Voting machines suspiciously defaulting to Barack Obama? Buses loaded with strangers appearing at polling stations? Even ballots turning out 100 percent for one candidate in precinct reports?

In short, suspicions of vote fraud?

That’s too bad, because a race-based consent decree negotiated by Democrats against the Republican National Committee a generation ago still has tied the RNC’s hands, and GOP officials could be cited for contempt – or worse – if they try to make sure American elections are clean.

Impossible?

No. Fact.

The case is the Democratic National Committee vs. the Republican National Committee, originally from 1982.

Democrats alleged Republicans were trying intimidate minority voters in New Jersey and brought the legal action. The RNC, inexplicably, decided to agree to a consent decree before a Democrat-appointed judge rather than fight the claims.

The judge, Dickinson Debevoise, appointed by Jimmy Carter, later retired but decided he would continue to control the case. The decision requires the RNC – but not the DNC – to “refrain from undertaking any ballot security activities in polling places or election districts where the racial or ethnic composition of such districts is a factor in the decision to conduct, or the actual conduct of, such activities there and where a purpose or significant effect of such activities is to deter qualified voters from voting; and the conduct of such activities disproportionately in or directed toward districts that have a substantial proportion of racial or ethnic populations shall be considered relevant evidence of the existence of such a factor and purpose.”

The rest of the agreement essentially requires the RNC to follow applicable state and federal election laws.

But the section cited above has been used for decades to warn off Republicans from any challenge to evidence of voter fraud in districts with “racial or ethnic populations.”

The law has remained, even though the RNC recently challenged it at the appellate level only to be turned down by Judges Joseph Greenaway Jr., appointed by Bill Clinton; Dolores Sloviter, appointed by Carter; and Walter Stapleton, appointed by Ronald Reagan, in the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

It now is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

But two election veterans both told WND it still is hurting the fight against voter fraud in the United States.

Attorney James Bopp of the James Madison Center said the threat that the RNC has faced is that someone will allege a violation of the decree, and party officials will be standing in a courtroom on Election Day.

Bopp’s organization was founded to protect the First Amendment right of all citizens of free expression and “to support litigation and public education activities in order to defend the rights of political expression and association by citizens and citizen groups as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Bopp himself has taken part in more than 60 election-related cases, including recounts, redistricting and constitutional law challenges to state and federal election laws.

He said the agreement even today, amid reports of fraud across the country, prevents the RNC from doing any anti-voter fraud activity on Election Day.

“It is way too restrictive,” he said. “It prevents the RNC from working with state parties in conducting voter integrity activities. It has been used by the DNC to harass the leadership of the RNC with false allegations of violations of the consent decree.”

He said the reason why the RNC originally agreed to the decree, rather than fight the allegations, was unclear. But he said he investigated the issue.

“It was very troubling that the RNC’s effort to ensure the integrity of the vote would be undermined,” he told WND.

While there have been periods in U.S. history in which there have been concerns about minority voting, the restrictions today, he said, are “completely unjustified.”

“It’s become absurd,” he said, noting that the GOP has had a black chairman.

Voters, he said, would be best served to have both political parties watching for vote fraud.

Also responding to questions about the issue was Cleta Mitchell of the Washington firm of Foley & Lardner.

Mitchell is on the firm’s political law practice team and has 30 years of experience in law, politics and public policy, advising candidates, campaigns and others on state and federal campaign finance law, election law and compliance issues. She practices before the Federal Election Commission.

“The RNC has been completely prohibited from doing anything in ballot security since 1982,” she told WND. “The Democrats repeatedly over the years have gotten the RNC officers into court on the weekend before the election.

“What it means is that for 30 years there has been no way to institutionalize, to help train state parties, to work with candidates [on vote fraud prevention issues],” she said.

Problems can be caused by malfunctioning equipment, programming errors, or “sheer incompetence” of local elections officials, she said. And sometimes by vote fraud.

“The problem is there’s nothing that the RNC can do in that regard because of that consent degree,” Mitchell said.  “A lot of things need to be done to improve state laws. … Democrats are able to be involved as they want to be.”

Republicans have tried to change the decree since 2009, after Obama took office. But Debevoise has ruled that they failed to show that conditions in the U.S. had changed since 1982.

Debevoise said that since most minority voters support Democrats, the RNC still has an incentive to suppress minority votes.

He dismissed the idea of voter fraud and extended his own supervision of the case until 2017.

In March, the 3rd Circuit issued its affirmation of Debevoise’s decision.

WND recently has reported on allegations of voter fraud, including a claim by a poll watcher in Pennsylvania who said votes reverted to Obama by default, no matter who the voter selected.

The incident took place in the state where officials claimed Obama received a total of 19,605 votes in 59 voting divisions to zero for Mitt Romney and not far from the 100 precincts in Ohio in which Obama got 99 percent of the vote.

With evidence mounting that the vote tabulation did not reflect the true choices of voters, talk-radio icon Rush Limbaugh declared: “Third-world, tin-horn dictators don’t get [these percentages]. I mean, the last guy that got this percentage of the vote was Saddam Hussein, and the people that didn’t vote for him got shot. This just doesn’t happen. Even Hugo Chavez [of Venezuela] doesn’t get 100 percent or 99 percent of the vote.”

It was in Upper Macungie Township, near Allentown, Pa., where an auditor, Robert Ashcroft, was dispatched by Republicans to monitor the vote on Election Day. He said the software he observed would “change the selection back to default – to Obama.”

He said that happened in about 5 percent to 10 percent of the votes.

See the BIG LIST of vote fraud reports coming out of the 2012 election.

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