Vote Watch 2004
Vote/Election fraud, vote suppression, voting irregularities, voter intimidation in Election 2004

 

Acknowledgements


Home Page Interpreting Pre-Election Polls Anti-Kerry Lies and Fraud
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Here, I use the definition of Swing States by the Swing State Project

Please select your state of interest to proceed. (If there is no link, that means there is no content for that state yet).

WEST VIRGINIA

10/31/04_2 [Permalink]
Fraudulent calls to registered Democrats in West Virginia telling them they are not registered to vote spread to another county; identical earlier incident was traced back to state GOP

Atrios has this update:

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release

Contact: Stephen Skinner
sgskinner@mac.com

REPUBLICAN PARTY DECEIVING VOTERS IN WEST VIRGINIA

Charles Town, W.V., Oct . 31, 2004 – Democratic leaders in one of the nation’s most hotly-contested battleground states are receiving reports of voter suppression activities that can be traced back to the Republican Party. The suppression activities have continued despite warnings from officials in Berkeley and Jefferson Counties.

“These phone calls are outrageous and illegal,” says Michael Cassell, Chairman of the Jefferson County Democratic Party. “They are designed to suppress the vote for John Kerry and all democrats. The republicans were warned before, but they continue to break the law”

In mid-October, John Smalls, County Clerk in Berkeley County, W.V., sent a letter to the Eastern Panhandle Republican Party about phone calls that were traced back to its headquarters. The calls made to Democrats in this tri-county area 60 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., informed Democratic voters they were either not registered at all, or would not be able to vote on election day.

At that time, Republican Party spokesperson Mary Diamond admitted that some mistakes may have been made. She said the calls were made to determine if people were registered to vote.

When he learned of the activities in neighboring Berkeley County, John Ott, the top election official in Jefferson County stated, “This is an improper act.” He encouraged voters to contact authorities if they receive improper phone calls.

In the last few days, suppression activities have spread to Jefferson County. Several voters have received phone calls telling them that
they are not registered despite the fact that they are. 

“These calls are being made by people who claim they are calling from Democratic headquarters in Charles Town,” Cassell said. “They trick voters into revealing personal information, and then tell them they cannot vote.”

“He told me I was not a registered voter,” said Bill Jackson of Charles Town, of the phone call he received. “Later when I found out that he was not calling from Democratic headquarters, I was outraged. I wonder how many other voters have gotten these calls.”

“This is exactly the kind of dirty trick Republicans tried in Florida four years ago.” Cassell says. “I’m calling on the US Attorney to prosecute these illegal phone calls. ”

 

10/31/04 [Permalink]
Fraudulent calls lead some West Virginia voters to vote via absentee ballot even though they may not be eligible to do so

Via dkosopedia, here's a report from the Charleston Daily Mail:

West Virginia voters are getting some misleading information about voting rules as Election Day approaches -- a problem elections officials only expect to get worse in the next 18 days.

Cabell County Clerk Karen Cole said her office has received several complaints and puzzled calls from would-be voters who say they were encouraged by an unknown group to vote by absentee ballot, even though they don't meet the requirements to vote by mail.

Cole said the confused voters got automated calls asking if they wished to vote by mail this year. By pressing a number on their telephone keypads, the voters were unknowingly ordering an application for an absentee ballot.

But only voters who can't get to the polls during the early voting period that began Wednesday or on Election Day qualify to vote by mail. That means absentee ballots that don't qualify could be thrown out.

"People don't know what to think. Now they're not sure how or when they can vote," Cole said. "We're just telling them to come in and vote here, and that we'll void their absentee ballots. It's the only way to be sure that everyone gets counted."

Cole said her deputies started noticing a few weeks ago that an unusually large number of absentee ballots were coming in with no indication why people were voting by mail. Cole said her office staff began sending out notices that the questionable ballots would be treated as provisional.

That's when the phone calls started.

"This is definitely something different than past elections. We had five calls one morning and at least a handful every day," Cole said. "I knew something was going on."

When she talked to voters, they told her the automated calls didn't identify who was calling or why, but left the impression that they were from an official source. Cole can't release the names of the voters, but said they include Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Along with elections officials from the Secretary of State's Office, Cole is investigating the origin and purpose of the calls. She's hoping to have an answer soon.

