Obama and ACORN, is there a problem? (Update)

This is a story I’ve been largely ignoring for days now until there was meaningful evidence and background. Well, the time has come that it appears there are too many news stories to ignore.

There have been numerous reports of fraudulent voter registrations linked to the community organizing group called ACORN, a.k.a the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now. This is also the group Sen. Obama worked for as a community organizer in Chicago, however, that aspect is irrelevant to this story.

A report on this all from CNN:

Next, take all these reports, for example, of ACORN-related voter registration fraud around the country. Note, these are hard news pieces from local news agencies around the country and one from the Associated Press, not opinion pieces.

Missouri, via Yahoo News:

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Officials in Missouri, a hard-fought jewel in the presidential race, are sifting through possibly hundreds of questionable or duplicate voter-registration forms submitted by an advocacy group that has been accused of election fraud in other states.

Charlene Davis, co-director of the election board in Jackson County, where Kansas City is, said the fraudulent registration forms came from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN. She said they were bogging down work Wednesday, the final day Missourians could register to vote.

“I don’t even know the entire scope of it because registrations are coming in so heavy,” Davis said. “We have identified about 100 duplicates, and probably 280 addresses that don’t exist, people who have driver’s license numbers that won’t verify or Social Security numbers that won’t verify. Some have no address at all.”

The nonpartisan group works to recruit low-income voters, who tend to lean Democratic. Most polls show Republican presidential candidate John McCain with an edge in bellwether Missouri, but Democrat Barack Obama continues to put up a strong fight.

Jess Ordower, Midwest director of ACORN, said his group hasn’t done any registrations in Kansas City since late August. He said he was told three weeks ago by election officials that there were only about 135 questionable cards — 85 of them duplicates.

“They keep telling different people different things,” he said. “They gave us a list of 130, then told someone else it was 1,000.”

FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton said the agency has been in contact with elections officials about potential voter fraud and plans to investigate.

Connecticut, via ConnPost.com:

HARTFORD — The State Elections Enforcement Commission has opened an investigation into allegations that a community activist organization submitted at least 10 false voter-registration cards in Bridgeport.

One of the phony registrations was for a 7-year-old girl in the Marina Village housing complex, whose age was listed as 27 on the voter card.

Another registration came from a man who later said he couldn’t have completed the voter card purported to be his because he was in jail on the date of the document.

Joseph J. Borges, the city’s Republican registrar of voters, filed the complaint with state officials after months of local complaints on the tactics that ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, was regularly filing applications that were ruled ineligible.

In response, a Bridgeport leader of ACORN on Tuesday night called the charges “part of a concerted and coordinated campaign by conservatives and the GOP to attack and discredit ACORN.” The charges date back to the summer, when the Connecticut Post reported that ACORN applications were flooding the registrar’s office and resulting in excessive extra hours of research to check their authenticity.

“We have many more complaints,” Borges said Tuesday, adding that the 10 are just highlights. He said he went to Marina Village personally and interviewed the 7-year-old.

Wisconsin, via the Journal Sentinel:

Last week, the district attorney’s office charged Endalyn Adams, 21, with submitting registration cards with dozens of fake names to meet what amounted to a quota from the Community Voters Project. Some of the false names were flagged by voters project leaders before the cards were turned over to the Milwaukee Election Commission; those names were never added to the voter rolls, and the rest have been removed.

In another five cases, investigators found insufficient evidence of fraud. The rest remain under review, said Assistant District Attorney Bruce Landgraf, who filed the charges against Mucklin and Adams.

Virtually all the workers under scrutiny were employed by either the voters project or by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Those groups were among several politically liberal organizations that launched massive voter registration drives in Milwaukee in advance of the Nov. 4 election.

As with Adams, leaders of the voters project and ACORN say they caught much of the fraud and alerted authorities before handing in the registration cards. The groups also say the cases represent a small percentage of the dozens of workers and tens of thousands of voters signed up.

Ohio, via Cleveland.com:

A national voter-registration group admitted to Cuyahoga County election officials Tuesday that it cannot eliminate fraud from its operation.

The group blamed inefficiency and lack of resources for problems such as being unable to spot duplicate voter-registration cards or cards that may have been filled out by workers to make quotas.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, has turned in at least 65,000 cards to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in the last year. The board has investigated potentially fraudulent cards since August.

The group has faced similar inquiries in other large Ohio counties. And Nevada state authorities recently raided ACORN’s Las Vegas headquarters searching for evidence of fraud, according to the Associated Press.

Local representatives of the organization told Cuyahoga board members that they don’t have the resources to identify fraudulent cards turned in by paid canvassers who are told to register low- and moderate-income voters.

Cuyahoga election workers flagged about 50 names on suspicious cards. The cards were to register the same names, raising the possibility that canvassers shared information when trying to make quotas.

“This is not something you can catch with your internal controls, apparently,” said board member Sandy McNair at the meeting.

“Not perfectly, no,” replied Mari Engelhardt, ACORN political director for Ohio.

Indiana, via nwi.com:

CROWN POINT | New voter registrations closed Monday in Lake County with possible record-breaking numbers and simmering allegations of fraud and racial discrimination.

Elections board Director Sally LaSota said more than 12,000 voter registration forms are waiting to be processed from recent days before the county knows how many potential voters are ready to cast ballots in the Nov. 4 general election.

“It may be a record,” she said.

Porter County has processed at least 3,500 voter applications since the spring primary in May, officials there said.

However, the large influx has brought new controversies.

LaSota said Monday representatives of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, a grassroots activist group conducting registration drives, dropped off 2,000 new voter applications last week in Lake County.

