From Palm Beach to Richmond, from Las Vegas to Portland, it's not a coincidence, it's a coordinated GOP scheme intended to keep Obama supporters from signing up to vote.
While a major element of the Republican National Committee's strategy to game the 2012 elections by affecting who gets to vote and who does not has been cut off at the knees in the wake of a criminal election fraud complaint and other late developments in the still-widening GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal, a disturbing and abhorrent nationwide GOP voter registration strategy may have also been revealed by it.
The coordinated strategy, as evidenced by recent video documentation emerging from a number of key states, includes registration workers screening out Democratic-leaning voters from registration drives in order to keep them from registering. The way it's done: lying to potential registrants about a "voter survey," rather than disclosing that workers are actually there to register voters --- but only Republican-leaning ones. The deceptive tactic has so far been seen this year in several of the five battleground states where the RNC's controversial, and potentially criminal, $3 million registration program was scuttled late last week after fraudulent registration forms were discovered to have been turned in by a shady firm hired by the RNC to sign up Republican voters in Florida and four other states.
The BRAD BLOG has also collected evidence suggesting that the dishonest registration tactic also appears to be in use in states where the RNC's firm, Strategic Allied Consulting, is not said to be operating, suggesting that the practice is not just one used by the discredited firm, but, rather, a nationwide voter scheme by the GOP.
Questions about the legality of the tactic are emerging as well, though the deplorable ethics of the practice, legal or otherwise, would seem to be beyond dispute.
Election officials in the five states where Strategic was paid some $3 million by the RNC to do voter registration, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada, are now said to be in the process of scrambling to review tens of thousands of new and updated voter registration forms submitted by state Republican Parties, as collected by the firm owned by Nathan Sproul, a long-time, notorious GOP operative and paid political consultant of Mitt Romney's campaign. But the disturbing, and seemingly coordinated, tactic of registration workers instructed to misrepresent themselves in order to screen out potential Democratic voters is coming to light as a separate element of the GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal.
To date, The BRAD BLOG has documented instances of the phony "polling" tactic being used by Republican voter registration workers in Colorado, Virginia, Nevada, Oregon, and, in years past, Tennessee and Minnesota. Our suspicion at the moment: What we have been able to discover to date is just the tip of the iceberg...
Strategic Allied Consulting's 'Voter Survey' Lie
In the very first of our continuing series on the GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal last Tuesday, as Palm Beach election officials confirmed to us that the state GOP had turned in more than 100 apparently fraudulent registration applications, we raised the question of whether the FL scheme was tied to a Youtube video out of El Paso County, CO which we'd reported on that morning, after it had gone viral just days earlier. The video shows a young lady serving as a registration worker outside of a Colorado Springs Safeway grocery store, claiming to be "polling people", and asking the woman who caught the encounter on video tape: "Would you vote for Romney or Obama?"
The woman knew the young lady was not "polling people", but was registering voters, so she was understandably aghast to discover that the young lady was screening out potential Obama supporters, and appearing to only offer voter registration forms to Romney supporters.
When we initially covered the fraudulent voter registration forms turned in by the GOP in Palm Beach County (similarly "potentially fraudulent voter registration forms submitted on behalf of the state GOP" have since been discovered "in at least 11 Florida counties", according to the LA Times) we connected a few evidentiary dots to ask: "Was the young worker in Colorado Springs hired by Strategic Allied Consulting for her work with the local GOP?"
The BRAD BLOG subsequently contacted Justin Miller, Communications Director for the CO Republican Party. He confirmed that she was, in fact, working for a third-party contractor hired by the state GOP, though he claimed he did not have the name of the company handy. After promising to get back to us with the name of the company (he never did), on Friday night, FOX31 in Denver "confirmed that the young woman seen registering voters outside a Colorado Springs grocery store in a YouTube video, in which she admits to trying to only register voters who support Mitt Romney, was indeed a contract employee of Sproul's company."