Jan Casto, the elections chief for Secretary of State Joe Manchin, said she wasn't surprised to hear about the trouble in Cabell County.

"As we get closer to Nov. 2, I expect we'll be hearing more stuff like that. Every election there's always plenty of misleading information out there," Casto said. "Whether it's outright attempts to suppress votes or just simple confusion, we have to set the record straight for people."

Casto said the solution for any voter who gets confusing information about voting, registration or any other election issue should go to the top. By law, Secretary of State's Office officials and county clerks are responsible for giving straight answers on elections issues, and Casto said voters shouldn't be afraid to ask.

"That's why we're here. There's going to be a lot of conflicting information out there, but they can get it straight by calling us," Casto said. "People can get it right and make sure their vote counts."

Anyone with questions can contact the Secretary of State's office at 558-6000.

 

10/14/04 [Permalink]
West Virginia GOP makes fraudulent calls to Democrats telling them they are not registered to vote and will not be allowed to vote

Via Informed Public and Mark Kleiman, we have this NBC story:

Local republicans get a slap on the wrist after they are accused of trying to persuade democrats not to vote.
Most polls show that the race between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry is still very close in West Virginia, and each camp is going the distance to clench a victory for their candidate.

But now, election officials believe some in the Eastern Panhandle are going too far.

In a letter, Berkeley County clerk John Smalls cites calls from a cell phone were made to Eastern Panhandle democrats telling them that they were not registered to vote. The letter also said the calls informed democrats in some cases they wouldn`t be able to vote on Election Day.

John Ott is the top election official in Jefferson County. "This is an improper act and they should notify the proper authorities," he said.

It`s considered an improper act because when upset citizens called the voter registration office to make sure they were registered to vote, indeed they were. So, who made these misleading calls? The Berkeley County Clerk`s Office traced the number voters gave as the source back to the Eastern Panhandle Republican Headquarters.

"Whenever you give misinformation to encourage voters to stay home, we all suffer as a result," said John Fink with the Berkeley County democratic executive committee.

John Fink, who is with the Kerry Campaign, is concerned more about the effect of the calls than the callers.

"They really muddy the water with information or misinformation in this case that they`re putting out about the election process. There still is a large number of people we need to get into the fold. Now we`re democrats and republicans, but after the election we`re all Americans," said Fink.

Republican spokesperson Mary Diamond said the calls may have been an unfortunate part of a larger goal.

"The purpose of the calls is to make sure everyone is registered to vote. If they are, then great. That`s exactly what we need. The point is to make sure they are registered. Everyone needs to be registered to vote in this election, it`s as simple as that," said Diamond.

10/13/04 [PermalinkUPDATED 10/22/04
GOP funded group fraudulently poses as non-partisan to selectively register people as Republicans in WV and does not offer registration cards to Kerry supporters (unless specifically asked)

In an apparent repeat of what was seen in Oregon, a voter registration firm hired by a Republican firm/funded by the RNC misleads would-be registrants into thinking they are registering via a non-partisan firm. The name Nathan Sproul is involved in this as well. It appears this may be going on in multiple states.

Bob Johnson at Dailykos has this post:

Searching for information on the voter registration fraud stories breaking tonight in Nevada and Oregon, I kept coming across the same name: Nathan Sproul of Sproul & Associates in Phoenix, Arizona.

Nathan Sproul is the former head of the Arizona Republican Party and of the Arizona Christian Coalition (ah, the irony... a Christian).

Sproul is connected with the Republican National Committee-funded voter registration organization, Voter Outreach, Inc., a group that used paid registrars to register voters in a number of states including Nevada, Oregon, Arizona and perhaps more, including Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maine and Missouri.  (Others states pending, particularly swing states.)  Sproul's organization also recruited registrars by fraudulently telling recruits that they would be working for America Votes, a legitimate nonpartisan GOTV operation!
...
How about this newsgroup posting to a forum for librarians warning them of a possible fraud perpetrated by Sproul.  It includes a description of the scam in Pennsylvania, an article from a West Virginia newspaper reporting the same scam, and a comment from a librarian in Medford, Oregon outlining the same scam in her library... all fraudulently misrepresenting the organization doing the hiring as America Votes:

