently posted by Slate and suppressed by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission [TimesSelect subscription required]) concluded that there is very little polling-place fraud in the United States. Of the many experts the commission consulted, the only dissenter from that position was a representative of the now-evaporated ACVR.
Perhaps it is not surprising that ACVR has collapsed as an organization. In what appears to be one of Hearne's last public appearances (where he identifies himself [PDF] as having served—note past tense—as counsel to ACVR) before the EAC in December of 2006, Hearne offered the usual arguments. In support of his position that voter-ID laws did not unconstitutionally suppress the votes of poor and minority voters, Hearne cited the decision of the DoJ to approve the pre-clearance of Georgia's voter-ID law, and a law review article supporting such laws, written under the pseudonym Publius. Hearne didn't reveal that the decision on Georgia was made by political appointees of the DoJ over the strong objections of career attorneys there who believed the law was indeed discriminatory. Nor did he explain that (as I discovered and blogged about a few years earlier) Publius was none other than Hans von Spakovsky, then serving as one of the political DoJ officials who approved the Georgia voter-ID law. (President Bush later gave von Spakovsky a recess appointment to the Federal Election Commission.)
The arguments against vote fraud were built on a house of cards, a house that is collapsing as quickly as the U.S. attorney investigation moves forward.
So Hearne let the organization collapse, and in a bit of irony, a Washington lawyer who bought the ACVR domain name has set it to redirect to the Brennan Center's Truth About Fraud Web site, which debunks ACVR's claims of polling-place voter fraud. But despite the collapse of ACVR, the idea that there is massive polling-place voter fraud has, perhaps irrevocably, entered the public consciousness. It has infected even the Supreme Court's thinking about voter-ID laws. And it has provided intellectual cover for the continued partisan pursuit of voter-ID laws that may suppress minority votes. Just this week, Republican members of the Texas state Senate are trying to push through a voter-ID law over a threatened Democratic filibuster. Their political machinations have already required a Democratic state senator recovering from a liver transplant to show up to vote—and they almost passed the bill when another Democratic senator came down with the stomach flu.
Texas legislators should be ashamed. All of this effort to enact a law that would stop a nonexistent problem. If only there were a way to ensure that spurious claims of polling-place voter fraud could have disappeared with ACVR.