- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 31, 2002

The Justice Department has ordered investigations and close monitoring of polls this Election Day because of increased reports of voter fraud throughout the country.

Attorney General John Ashcroft has directed U.S. attorneys to appoint election officers to deter discrimination and voter fraud and to prosecute violators vigorously under the Voting Integrity Initiative.

"Our goal here is to work hand in hand with civil rights leaders and state and local election officials to prevent violations and bring offenders to justice," said Jorge Martinez, spokesman for the Justice Department.

Voter fraud has been reported this year in Arkansas, South Dakota, California, Louisiana, Nevada, Kentucky, Iowa, Arizona, Rhode Island, New York and Minnesota in federal and local elections.

One of the most bizarre cases occurred in the Minnesota town of Coates, population 163, where 94 voter registration forms had false addresses matching that of Jake's Strip Club. Patrons and dancers registered to vote to oust City Council members who had shut down the club, authorities said.

In Arkansas, Democrats said a former staffer hired two teenagers to recruit voters, but then used a phone book to register hundreds of unwary residents, including dead people and businesses.

Republicans say election fraud is rampant and county clerks often are not requiring identification.

Democrats say demand for identification amounts to harassment and that Republicans are intimidating voters.

"With Election Day a week away, we have already seen a disturbing number of incidents in which Republican operatives are working to chill voter turnout," said Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said Republicans have targeted minority groups for intimidation. "In my state of South Dakota, we are now seeing a concerted Republican effort to make allegations and launch initiatives intended to suppress Native American voting," he said. "These efforts appear to be motivated more by partisan politics than a concern with clean elections."

Marc Racicot, chairman of the Republican National Committee, called the assertions by Mr. Daschle and Mr. McAuliffe "absurd and racially charged."

"They have set about to twist and pervert a normal and traditional effort to assure voter integrity, routinely undertaken by both parties, into something that would be outrageous and illegal if it were true," Mr. Racicot said.

In 25 South Dakota counties, state and federal officials are investigating suspected voter fraud and believe one Democratic operative is linked to 1,750 applications for absentee ballots. Becky Red Earth-Villeda was fired by the Democratic Party after the charges surfaced.

"A dead woman signed up twice to vote in two different counties very active this woman," said Christine Iverson, spokeswoman for Republican Rep. John Thune, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson.

Justice Department officials Tuesday will monitor polls in Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Texas.

In other published reports of voter fraud:

•A Louisiana parish (county) councilman is under investigation in a suspected vote-buying scheme and three other elected officials may be linked, Baton Rouge's the Advocate reported.

•FBI agents seized voter records from Nye County, Nev., offices to investigate suspected voter fraud.

•Two Republicans in California have been sentenced to four months in jail after pleading guilty to voter fraud for forging signatures, the Los Angeles Times reported.

•Iowa residents are receiving absentee ballots unsolicited in the mail.

•A Connecticut state representative who lost the Democratic primary last month was placed under investigation for supposedly helping seniors fill out absentee ballots in violation of state law, the Hartford Courant reported.

•The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is examining suspected voter fraud in a Democratic race for Adair County commissioner.

•Three Arizona county officials have been indicted on charges of election fraud and helping illegal aliens to vote.

•In Rhode Island, Providence police are investigating a complaint by a senior citizen who said she was forced to turn over her ballot at a home for the elderly.

•In Texas, 16,000 dead or ineligible voters remain on the voting rolls, "creating an environment that is ripe for fraud and abuse," said Ted Royer, spokesman for the Texas Republican Party.

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