From: "McCullough, Holly" mcculloughh@CARNEGIELIBRARY.ORG
Date: Fri Sep 17, 2004  5:49:58  AM US/Eastern
Subject: Re: SCAM ALERT: Voter Registration

We had the same thing happen here in PA.  Sproul and Associates hires
Kelly temp services to do voter registration.  At one library site
where they were suppose to be only doing voter registration they were
also asking people how they were going to vote.  I did some research
and found out that they were doing the same thing in WV (see the
article below) and one temp worker claims that they were trained to
ask people how they were going to vote.  If the person said "Bush"
they were given a voter registration form.  If they said "Kerry" they
were just told thank you and no form was given.  When we found out we
asked them to leave immediately.  One explanation from Sproul and
Associates was that they were doing "market surveys" at some sites.  
Later they claimed that it was just a problem with a few temp workers.
Sproul and Associates is headed by Nathan Sproul the former head of
the GOP and Christian Coalition in Arizona.

They also always said they represented America Votes.  When I finally
asked them to give me the contact information for America Votes they
told me that "America Votes is a non-partisan voter registration drive
project of Sproul & Associates.  Everything originates from this
office.  There is a partisan organization with that same name."  
Clearly they know that when they say they represent America Votes they
are misleading people.

Holly

Here is the article from the WV paper for more info.

VOTER REGISTRATION DRIVE 'MISLEADING'

Publication: THE CHARLESTON GAZETTE
Published: 08/20/2004
Page: 1A
Headline: VOTER REGISTRATION DRIVE 'MISLEADING'
Byline: TOM SEARLS
tomsearls@wvgazette.com

For a mother of two teens trying to finish up college, $9 an hour as a
temporary customer service representative sounded good.

"I wanted to find something that would work around my schedule and be
flexible," said St. Albans resident Lisa Bragg.

After spending more than an hour with Charleston personnel agency
Kelly Services last week, Bragg was hired. "They wouldn't tell us at
first what this job was," the 37-year-old Bragg said Thursday.

Then she found out it was registering Republican voters at One Stop
convenience stores throughout the Charleston region.

But she won't be there today, the first day she was scheduled to be on
the job.

"I'm giving up a job that I need," she said. "It's the only decent job
I've found."

While the job was to last six weeks, the $9 an hour was far above the
minimum wage of $5.15 Bragg was offered for most other temporary
employment.

Bragg feels her employers were misleading the public, even if it's not
illegal. Employees were to approach One Stop customers and ask if they
favor George Bush or John Kerry for president. If Bush was their
answer, they were then to inquire if the person was registered to vote
and offer them a voter registration card.

If the person supported Democrat Kerry, they were only to say thank
you and give them a registration card only if asked.

If asked questions, employees were instructed, "Only state you are
there to conduct a simple field poll to see what neighborhood support
is ... a nonpartisan registration drive."

They were told to quietly listen to any person who becomes angry and
to remember, "The goal is to register Republicans and to remain
positive."

"Is this the way it has to be? People have to be sneaky to make $9 an
hour?" Bragg said.

Employees were also given the number of a Kelly Services employee to
contact if there are problems. Contacted Wednesday, two different
employees said they would have someone from Sproul & Associates, the
firm paying for the survey, answer any questions.

Later, a Kelly Services employee who would identify himself only as
"Rob" initially said a message had been left with Ben Decker at
Sproul's office. He said he had no contact number for Decker, then
agreed to release a Michigan number.

A message left with Decker was not returned.

"[Kelly Services] said the less you know about the company, the better
off you are, especially if the media would come asking questions,"
said Bragg, an admitted Democrat. "That made me more curious than ever
as to who's behind this and what's going on."

Sproul & Associates appears to be operated by Nathan Sproul, former
head of the Arizona Republican Party and a wealthy GOP activist who
has been involved in petition drives. An Internet search shows Sproul
has received some financing from national Republican groups, though it
was not clear who is paying for the West Virginia work.