We had been immediately suspicious that she had worked for Sproul's group, since they were, by then, reportedly working in Colorado, and since Greg Flynn of BlueNC (who was also the one to discover Sproul & Associates' ownership of the StrategicAlliedConsulting.com Internet domain, before it was then set to 'private' in a belated attempt to hide Sproul's fingerprints) had documented Help Wanted ads place in CO and elsewhere, seeking $13/hour workers "interested in helping Mitt Romney win" who would "go to high traffic areas, identify conservative voters, ensure that their voter registration is up to date, and then report back at night with their data and the voter registration forms that they collected."
It sounded exactly like what was seen on the CO viral video, and now we know that it was. Strategic was contracted by the RNC to do voter registration in both CO and NC, as well as FL, VA and NV, and "Get Out the Vote" efforts in WI and OH.
But that same tactic seen in the CO video --- Republican workers misrepresenting themselves as "pollsters" before offering a registration form to certain people --- has since emerged in Florida, as several other states as well.
In Virginia, Richmond's CBS 6 news covered the GOP fraud scandal late last week, as the state Republican Party, which reportedly paid Strategic Allied Consulting some $500,000 for their services, announced they were firing the group. In their report, Chesterfield County's chief election official, General Registrar Larry Haake, is quoted citing the very same strategy used by the group's registration workers there.
"They were responsible for people that appeared in some libraries in Chesterfield County, supposedly to conduct voter registration drives," Haake said, "but they were asking voters for whom they are going to vote."
Haak says he informed the GOP of the incident when it occurred, but, apparently, no action was taken at the time.
In Nevada, another Strategic Allied state, a woman was captured in a news report by Las Vegas ABC affiliate Action News 13 --- focused on something other than this --- carrying out the exact same, dishonest strategy.
"We are taking a quick poll today," the woman is seen saying just outside of a local DMV office, "if the election were held tomorrow, who would you support Romney or Obama?"
Sproul's firm cited this video, proudly, in an email to their supervisors around the country in mid-August. They posted the email, which links to the video, publicly last week as part of a lengthy statement on their website meant to defend themselves in the wake of the emerging scandal.
The email, brought to the attention of The BRAD BLOG by Sproul himself, boasts about the video news report as evidence of one of their workers seen doing her job "perfectly".
"The bright white lights of a presidential campaign are on," the email begins, "This was filmed in NV. You can see that our worker did her job perfectly. Good job."
In Florida, where the focus has been on the apparently fraudulent registration forms submitted around the state with changed addresses that could result in disenfranchised voters on November 6th, the Los Angeles Times interviewed the man who Strategic Allied has fingered as the worker who submitted the initial batch in question in Palm Beach County.
50-year old William T. Hazard of Boynton Beach maintains his innocence and says he never forged applications or even "wrote on any of the forms he collected." He says he left the firm over a pay dispute two weeks ago. Strategic Allied says the man was fired.
In any event, while saying he "did nothing wrong," he explained to the Times that he answered a Craigslist ad by a company called PinPoint Staffing seeking registered Republicans to do "voter surveys" for $12/hour.
"His only instructions," the paper reports, "were to approach people and ask whom they supported in the presidential election. When people answered with President Obama, he said, he wished them a good day. If someone said Mitt Romney, he asked if they were registered to vote. If not, he handed them forms to fill out."
He added that he was "expected to register Republicans."
Once again, it's the same ruse about taking a poll, rather than signing up folks to vote, in a fourth Strategic Allied state. That amounts to verified reports of the very same deceptive strategy used by registration workers in four of the five states where Sproul's company was working as the RNC's only voter registration outfit.
A Nationwide GOP Voter Registration Strategy?
Strategic Allied Consulting was formed in June, without Sproul's name attached to it, at the request of the RNC, according to Sproul, due to past allegations against his companies. (We summarized those allegations in our first report.) Their role was abruptly halted last week when they were fired by the Republicans. But The BRAD BLOG has collected additional evidence suggesting that the strategy of lying to potential registrants about being pollsters rather than registration workers to screen out certain voters, is not only being used by the Sproul group, but may well be a nationalized GOP effort.
