Would Republicans Accuse Joe the Plumber of Voter Fraud?

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Originally published on the Guardian’s “On the Road to the White House” blog, a project of Guardian Films

Under the GOP’s current vote suppression strategy in Ohio, McCain’s now famous icon might have had a hard time casting a ballot. In a case that has now gone to the Supreme Court for review, Republicans in the state are challenging the registrations of all new voters whose names and other information do not exactly match those in government databases. It turns out that one of the present Ohio voters who could have fallen into this category is Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher—or is it Worzelbacher?—otherwise known as Joe the Plumber.

The man John McCain lionized in Wednesday night’s debate has since had every aspect of his life scrutinized by the media. They’ve uncovered some contradictory facts, to say the least: He’s not really a plumber, he probably wouldn’t pay more taxes under Obama if he bought his business, and he hasn’t actually paid some of the taxes he already owes. He’s also registered to vote under a different name.

The New York Times politics blog The Caucus yesterday included the following piece of information:

Mr. Wurzelbacher is registered to vote in Lucas County under the name Samuel Joseph Worzelbacher.

“We have his named spelled W-O, instead of W-U,” Linda Howe, executive director of the Lucas County Board of Elections, said in a telephone interview. “Handwriting is sometimes hard to read. He has never corrected it in his registration card.”

The records, she said, showed he voted Republican in the March primary.

Because Joe the Plumber registered and has a record of voting in the past, he would not be among those targeted by the Republicans. That privilege is reserved for the voters with newly filed registration applications–a group that clearly favors Obama.

On Tuesday, a federal court ruled in favor of the GOP, ordering Ohio’s Democratic Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, to release a list of those voters whose information on voter registration applications does not match the information on Social Security and drivers license databases. Republicans want to force these voters to cast provisional ballots, which can later be scrutinized and challenged; some may instead choose to simply go home.

The list includes a stunning 200,000 of the 660,000 Ohioans who have registered since January 1 of this year. The magnitude of the number—like the glitch in Joe the Plumber’s registration—prove the fallibility of a system in which sloppy handwriting is being used to deny people their most basic democratic rights.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2008

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