Bragg, and another person working for the group, said they were told
the owners of the One Stop stores had agreed to allow them to conduct
the work on the stores' lots. Patrick C. Graney III and Michael R.
Graney are listed as the principal owners of 42 One Stop stores,
according to the state Alcohol Beverage Control Administration.
Messages left at One Stop's headquarters in Belle were not returned.

For Bragg it's an economic loss, but one she carries with pride. She
asked about registering voters with another organization - a group
that treats those of all political persuasions the same - and found it
pays only $5.50 an hour.

"I just don't want to be in my hometown and mislead people," she said.

To contact staff writer Tom Searls, use e-mail or call 348-5192.

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Meghan O'Flaherty" <OFlaheMC@jacksoncounty.org>
Date: September 16, 2004 3:29:16 PM PDT
To: <libs-or@webhost.osl.state.or.us>
Cc: Subject: [LIBS-OR] SCAM ALERT: Voter Registration

Recently the Jackson County Library has been contacted by persons
purporting to represent America Votes.  Our director was contacted by
a Harry Miller and asked to call an 800 number to give permission for
America Votes to conduct a non-partisan voter registration project in
our libraries.  I received a letter from Sproul and Associates,a
consulting firm in Arizona,also saying they represented America Votes,
with the same request.  I contacted the Kevin Looper, the Oregon State
Coordinator for America Votes, to verify the information and received
this reply from him:

"Here is what I know:  We do not have a Harry Miller in our employ.
This organization is absolutely not representing America Votes, and my
National leadership is initiating action to get them to cease and desist representations that infringe upon our rights and mislead voters.

Further, Sproul and Associates is a partisan political consulting firm
Based in Arizona that works for very conservative causes and has worked to oppose campaign finance reform.  Their use of our name to cover their political leanings makes me question the overall intregrity of the voter registation that they seek to conduct.   I will be forwarding this information to the Secretary of State's office for further investigation."

Meghan O'Flaherty
Headquarters Library Manager
Jackson County Library Services
205 South Central Ave.
Medford, OR  97501
(541) 774-6403
oflahemc@jacksoncounty.org

So here we have Sproul involved in three (swing) states, using a bogus GOTV name to disguise his organization's own name, and using fictitious names (Harry Miller) as "contacts" for those with questions.

But that's just the tip of the iceberg with Mr. Sproul and the RNC.  Keep in mind that in the recruitment ads for Voter Outreach, Inc, run on careerbuilder.com in targeted states (including Missouri and Arizona), the bottom of the ads included this statement:

Paid for by the Republican National Committee. www.gop.com. Not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.


Farhad Manjoo at Salon.com has a story on Sproul and Associates:

Lisa Bragg, a 37-year-old mother of two in St. Albans, W. Va., spotted a newspaper ad last August for a customer-service position offering the pretty good wage of $9 an hour. Bragg, who studied communications in college and talks with the easygoing flair of someone who "really just loves people," called the number and soon found herself in the offices of Kelly Services, the national temp agency, filling out an application. And then, like the other people who'd come in for the job, she discovered that there was something strange afoot.

The people at Kelly were cagey about the nature of the position. They first made the applicants watch workplace-safety videos before divulging that the job had nothing at all to do with customer service. Instead, employees would be conducting a "political survey." At that point, some annoyed applicants walked off. Those who remained were asked to attend "orientation" at the Charleston Civic Center the next day. There, the workers were let in on the big secret: "They said we'd be working for the Republicans," Bragg recalls. "They'd been sneaky all along, so when they said that, you could hear the sighs around the room." The applicants were then handed several documents describing what they would be doing -- and Bragg, a proud Democrat, saw that the entire enterprise was based on deception, and she decided to walk away.

The employment session that Bragg attended that summer afternoon in West Virginia was, it turns out, part of an apparent nationwide voter-registration scheme engineered by Sproul & Associates, an Arizona consulting firm that's been paid more than $600,000 by the Republican National Committee this year.

During the past week and a half, several former employees, elections officials and others across the country who've had dealings with the firm have revealed to various local media outlets Sproul's methods for boosting GOP registration in key swing states. The accounts allege that Sproul's workers were encouraged to lie, cheat and, according to Eric Russell, a former Sproul employee in Las Vegas who first told his story to a local television station last week, even destroy the registration forms of Democrats who'd registered to vote with Sproul canvassers. Sproul has denied those charges, variously challenging the veracity of its former employees; but taken together, the stories are compelling, and they may provide an early glimpse into the kinds of shady tactics Republicans are using to win at the polls this year.

