Major 'vote fraud scandal' goes 'poof!', just as predicted

Just as predicted, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has no evidence of anyone trying to steal elections and no evidence that leaders of the New Georgia Project, a major voter registration effort, have engaged in fraud, have tolerated fraud or have been anything but cooperative in efforts to make their operation as mistake-free as possible.

As chief investigator Chris Harvey acknowledged to an emergency meeting of the State Election Board Wednesday, "We have not detected from anything that (NGP leaders) have said or done that it is a goal of the New Georgia Project to go out and commit voter registration fraud." He also acknowledged that NGP leaders, including state Rep. Stacey Abrams, the ranking Democrat in the state House, have been cooperative and helpful in trying to identify and correct problems.

In fact, Kemp himself told the board that "We have not said anything derogatory about the New Georgia Project or about Rep. Abrams," a statement quite different in tone than ominous declarations made earlier by Kemp. It is also quite different in tone and content from those offered by a spokesperson for David Perdue, who earlier this week tried to link Abrams with Michelle Nunn and suggested that some massive conspiracy was afoot.

“The fact that an organization led by a well-known Nunn supporter would attempt to illegally register voters is unacceptable and reminiscent of the Obama-political machine’s ACORN scandal," as Megan Whittemore put it. "There is nothing more fundamental to our democratic process than maintaining the integrity of our elections and any attempt to tamper with them is deplorable.”

In his public briefing to the election board, Harvey outlined 25 cases of what he called "confirmed" forgery in 13 counties, plus another 26 "suspicious" cases yet to be investigated. That's out of an estimated 85,000 registration forms collected so far by the New Georgia Project.

As election board member David Worley asked Harvey, "Have you done the math on that?" (For the record, and assuming the worst case that the "suspicious" cases all prove fraudulent, that's a rate of .0006 percent.)

What appears to have happened is what happens in any large-scale voter registration drive, petition drive or similar effort in private industry, such as drives to collect credit-care applications. (For example, see here and here.) Those running the drive hire a lot of part-time, temporary canvassers -- essentially independent contractors -- to go around and register voters. People being people, a certain percentage of that workforce will start looking for ways to cut corners. In this case, they succumb to the temptation to "get their numbers up" by filing false applications.

Based on what was discussed today, there was no danger that any of those false registrations were going to produce illegal votes, nor was there any evidence or even suggestion offered that anyone had any intent to do so. In fact, Harvey suggested, the fake applications discovered to date could have been the work of just one or two rogue canvassers.

That doesn't mean the alleged crimes shouldn't be taken seriously. Filing false registration forms is a felony, and those who do so with intent to defraud the system ought to be prosecuted. As the probe continues, I also expect the number of problematic forms to grow, but the final tally won't come anywhere near the level of election-stealing conspiracy.

NGP leadership has said it is cooperating fully with attempts to find the identity of any canvasser who tried to game the system, and in his comments Harvery confirmed that cooperation. In fact, the Election Board and NGP have jointly agreed to extend the deadline for documentation sought by investigators by another week.

That's a very different picture from that being painted by some just a few days ago.