Project Vote (PV)

Overview

  • Front group for the (now defunct) radical cult ACORN
  • Spearheads the Voting Rights Movement
  • Played a decisive role in pushing the 1993 Motor-Voter Bill through Congress

Project Vote (PV) was a 501(c)(3) nonprofit group that was founded in 1982 as the voter-mobilization arm of the (now defunct) community organization ACORN. Its overarching objective was to “build an electorate that accurately represents the diversity of America’s citizenry” by working to increase voter participation among “low-income and minority citizens” who have been historically “disenfranchised” and “alienated from the electoral process.” Toward that end, PV used paid canvassers as well as volunteers to carry out conventional “non-partisan” voter-registration and voter-mobilization drives “in high-traffic sites in neighborhoods of color.” In 1992, the Chicago-based community organizer Barack Obama headed PV’s operations in that city, with a focus on registering black voters on the South Side. The motto of PV’s Illinois initiative that year was: “It’s a Power Thing.”

In 1996, Project Vote became involved in Teamstergate — a criminal conspiracy to embezzle funds from the Teamster treasury, launder them through outside organizations, and then siphon them back into the re-election war chest of Teamsters President Ron Carey in 1996. Carey is known to have laundered at least $1 million through a daisy chain of leftwing non-profit groups that included Project Vote; Citizen Action; the National Council of Senior Citizens and Teamsters for a Corruption Free Union – not to mention the AFL-CIO and the Democratic Party itself. The various “pass-through” groups received kickbacks and barter arrangements for their money-laundering services. According to trial testimony, the operation was approved by high-level White House and Democratic Party officials. Carey won the election. Unfortunately for him, one rank-and-file union member resented the misuse of his dues and decided to blow the whistle.  In the end, seven conspirators were convicted in federal court for involvement in Teamstergate.

In 2008, Barack Obama’s presidential campaign furnished PV with a list of donors who had already given the campaign the maximum amount of money permitted by law. Onetime PV staffer Anita Moncrief later blew the whistle on her organization, describing how PV had solicited additional funds from these big donors—assuring them that the money could then be funneled directly into the Obama campaign coffers, thereby evading election-law limits on campaign contributions.

All of PV’s policy prescriptions were designed to maximize voter turnout among demographics that traditionally supported Democrats in overwhelming numbers. Moreover, several of the group’s preferred policies—such as loosened standards for voter-registration and -identification—invariably made it easier for election-related fraud to take place. Pursuing the so-called “crisis strategy” or Cloward-Piven Strategy pioneered during the 1960s by political scientists Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven (who was a member of Project Vote’s board of directors for a number of years), PV’s objective was to overwhelm, paralyze, and discredit the American voting system through an abundance of fraudulent registrations, fraud at the ballot box, protests, propaganda, and vexatious litigation. Each time such variables gave rise to higher levels of chaos and public distrust of the existing electoral system, PV cited the system’s flaws as proof that still more reforms were needed.

PV’s effort to undermine America’s voting system realized its grandest ambition on May 20, 1993, when President Bill Clinton signed the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA)—commonly called the “Motor-Voter Act”—which Project Vote strongly supported. This federal law ordered every U.S. state to provide resources enabling people to register to vote at state agencies while they applied for drivers’ licenses, welfare assistance, Medicaid, or disability benefits. Author and journalist John Fund writes that “perhaps no piece of legislation in the last generation better captures the ‘incentivizing’ of fraud” than NVRA, which bars examiners from asking voters for identification or proof of citizenship; permits mail-in voter registrations (where the person’s identity is harder to verify); and limits the removal of ineligible names from active voter rolls. These, among others, are precisely the policy objectives of Project Vote.

One of PV’s major ongoing initiatives was its Government Agency Registration Program, which assisted states, social service agencies, motor vehicle offices, and election officials with the implementation of NVRA’s requirements. This program also worked to ensure that people enrolling for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) were offered “a meaningful opportunity to register to vote,” and that new U.S. citizens received voter-registration application forms at their administrative naturalization ceremonies.

PV’s Election Administration Program (EAP), meanwhile, advocated for laws, policies, and procedures that “remove barriers to registration and voting.” For example:

  • PV condemned Voter ID requirements as thinly veiled efforts to promote an “exaggerated fear” of voter fraud in order to justify the enactment of “more restrictive registration and voting laws” that “disenfranchise” the “groups traditionally marginalized in our election process: African Americans, Spanish speakers, low-income individuals, disabled voters, and youth.”
  • PV objected to proof-of-citizenship requirements that “essentially quash community-based voter registration drives” targeting “large numbers of potential voters at markets, churches, and other public places where one is unlikely to carry birth certificates and passports.”
  • PV favored early-voting periods that permitted people to cast their ballots prior to Election Day, “in the hope of increasing turnout by making voting more convenient.”
  • By PV’s calculus, “an estimated 5.8 million Americans”—“disproportionately Americans of color” from “the very disenfranchised communities that most need to have a voice in the democratic process”—were “prohibited from voting, either permanently or temporarily, in all but two states” because of past felony convictions. To address this matter, PV characterized the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons as an urgent social-justice concern. But in fact, nearly every U.S. state already had provisions to restore voting rights to former felons who had served out their prison sentences.
  • Noting that “a voter’s eligibility is based on their legal residence,” PV called for permanent portable registration that would permit voters who relocated within a state where they were already registered, to update their addresses at the polls on Election Day, rather than requiring them to meet some earlier deadline (which would allow time for their information to be checked and verified). By PV’s telling, this matter had economic-justice implications because “low-income people move more frequently than wealthier individuals.”
  • Through its in-house legal team, PV occasionally brought lawsuits against what it called “illegal and discriminatory voter purge activity” where ineligible names—e.g., the names of people who have died, relocated, or been convicted of felonies—were removed from voter rolls, a practice that allegedly had a “disproportionate impact on minority populations.”
  • PV likewise denounced other methods of verifying voter identity and eligibility. For instance, it said that: (a) interstate matching agreements, in which states compare one another’s voter databases in an effort to identify individuals who may be illegally registered in more than one state, sometimes “disenfranchise eligible voters”; (b) people can likewise be disenfranchised by “no-match, no-vote” laws that deny a voter’s registration application if the information it contains cannot be matched to an existing government database; and (c) “partisan forces” commonly seek to “disenfranchise large numbers of minority voters” by means of “voter-caging”—the practice of sending mass direct mailings to registered voters by non-forwardable mail and then using any returned parcels to create lists of “ineligible” names.

A persistent pattern of lawlessness and voter-registration fraud followed PV (and its former sister organization, ACORN) for many years. Meanwhile, protesters, press agents, and attorneys for these groups kept up a relentless clamor over Republican “voter intimidation,” “minority disenfranchisement,” and various other issues which tended to muddy the waters and distract attention from the very serious transgressions of Project Vote and ACORN.

PV ceased operations on May 31, 2017.

Additional Information

* A key partner in PV’s Government Agency Registration Program was the public-policy and advocacy organization Demos.

* PV charged that “illegal and cynical” challenges to voter eligibility occur in many polling places on Election Day, particularly in areas with large minority populations.”

* PV emphasized the importance of registering young people, who were “underrepresented in the electorate,” to vote.

* PV assisted get-out-the-vote organizations with such things as budgets, canvass schedules, the targeting of performance benchmarks, list management, the development of voter contact scripts, and the selection and management of phone, mail, and print vendors.

* PV offered training and technical assistance to a number of voter-mobilization groups. It also developed state-specific “train-the-trainers” toolkits that allowed these groups to train their staffs independently.

 

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