In Bragg's account, workers were asked to congregate outside local convenience stores and pretend to be nonpartisan political pollsters interested in the nuances of local opinion. "If anyone asks what kind of poll [this is], it is a simple field poll to see what neighborhood support is," reads the script Sproul handed Bragg. But if the respondents to this pretend poll said that they were Bush supporters, canvassers were told to offer to help them register to vote. If they said they were Kerry supporters, the canvassers would politely walk away.

Bragg says that fooling people was the key to the job. Canvassers were told to act as if they were nonpartisan, to hide that they were working for the RNC, especially if approached by the media. Bragg's story mirrors the accounts provided to Salon by several librarians across the country who say they were contacted by Sproul in early September. In letters the firm sent to the libraries, Sproul misrepresented itself as America Votes -- a left-leaning national voter registration group not affiliated with Sproul -- but said that it was interested in registering "all those who wish to register to vote." Shortly after Sproul canvassers began working the libraries, though, patrons began complaining that the canvassers were being especially inquisitive about their political leanings, and some were pushing people to register as Republicans.

Pushiness seems to be a common theme in accounts of Sproul's activities. Barbara Nielsen, the clerk of Douglas County, Ore., says that she received a couple of written complaints from local citizens who'd been harassed by Sproul canvassers bent on recruiting people for the GOP. Since many Sproul canvassers were paid for each Republican registration form they handed in but got nothing for Democratic forms, some had an incentive to coerce people to go red, and to be careless about the forms Democrats handed to them. Michael Johnson, a Sproul canvasser in Portland, Ore., told a local TV station there last week that because he wasn't being paid for the Democratic forms he turned in, he "might" sometimes trash them. The revelation prompted Oregon officials to open an investigation into Sproul.

Across the nation, state and federal officials are now looking into Sproul's efforts. There is no evidence that Sproul's questionable tactics were encouraged by Republican Party officials or, indeed, that the RNC even knew what the firm was up to. In statements, the Republicans have responded to the Sproul news by claiming to have a "zero-tolerance policy for anything that smacks of impropriety in registering voters."

But Democrats in Arizona say that the RNC was playing with fire in choosing Sproul for its outreach efforts and that the selection at least shows the party's lack of concern for preventing fraud. Nathan Sproul, the 32-year-old founder of Sproul & Associates (who did not respond to several of Salon's phone calls), "always seems to be playing things right on the edge," says Bob Grossfeld, a Democratic political consultant in Phoenix. Sproul's efforts, earlier this year, to collect signatures to repeal Arizona's public campaign financing bill were considered underhanded. Democrats also blanched at Sproul's involvement over the summer with Ralph Nader's efforts to find a place on the Arizona ballot.

Sarah Rosen, spokeswoman for the state's Democratic Party, says news of Sproul's activities in Nevada didn't come as any surprise to anyone in Arizona. "Absolutely no surprise. Nathan Sproul is accused of ripping up Democrats' registration forms? Everybody went, 'Oh, sure, that sounds right.' So why is this man who's been known to be involved in these activities continually receiving contracts from the Republican Party?"

- - - - - - - - - - - -

"Hello, we are doing a simple survey. If the election were held today, would you vote for President Bush or Senator Kerry?" So goes the first question on the script that Sproul's employees were asked to read to prospective registrants. The script, which was provided to Salon by Lisa Bragg, is printed on Sproul & Associates and America Votes letterhead, even though Sproul & Associates is not affiliated with America Votes. (In other states, the company has also gone by the name Voters Outreach of America.)

Bragg gave Salon several documents that she was handed during the recruitment session. Some of these documents counseled employees not to dismiss Democrats; the headline on one of the documents reads, "Don't turn anyone away!" In large, all-caps type, it says, "ALL CITIZENS WILL BE PROVIDED THE SAME OPPORTUNITY TO REGISTER." The documents also remind canvassers to be polite. "If a person becomes angry, it is important to listen to them, but not argue back," the documents say. "If a person is agitated, they might complain to the store manager, risking the loss of this location to register voters at. Please be sensitive toward others of different political affiliations who do not want to support President Bush. The Goal is to Register Republicans, and to remain positive."

