Grassroots group at center of US voter registration uproar
1 day ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) — A grassroots organization that grew out of 1960s radicalism was Friday at the heart of a political firestorm over alleged voter registration fraud in the run-up to the US presidential election.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- better known by its acronym ACORN -- boasts gathering the names of 1.3 million mostly non-white, low-income voters in 21 states in the most successful voter registration drive in US history.
But its achievement is challenged by conservative opponents of Democratic front-runner Barack Obama, after allegations of voter registration fraud emerged in at least six to eight states where the November 4 vote is liable to be close.
Though it claims to be non-partisan, ACORN endorsed Obama's candidacy in February.
Republican rival John McCain's campaign jumped into the fray Friday, suggesting in a new video that Obama trained ACORN activists, and alleging that ACORN had engaged in "bullying banks" into making risky loans to poor households.
"Obama's ties to ACORN run long and deep," the video alleged, in a broadside reminiscent of McCain's efforts to make Obama's relationship with 1960s radical William Ayers a campaign issue. The video also accused ACORN of "massive voter fraud."
On Friday, the Florida state attorney's office in Brevard County -- home to Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center -- confirmed it was looking into "under 30 registrations" that might be bogus.
"We have received a complaint from the supervisor of elections," spokeswoman Lynne Harper told AFP by telephone. "We are in the active process of reviewing it ... You could call it an investigation."
News of that probe follows a raid on ACORN's offices Tuesday in the western state of Nevada over allegations that nearly 300 suspected bogus voter registration cards had been submitted to electoral officials.
Some of those cares reportedly featured the names of the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys, an American football team in far-off Texas.
In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, a 37-year-old man employed by ACORN as a canvasser was arrested last weekend on suspicion of turning in fraudulent cards. In no state so far have charges been laid.
ACORN -- founded in 1970 when social justice was a rallying cry for US liberals, and when Obama was just nine years old -- denies wrongdoing.
It asserted Friday that any irregularities were likely the result of a handful of over-zealous canvassers who had slipped through its "quality control" procedures.
"At the end of the day, we'll be talking about a few thousand registrations," said Mike Slater, executive director of ACORN's voter registration affiliate Project Vote, in a telephone conference call with journalists.
On its website, New Orleans-based ACORN bills itself as "the nation's largest grassroots community organization" with more than 400,000 low- and middle-income families organized into more than 1,200 neighborhood chapters in 42 states.
Unlike other Western democracies, where government agencies compile voting lists, the onus in many parts in the United States is on individual voters to register to vote.
Election-year charges of registration and voter fraud are par for the course in the United States, most famously in 2000 when a furor over dodgy ballots saw the tight race between George W. Bush and Al Gore going all the way to the Supreme Court.
If they make mistakes, so be it. At least they are trying to get people registered. If they help 1 million voters register and make some errors it should be expected. A task that large will have errors. As long as no purposeful gile is found, the errors should just be considered as errors..nothing more. The Republicans are going to use voter suppression so maybe they will cancel each other out. It is amazing how close we are to the actual election and people are finding out that their names are not on a voting list when they have been voting for years and still live in the same place. If this suppression, I don't like it. Can you imagine if it is based on your credit score? I am going to make sure mine is there.