“About 1,100 are no good,” she said.

LaSota said the flawed forms are incomplete or contain unreadable handwriting — similar to hundreds of other forms ACORN produced prior to this week. She said some ACORN vote canvassers apparently pulled names and addresses from telephone books and forged signatures.

The above are some exmples of the news from ACORN-related voter registration activities all around the country. ACORN claims they do not approve of the fraudulent registrations but cannot stop their volunteers from turning in bad names and false voter registration applications. That may well be true, however, this is starting to seem systemic all around the country with ACORN voter registrations. One has to wonder if they are doing enough to try and prevent such fraudulent registrations.

The questions surrounding ACORN and the Obama campaign have to do with the over $800,000 paid to an offshoot of ACORN for voter registration drives.

The Pittsburgh-Tribune Review reports on the Obama/ACORN connection:

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign paid more than $800,000 to an offshoot of the liberal Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now for services the Democrat’s campaign says it mistakenly misrepresented in federal reports.

An Obama spokesman said Federal Election Commission reports would be amended to show Citizens Services Inc. — a subsidiary of ACORN — worked in “get-out-the-vote” projects, instead of activities such as polling, advance work and staging major events as stated in FEC finance reports filed during the primary.

FEC spokeswoman Mary Brandenberger said it is not unusual for campaigns to amend reports, even regarding large sums of money.

But, said Blair Latoff, spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee: “Barack Obama’s failure to accurately report his campaign’s financial records is an incredibly suspicious situation that appears to be an attempt to hide his campaign’s interaction with a left-wing organization previously convicted of voter fraud. For a candidate who claims to be practicing ‘new’ politics, his FEC reports look an awful lot like the ‘old-style’ Chicago politics of yesterday.”

In response to the RNC’s position, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said in an e-mail: “The RNC can concoct all of the outlandish conspiracy theories they want, but when we saw that our FEC report didn’t accurately reflect the field work CSI was hired to perform we corrected it. It’s pretty bold for the RNC to attack us for a clerical error after John McCain’s campaign was just forced to return $50,000 raised by a foreign national through a number of contributors who weren’t even supporting McCain.”

Melanie Sloan, executive director of the liberal-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the campaign’s error on FEC documents doesn’t seem extraordinary, especially considering the huge amounts of money being spent.

“It’s rare that people don’t file any amended reports. If he has a pattern of lots and lots of amended reports, that would be more noteworthy than an occasional one,” Sloan said.

Now, down to the bottom line. Considering the systemic voter registration fraud resulting from ACORN’s registration drives, is it right for the Obama campaign to have paid $800,000 to the organization? Should Obama repudiate the organization and demand their money back?

My point in posting this story is that voter fraud effects us all, of all parties and beliefs. I am not suggesting the Obama campaign was involved with the fraud as I do not believe it was, there is no evidence to that effect whatsoever. ACORN was presiding over the fraudulent registrations in all these cases.

Voter registration fraud scares me as an American, and it should scare you to. It is not important which candidate wins the election, but that they do so fairly and justly to preserve American democracy.

Any form of voter registration fraud should be harshly denounced, and I call on the Obama campaign to do so in this case. If there is similar news from groups associated with the McCain campaign, I also call on McCain to denounce it and will do my best to expose it.

If you have more on this story, or evidence the McCain campaign is linked to similar groups, email me at [email protected] and I’ll report on it.

Update

More on the investigations into ACORN, from the New York Post:

CLEVELAND – Two Ohio voters, including Domino’s pizza worker Christopher Barkley , claimed yesterday that they were hounded by the community-activist group ACORN to register to vote several times, even though they made it clear they’d already signed up.

Barkley estimated he’d registered to vote “10 to 15” times after canvassers for ACORN, whose political wing has endorsed Barack Obama, relentlessly pursued him and others.

Claims such as his have sparked election officials to probe ACORN.

“I kept getting approached by folks who asked me to register,” Barkley said. “They’d ask me if I was registered. I’d say yes, and they’d ask me to do it again.

“Some of them were getting paid to collect names. That was their sob story, and I bought it,” he said.

Barkley is one of at least three people who have been subpoenaed by the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections as part of a wider inquiry into possible voter fraud by ACORN. The group seeks to register low-income voters, who skew overwhelmingly Democratic.

“You can tell them you’re registered as many times as you want – they do not care,” said Lateala Goins, 21, who was subpoenaed.

“They will follow you to the buses, they will follow you home, it does not matter,” she told The Post.

She added that she never put down an address on any of the registration forms, just her name.

A third subpoenaed voter, Freddie Johnson, 19, filled out registration cards 72 times over 18 months, officials said.

Here’s a story submitted to me via email by a reader about ACORN in Wisconsin, from WCCO:

MADISON, Wis. (AP) ? At least seven felons convicted of crimes including cocaine possession and robbery were recruited by a liberal group to register voters in Milwaukee.

The Republican Party says using convicted felons for that work increases the chances of voter fraud.

All seven were designated as special registration deputies in Milwaukee, which allows them to solicit and keep voter registration applications.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, hired all seven.

State law says anyone who is able to vote can be a special registration deputy. Felons can vote as long as they are no longer on probation or parole.

But the attorney for the state board that runs elections issued an opinion in April saying felons may not serve as special registration deputies.

Once again, I will question whether ACORN is doing enough, as they claim, to stop voter registration fraud and potential vote fraud at the ballot box. These reports are rampant from all around the country. This is not an isolated incident and cannot be ignored any longer by voters or the media.

This story is ongoing as it is still developing. Any news or developments will be updated.