But while they were asked to keep a cheery outlook, it's clear the employees were also told not to register Democrats unless people specifically asked for the forms. In what's called the "Kerry Scenario" on the script handed to employees, people who said they supported the Democrat for president were to be told, "Thank you very much for your time, I will record this." But people supporting Bush were to be told, "Great, well this is a very important election. Are you registered to vote at your current residence?" The Sproul employee was to help those who were not registered fill out the form.

On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that a Sproul employee script that it had received from a former worker in western Pennsylvania featured additional questions for undecided voters: "Do you consider yourself pro-choice or pro-life?" and "Are you worried about the Democrats raising taxes?" If the voters were pro-life, they were to be registered. "If they are pro-choice, say thank you and walk away."

To Bragg, such tactics constituted lying to her friends and neighbors. "They were asking me to be deceptive and to go behind people's back," she says. "I thought that was wrong and sneaky." She remembers other prospective workers at the recruitment drive also saying they felt uncomfortable with these guidelines, but for many, the money was too good to pass up. "Most people jumped at the chance to get this kind of work. A lot of the jobs around here are minimum wage, and this was a good opportunity for people who needed some part-time work or flexible hours."

Some workers at the orientation session said that they would try, despite Sproul's rules, to register Democrats anyway, Bragg recalls. "But the Sproul people were saying that they were going to have people checking up on us in the field. I thought, 'I don't want to be looking over my shoulder to see if Big Brother is watching me to make sure I'm not signing up Democrats.'" Bragg decided not to take the job and instead she alerted her former college journalism professor and the local press about her experiences. Her story was first reported, to little national notice, in the Charleston Gazette in late August.

In the past few years, left-leaning third-party advocacy groups have made voter registration a priority, and they've launched unprecedented efforts to sign people up for the polls. Though nominally nonpartisan and not affiliated with the Democratic Party in any official capacity, nobody doubts that the efforts of these groups -- such as the real America Votes, which works together with America Coming Together (ACT) and the Media Fund -- are meant to bolster Kerry in November. So how is Sproul's work different? Why is it wrong when Sproul asks its workers to focus on Republicans in the same way that America Votes might ask its workers to canvass a historically Democratic neighborhood?

Those are the questions the RNC asks in attacking Democrats "whose selective outrage does not apply to Democrat aligned groups like ACT, ACORN and others despite widespread allegations of systematic voter registration fraud." And in fact, the Republicans are right that some progressive groups have been accused of registration mischief. On Oct. 11, for instance, a local television news show in Denver reported that employees for ACORN, a group that has focused on registering low-income minorities, say they've been registering the same people multiple times in order to get paid more than once. (ACORN says that it's investigating the claims and notes that, logically, it doesn't have an interest in paying employees extra for registering the same people more than once.)

But former employees and others who've dealt with Sproul say its efforts go beyond the line of acceptable party boosterism sometimes seen in voter registration efforts. The firm's tactics are systematically deceptive, they say; lying seems to be part of its normal business plan. When you tell people you're doing a poll but you aren't really doing a poll, you're lying to them. The established left-leaning groups say they'd never engage in such a practice -- and so far, there's no evidence they have engaged in it.

The yarn that Sproul concocted for librarians around the country during the summer is another example of the company's uneasy relationship with truth. One of these librarians is Meghan O'Flaherty, the central library manager of the Jackson County Library in Oregon, who received a solicitation letter from Sproul in early September. "Our firm has been contracted to help coordinate a national non-partisan voter registration drive, America Votes!, in several states across the nation," the letter began. It went on to ask permission to have "1 to 2 people assigned to register voters" outside the library.

When she got the letter, O'Flaherty looked online for more information about America Votes, and after calling the group she discovered that the real America Votes wasn't connected with Sproul's firm. "I do feel they were trying to deceive me," she says now. Flaherty posted her findings on a librarian's listserv, and when her story was reported in the local paper on Sept. 21, Nathan Sproul professed innocence. "We were not trying to copy their name," he told the paper, saying that he'd never before heard of the large, well-funded America Votes.

