Ron Paul campaign distances itself from supporters' vote fraud concerns
Some supporters of presidential candidate Ron Paul have been sounding the alarm about potential voting irregularities in this weekend's Republican straw poll. However, the Texas Congressman says he doesn't support a lawsuit being prepared against the state Republican party and his campaign stresses it has worked behind the scenes to address any concerns over vote-counting.
Representatives of the campaign privately discussed potential security vulnerabilities in the Diebold voting machines to be used in Saturday's vote, but a spokesman tells RAW STORY that Paul's campaign never intended to publicly challenge the vote.
"We didn't want to use and will not use this as a public relations opportunity," Jesse Benton, a spokesman for Paul's campaign, said in a telephone interview. "We have no part in that lawsuit."
Since Diebold machines have been de-certified in other states, Paul's campaign had asked for a hand recount of paper ballots cast in Saturday's non-binding poll of Republicans during a GOP fundraiser in Ames, Iowa. When the state party said it would count the paper ballots only if Paul's campaign covered the $184,000 cost of the count, the campaign withdrew its request, Benton told RAW STORY.
Benton said he hopes state officials uphold private commitments of "transparency" with the vote count that they gave to Paul's campaign.
On an Iowa radio talk show this week, the founder of VoterFraud.org said he was planning a legal challenge to the straw poll vote because of trepidation with the accuracy of Diebold's machines.
"I believe that in every election we have total fraud potential," founder Jim Condit Jr. told radio host Jim Mickelson.
Another group, We the People Foundation, is planning an independent exit poll of straw poll voters to verify the electronic scan of Diebold ballots. The group is asking for 60 volunteers to videotape straw poll participants as they and another 200 to conduct the exit poll.
"That's not a project that we encourage or think is especially worthwhile," Benton said.
The Iowa Republican Party says the vote will be "fraud-proof, honest and secure." Participants will have to show a valid Iowa ID and will have their thumbs dyed purple to prevent multiple votes.
Another Paul supporter complained of possible corruption because a member of Mitt Romney's leadership team, Story County Auditor is Mary Mosiman, is providing the voting machines and will be overseeing the vote.
"So there you have it, the Story County Auditor who will take part in overseeing the voting on the questionable machines is part of a team dedicated to 'help Governor Romney share his vision for America,'" wrote a supporter on an unofficial Ron Paul 2008 blog. "That's a blatant conflict of interest and this is something we cannot ignore."
Although supporters are skeptical of voting practices because they don't want to see Paul or any other candidates short-changed in the vote, the Paul campaign insists it does not believe there will be an attempt to disenfranchise his supporters.
"We don't think there's anything sinister happening in any way," Benton said.
Paul began running television and radio ads in Iowa this week in advance of the poll. His supporters hope a stronger-than-expected showing Saturday will catapult Paul out of the bottom tier of candidates -- he is currently polling around 2 percent in Iowa -- and strengthen his candidacy.