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Voter Registration Fraud Scandal Forces Republicans to Shut Down Swing State Registration Efforts Two Weeks Early

I’ve been watching the Nathan Sproul follies with some amusement. He’s the head of the company, Strategic Allied Consulting, that is accused of engaging in voter registration fraud in at least 9 Florida counties. I remember Sproul from my days covering California, where he ran the same type of games in the last decade, including one episode where his firm would register Democrats to vote, and then just throw out the voter registration forms, which the voters wouldn’t realize unless they called their county registrar and discovered they weren’t actually registered. This happened in other parts of the country as well. Lee Fang has done excellent work on this.

Sproul was obviously a corrupt figure, but his was the only prominent Republican firm doing voter registration. So there was this experience bias pushing the Republican Party to hire Sproul; after all, he had cornered this market. Therefore, the RNC not only hired Sproul for registration in Florida, but across the swing states. And now, because of the growing scandal, they are forced to shut down their registration efforts entirely in the final days of registration before the Presidential election.

Republican parties in Florida, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia — all states that both campaigns view as competitive — fired Glen Allen, Virginia-based Strategic Allied Consulting, the company in charge of registrations, said Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. The national committee also canceled its contract with the company, its only vendor signing up new voters, Kukowski said.

The five states have registration deadlines from Oct. 6 to Oct. 15. Stopping efforts before then could hurt Republican nominee Mitt Romney in his bid to unseat Democratic President Barack Obama, said Lance deHaven-Smith, a Florida State University political science professor in Tallahassee.

“In any swing state that’s going to be significant because these elections are so close,” deHaven-Smith said. “This gives an advantage to Obama.”

If anything that undersells it, despite the fact that the Republican quoted in the article confidently explains that this shutdown “won’t have an impact.” Voters signed up in this time frame, when voter awareness of the election is so high, especially in swing states, will have a high propensity to vote. To take their registration program off the field with as much as two weeks to go, in OCTOBER, is complete and utter malpractice, and it will have a decided effect for the elections. Every vote they leave out there by shutting down their registration program is a vote that would have gone to Mitt Romney.

This also blows $3.1 million in funds that could have been used for other purposes.

Incidentally, Republicans KNEW Sproul was corrupt. These stories were public for years before they signed him up as their voter registration guy. They even tried to hide the payments by having Sproul set up a shell company for the RNC to deposit the funding.

It begs the question of why you would hire Sproul and Strategic Allied Consulting at all. And the answer turns out to be that corruption is really not a hurdle to professional advancement in Washington. If you’re known as “the registration firm,” you can go on being the registration firm, regardless of your performance. There’s no meritocracy in the political consulting class; there’s just a bunch of people who want to get paid. And this isn’t really a problem of one party; I would submit for the record Kinde Durkee.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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