Holly McCullough, the special assistant to the director of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, also received a solicitation from Sproul & Associates in September. McCullough and other librarians in the region initially let the firm conduct registration at the libraries. When library patrons began complaining about the Sproul workers' tactics, though, she called the company and complained. In response, the firm told her some outlandish stories.

Sproul first said that workers had been asking people their political affiliations "because they were doing some market analysis in the area," McCullough says. "I told them they were only supposed to be doing registrations, not market analysis. So then they said they were having trouble with temp agency they were using: the temp workers weren't working according to the rules. In my last conversation with them I asked them who they're associated with -- are you really with America Votes? They put me on hold. Then they came back and said, 'We've always represented that we were Sproul, and America Votes is a non-partisan group we're working with.' But then they said, 'There is another, partisan America Votes, and we're not affiliated with them.'" McCullough asked the firm to cease its operations at her library.

Despite the recent chatter among librarians and some former employees about Sproul's practices, the various threads of the Sproul story weren't pulled together until Eric Russell, a 26-year-old in Las Vegas, came forward last week with his explosive account. Russell, who has acknowledged a beef with the firm over pay, told his local CBS affiliate that supervisors at the company routinely discarded Democratic registration forms. The station, KLAS 8, managed to fish some from the trash, and when it contacted the affected voters they were, understandably, shocked.

Republicans have responded by questioning Russell's motives and his political affiliation. "There's no way to prove what he says either way. He's a disgruntled employee who had access to those forms. There's no way to prove he didn't tear them up," says Brian Scroggins, chairman of the Clark County Republican Party. "I was told he had a prime seat at the Michael Moore event the other day," Scroggins added. According to a report in the Arizona Republic on Friday, Nathan Sproul responded to Russell's allegations by filing a defamation lawsuit against him. "The lawsuit claims that after Russell was fired, he returned to the office holding what appeared to be voter registration forms and told workers he would claim that he saw a supervisor tear up the forms unless he was paid what he wanted," the paper said.

Sproul also told the Arizona Republic that his firm has turned in more than 1,000 Democratic registration forms in Nevada, and many others elsewhere; he has no policy against registering Democrats, he said. This was confirmed for Salon by elections officials in the regions where Sproul has been known to work; many said that Sproul's workers did indeed turn in Democratic forms. But the Democratic forms were far outnumbered by the Republican forms, officials said, as you'd expect to occur with the kind of dishonest tactics Sproul was using.

Russell's attorney declined Salon's request to interview his client, citing the distress caused by the many attacks Russell has faced since he came forward. But the attorney, Michael Mushkin, says that his client has not been served with any lawsuit.

Russell has been interviewed by the FBI, according to media reports. But if his story proves true, action by law enforcement may not make much difference; the damage may have already been done, at least for the many Democrats who registered to vote with Sproul's workers who are unsure whether their forms were turned in. In Nevada, the Democratic Party asked a judge last week to open voter registration for one additional day to accommodate the disenfranchised. The request was denied on Friday afternoon.

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Democrats in Arizona who claim to see a connection between Nathan Sproul and the efforts of the state and national Republican Party point to this fact: Sproul's Phoenix office is located at 4715 N. 32nd St., Suite 107. The offices of Gordon C. James Public Relations, a Republican political firm run by a former member of the advance team for George H.W. Bush, and his wife Lisa, the head of the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign in Arizona, are located at 4715 N. 32nd St., Suite 104. At least geographically, then, Nathan Sproul is very close to a few of the most well-connected, powerful GOP politicos in the state. 

But do the connections go beyond the physical? Gordon James says no; he and his wife don't have a working relationship with Nathan Sproul, he said. "We don't do any business together," James said. "I've been with the Bush family for 26 years. I barely know Nathan. We both happen to be Republicans." Before she began working on the Bush-Cheney campaign, though, Lisa James did head a group called No Taxpayer Money for Politicians, formed in the spring by Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to pass a ballot initiative that would have essentially repealed Arizona's Clean Elections campaign finance system. Sproul, a former head of the Arizona Republican Party, was hired by No Taxpayer Money for Politicians to conduct a signature drive to get the anti-Clean Elections bill on the ballot.

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