During an appearance last week on the Dangerous Conversations radio show last Thursday, while breaking the news on the latest in the growing investigation and after playing the viral video from Colorado Springs, a caller from Oregon called in to relate an almost identical experience that he says he personally witnessed, three days in a row, in the downtown metro area of Portland just days ago.
The caller, who identified himself as Shane, said he is a delivery worker in the city, and while on the job recently, was approached by a young man with a binder on the street. "Are you a Romney supporter?," the man asked. Shane said he was "kinda on the fence," and so the man talked with him for a bit and then said "You know what? I've got this voter registration card. If you're a Romney supporter, why don't you go ahead and fill this out and make sure that you're all dialed in."
Shane says he thought "that's kind of weird," and chose not to fill out the card.
The next day, around the same block, he says, "there was a girl there this time, and she did the same thing. She walked up and she goes, 'Hey, are you a Romney supporter?' And I said, 'No, I'm not.' And she said, 'Okay, thanks, have a nice day.' And again, I thought that's really weird."
On a third day, the day before our appearance on the show last week, he says "another girl, same area, same thing. She walked up and [said] 'Hey, are you a Romney supporter?' And I said, 'No, I'm not.' And she said, 'Okay, have a nice day.' And I said, 'Hey, wait a minute. Don't you --- are you not wanting me to register to vote if I am not for Romney?' And she goes, 'Well, no, this is just for the Romney camp. If you are a Romney supporter we want to give you some information and help things along.' And then she turned around and walked off."
In California, help wanted ads, similar to those seen in other states, published by employment agencies on behalf of Strategic Allied, were posted to Craigslist seeking "Circulators / Petitioners to participate in our 2012 Republican Voter Registration Drive."
"In this very important election year, many people will be shifting their party to Republican or needing to update their voter information," one ad reads. "You will be reaching out to voters and potential voters in San Diego County...Circulators are making $20 to $40 per hour plus, according to circulator's effort."
Though the ad doesn't refer to "voter surveys", the language is very similar to others used for Sproul's company elsewhere, and suggests that workers will be paid per registration.
Sproul tells The BRAD BLOG that, though his companies have done work on behalf of Republicans in some 40 states over the years, none of them are working on voter registration this year in either CA or OR.
During our short, on the record discussion, before his attorney advised him against speaking any further for the moment, Sproul cited a report from Lee Fang at The Nation, which links to a CA Sec. of State database where, Fang wrote, a company named "Grassroots Outreach, LCC", with the same address as Sproul's main firm, Lincoln Strategy Group in Tempe, AZ, is listed as being paid $430,840 from the California Republican Party "for voter registration and petition gathering."
While Sproul, who also received some $80,000 from the Mitt Romney campaign late last year for "political consulting" work, according to FEC records, confirmed the Grassroots Outreach company was one of his, he says the approximately $34k listed in the CA database for "voter registration" is an error.
"Those entries are incorrect," he insisted to The BRAD BLOG. "We did not do any voter registration work for the [California Republican Party] in 2012 as indicated. I think its a simple mistake in reporting. I think that should have been for signature gathering as well."
If Sproul is correct, and his companies are not doing registration in either CA or OR, it suggests the strategy of appearing to be pollsters, rather than registration workers, in order to scam and screen out potential Obama supporters from the voter registration process, may be a national effort by the GOP itself, rather than specific to Sproul's organizations. In short, while Sproul's Strategic Allied Consulting has supposedly been knocked out of the game, his same strategy may still be in play all across the country as voter registration deadlines near for the 2012 Presidential Election.
