|The Michigan Messenger|
|Tuesday, March 9, 2010|
Secretary of State candidates
Even current Secretary of State says no voter fraud exists
By Ed Brayton
While the state of Michigan has had virtually no actual voter fraud in its entire history, the Republican candidates for Secretary of State who spoke at a recent luncheon event made voter fraud one of the primary issues on their agenda.
The event, hosted by the Gerald Ford Women’s Club, featured all four of the GOP candidates for the position — State Sen. Michelle McManus; state Sen. Cameron Brown; state Rep. Paul Scott; and Calhoun County Clerk Anne Norlander.
The first to speak was actually current Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who referred to the smooth functioning of elections as “my passion.” Though she declared that “everything I do is by statute or the constitution,” none of the candidates that spoke to the Michigan Messenger seemed aware that Land had, during her tenure, lost at least two federal lawsuits for illegally purging eligible voters from the state’s Qualified Voter File.
Despite that record, the focus of the candidates was exclusively on hypothetical voter fraud; none of them mentioned any concern about ensuring that every eligible voter be allowed to vote. Asked about Land’s voter purge history prior to the event, Sen. McManus would attempt to shift the question back to voter fraud, saying, “If you’re a citizen of the state of Michigan and you’re a registered voter, as Secretary of State it’s my job to have the best list out there so we can prevent fraud.”
McManus spoke of her experience as chair of the Senate Campaign and Election Oversight Committee, but when asked if she had held any hearings on those lawsuits in particular as part of her oversight duties over Land’s governing of the state’s elections she could only say that they were “in the process of having Terri come in and do more of that.”
McManus repeatedly told the Michigan Messenger that the problem of voter fraud was very real and she pointed, as she has many times since declaring her candidacy, to the existence of inaccurate or fraudulent voter registration applications turned in by ACORN and other groups during last year’s election.
But experts have long pointed out that while bad registrations are inevitable in any canvassing operation to sign people up, whether a voter registration drive or a petition drive, there is almost never a connection between registration fraud and actual voter fraud — a canvasser may turn in an application in the name of Mickey Mouse or a dead person, but neither Mickey or the deceased is actually going to show up at the polls to vote.
Asked if she could document any instances of actual voter fraud, as opposed to bad voter registration cards, in the state, McManus said, “It’s happened all across the state, talk to some of the clerks in Oakland, talk to some of the clerks in Wayne County, talk to some of the clerks in Macomb county, it’s happened across the state. If you want specific examples, those people administer elections, they see the fraud day in and day out. ”
The Wayne County Clerk’s office did not return a call seeking comment. The Oakland County Clerk’s office told the Michigan Messenger that any cases they might have had would have been referred to the Secretary of State’s office, but that they could not recall any cases of voter impersonation or illegal voting.
Roger Cardamone, the chief of elections in Macomb County, was quite blunt: “Emphatically no, we have had no instances of voter impersonation or any instances of deceased voters voting. You see that with petition drives, folks are going to pad their numbers to get more pay, but that does not translate into fraudulent voter activity by any means.”
Ken Silfven, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, confirmed this when asked if the state had experienced any actual voter fraud. “Nothing in recent memory,” he said. “If you’re talking about actual in-person voting at the polls as opposed to bad registration cards, I’d have to say no. I’m happy to say we’re a very clean state.”
Another frequent target by the GOP candidates was George Soros, the billionaire investor who often backs liberal causes. Three of the four candidates referred to the Secretary of State Project, a non-profit group that is helping raise funds for liberal candidates for that office in various states, including Michigan. That project, which has received a grant from the Soros-backed Democracy Alliance, has endorsed Jocelyn Benson, a Wayne State University law professor and candidate for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state.
“Most of Benson’s contributions,” Sen. Cameron Brown told the audience, “come from out of state and from George Soros.”
In an interview with the Michigan Messenger, Benson denied that.
“More than half of our contributions have come from inside the state of Michigan,” noted Benson. “People in 50 of 83 counties in Michigan have donated money to our campaign — 1,200 individuals in all, which is more than any of my Republican opponents.”
As for the alleged ties to Soros, Benson said, “I’ve never met George Soros and I doubt he knows who I am. The Secretary of State project is a national PAC that has talked about our campaign, but he has never given me any money and I’ve never met him. I’m running because I’ve spent a career working to protect voting rights. No one handpicked me to run. The only people who I hope pick me to run are the voters.”
Benson said she is concerned about election fraud as well, but that the GOP candidates are looking in the wrong place.
“Any fraud harms the integrity of the process and it’s the job of the Secretary of State to address any of those issues,” she said. “What a federal court has found is that there’s widespread fraud in our ballot initiative process, where voters are lied to about what a ballot initiative is about or what a recall petition is about, and we need to address that kind of fraud that we know exists. There has not been a single clear case of voter impersonation in the state of Michigan, so let’s start with addressing the fraud that we know exists.”