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GOP Distances Itself From Registration Scandal

Oct 1, 2012
Originally published on October 1, 2012 6:05 am



On a Monday, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning.

Florida election officials this week will continue searching voter registration forms collected by a Republican-hired firm. They're looking for more signs of fraud. What is already clear is that scores of forms filed by employees of Strategic Allied Consulting contained irregularities such as phony addresses. The firm was picked by the Republican National Committee to conduct registration drives in five battleground states. NPR's Pam Fessler joins us now for an update.

Pam, good morning.

PAM FESSLER, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: And I guess what's remarkable about this is that Republicans themselves had made voter fraud such a huge signature issue for the party, and now the party itself is caught up in a scandal here.

FESSLER: That's right, Steve. And this is how it first came to light. In Palm Beach County, a worker was processing voter registration forms that had been submitted by this company, Strategic Allied Consulting, which state Republicans had hired to register voters. The worker noticed some fishy things about the forms. There were signatures that looked very similar. There were addresses that were for commercial sites, not residences.

So the county election official contacted the Republican Party, which was identified on the forms as doing the registering. The party then contacted Strategic Allied Consulting, which in fact actually helped officials identify more than a hundred suspicious forms. And the company says those forms were collected all by one individual who was subsequently fired. However, since this all became public, nine other Florida counties have now reported finding suspicious registrations, also from employees of Strategic Allied Consulting. And state authorities are investigating for possible criminal charges.

INSKEEP: So multiple problems here, perhaps involving multiple people with this firm that was helping Republicans register voters. How deeply involved is the national party?

FESSLER: Well, it was the RNC that picked the company, which is run by an Arizona Republican political consultant named Nathan Sproul. The RNC paid more than $3 million to have Sproul work with state parties to register voters in Florida, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia. But as soon as these allegations emerged last week, the RNC quickly fired the firm, saying that it had a zero tolerance for voter fraud.

But of course, as you know, this is very embarrassing for the party because it's made such a big deal about trying to fight voter fraud in recent years. As you probably recall, in 2008 Republicans blasted the community organizing group ACORN for essentially doing the same thing, which is hiring workers who submitted fraudulent registration forms. Although in that case, ACORN actually often turned in the offending workers.

Republicans have also used this threat of voter fraud, even though there actually has not been that much evidence of fraud, to enact legislation in many states for voter ID and other restrictions that Democrats say is actually going to hurt legitimate voters.

INSKEEP: OK. You mentioned an Arizona Republican runs the company. What kind of track record does it have? What's known about it?

FESSLER: Well, this is another potential embarrassment for Republicans, because Nathan Sproul, who founded this company, he's been linked to allegations of fraud in the past. The most notable involved these registration drives in 2004, in which some of his workers were accused of illegally discarding registration forms that were filled out by Democrats.

Investigators looked into this. No charges were ever filed. Sproul noted that in a statement on his website last week. He also said that his company doesn't tolerate voter fraud or voter registration fraud. But he said in such a large operation as this - they had hired actually thousands of workers to do these voter registration drives - he said there's bound to be isolated incidents of individuals trying to cheat the system.

And then one other quick thing is that Sproul formed this company just specifically for this effort and says it was the RNC who asked him to form the company in a new name. The RNC will not confirm that.

INSKEEP: OK. Pam, thanks very much.

FESSLER: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Pam Fessler with an update on a spreading voter registration scandal. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.