Moreover, the scheme may not be entirely new to this election cycle either. In 2009, Think Progress highlighted a collection of allegations over the years, in state after state, election after election, against Sproul's various firms, for destroying Democratic registration forms and other similar improprieties. (Neither Sproul nor his companies, who have been employed by Bush/Cheney in '04 and McCain/Palin in '08 and by Romney and the RNC this year, have ever been officially charged with any crimes.) One of the highlighted reports was from AP just before the 2006 mid-term elections. It involved Sproul's Lincoln Strategy Group being banned from a Wal-Mart "for partisan voter registration efforts in Tennessee". They had been hired for the work by the Republican National Committee.
Over the weekend, at the aggregator site Reddit.com, where our weekend report on the GOP Voter Registration Fraud Scandal had rocketed to #1 on the front page of the site for much of Sunday, one of the commenters related what is now becoming a familiar story.
The Reddit user, identified as "Michaelandichael", says he "grew up in a strongly conservative suburb in Minnesota, and in a strongly conservative household."
"Back in high school in the mid 2000s," he writes, "I was approached by our high school student version of Karl Rove to take a job for the GOP to register voters." He explains that he was subsequently interviewed by a woman who worked for the party, in the GOP office in St. Paul. "She would be my 'boss' however she said we would 'officially' work for a company not associated with the GOP or herself."
He says he was told that "we would go door to door and say we were out there for a political survey. If the resident answered favorably, we would ask if they were registered to vote and register them if they weren't."
He declined to take the job, he writes, because it "seemed sketchy" at the time when he was just 17 years old.
Illegal? Or just incredibly unethical?
When we initially reported on the video that went viral out of Colorado Springs just over one week ago, we were told by Richard Coolidge, the Communications Director for CO Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R) that "there is nothing in state law would prevent" a registration worker from specifically screening for Republican-only voters to sign up. He stressed, however, that "once the person starts filling out the application, the registrar is required to submit the form to the county clerk."
Examination of the CO election code seems to, mostly, bear him out, (see section 1-2-506. Prohibitions [PDF]), though part of the code says registration workers may not "display any political preference or party allegiance", which the young lady in the viral video clearly did when she was pressed by the woman taping her to know if she was there supporting Romney. She admitted she was.
In Nevada, where the Strategic Allied registration worker is seen claiming to be "taking a quick poll" in Action News 13's report by Victoria Spilabottee --- which Sproul cited as an example of his employee doing "her job perfectly" --- the law is only slightly clearer.
According to Nevada Revised Statutes 293.5045, "1. A person who works in a voter registration agency shall not: (a) Seek to influence an applicantâ€™s political preference or party registration" or "(c) Make any statement or take any action to discourage an applicant from registering to vote". Violation of one of those statutes is a "category E felony", punishable by up to $5,000 and minimum of 1 year and maximum of 4 years in state prison.
Moreover, NRS 293.505 says an "employee of a voter registration agency...shall not...8(b) Refuse to register a person on account of that personâ€™s political party affiliation." Neither may they "9(a) Solicit a vote for or against a particular question or candidate." Violation of those statutes also amount to category E felonies.
We haven't combed through the statutes in the other states mentioned yet, but what's remarkable here is that there seems to be no law --- certainly no federal law --- which explicitly disallows screening out supporters of one party by voter registration workers.
If Democrats use a similar tactic to screen out Republicans, we've yet to come across any instances of it. In either case, it's appalling.
While it's one thing to target your registration drives to areas which may be more friendly to your party --- college campuses or African-American communities for Democrats, evangelical communities and gun shows for Republicans --- it seems quite another thing entirely to systematically instruct registration workers to misrepresent themselves and lie about what they are doing, in order to filter out potential supporters of a party other than the one they are working for.
Our investigation to date suggests this practice is not just systematic, but may even be at the core of the registration strategy for the Republican Party and the Romney campaign. While it's only slightly less appalling than destroying Democratic registration forms, or changing voter addresses so that they will be disenfranchised come Election Day, it certainly seems as if it ought to be as illegal as it is clearly unethical and even unAmerican.
If it's not illegal already in every state in the union, it damned well seems that it should be.