Marvin Fong/The Plain Dealer/AP

Stock the vote

Politics | Registration shenanigans in several states prompt investigation of ACORN

Issue: "Not over till it's over," Nov. 1, 2008

For Freddie Johnson, registering to vote produced more than a patriotic feeling: He says it also produced cash and cigarettes from the part-time workers in Ohio who recorded Johnson's name 72 times.

Johnson, 19, says he filled out 72 separate voter registration cards for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a left-leaning group that pays part-time workers to sign up new voters in low-income communities. The organization says this year more than 13,000 workers in 21 states signed up some 1.3 million voters. Many registered as Democrats.

Johnson says he told multiple ACORN workers that he had already registered, but that one said: "Can you just sign up again?" The cell phone salesman says some workers offered him cigarettes or a dollar to register.

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A metastasizing voter registration scandal confirms Johnson's case isn't isolated: Officials are investigating ACORN's voter registration methods in at least eight states, including Nevada, where state authorities raided ACORN offices in Las Vegas. Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller said the group had submitted duplicate registrations and forms with false information, including registrations for the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys.

ACORN officials say they must submit all the forms they collect, and that they flag questionable forms for election board authorities. The group says a small percentage of the forms it collects from temporary workers could be false, but denies widespread fraud.

In 2006, Washington state officials fined ACORN $25,000 in a scandal the secretary of state called the worst case of voter fraud in the state's history. Clifton Mitchell, a part-time ACORN worker, admitted helping to register 2,000 people that didn't exist: "I needed money. . . . It was the only job I had."

Republicans worried about voter fraud filed a slew of lawsuits in several states. In a case unrelated to ACORN, the Ohio GOP challenged 200,000 of the 600,000 new voter registrations in the state. The questionable registrations contain voters whose driver's license or Social Security numbers don't match other government records. Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, said the discrepancies were likely clerical errors.

A federal court ordered Brunner to set up a system to check the records, but the U.S. Supreme Court overruled the decision, saying the law doesn't allow private entities like the state GOP to file such suits.

Phil Burress of the conservative Citizens for Community Values in Ohio told WORLD that Brunner's claim that the discrepancies were innocent errors is "absolute nonsense." He says he's not optimistic about a fair election in the swing state.

Sen. John McCain's campaign manager called for a wider inquiry into voter fraud, saying errors could compromise elections in close states. The campaign also pointed out Sen. Barack Obama's connections to ACORN: The senator represented the organization in a 1995 lawsuit to make voter registration easier in Illinois. Obama's campaign also paid $800,000 to a group called Citizens Services Inc. to register voters during the primary race earlier this year. That group paid ACORN about $80,000 to help its efforts.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor denied McCain's claims that Obama's connections to ACORN run deep and reflect poor judgment, and called the statements a"dishonorable, shameful attempt" to distract voters from campaign issues.

Back in Ohio, multiple-registering voter Freddie Johnson says he'll be at the polls on Nov. 4. "I've registered enough," he said. "I might as well vote."


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