Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

ACORN overstated their "harvest"

Elections, Ethics, Obama 2008, Voter fraud Group's Tally of New Voters Was Vastly Overstated  

On Oct. 6, the community organizing group Acorn and an affiliated charity called Project Vote announced with jubilation that they had registered 1.3 million new voters. But it turns out the claim was a wild exaggeration, and the real number of newly registered voters nationwide is closer to 450,000, Project Vote’s executive director, Michael Slater, said in an interview.

The remainder are registered voters who were changing their address and roughly 400,000 that were rejected by election officials for a variety of reasons, including duplicate registrations, incomplete forms and fraudulent submissions from low-paid field workers trying to please their supervisors, Mr. Slater acknowledged.

The headline could just have easily stated, Nearly 1/2 of all new ACORN registrations rejected  

In registration drives, it is common for a percentage of newly registered voters to be disqualified for various reasons, although experts say the percentage is higher when groups pay workers to gather registrations. But the disclosure on Thursday that 30 percent of Acorn’s registrations were faulty was described by Republicans as further proof of what they said was Acorn’s effort to tilt the election unfairly.

“We were wondering how many were Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse,” said Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “The group is really tainted, and any work they do is suspect.”

Republicans had been prepared for months to make an issue of Acorn’s registration drive. A year ago, the party’s national committee anticipated the surge of new registrations by putting a map of the country on its Web site, labeled “You Can’t Make This Up! Vote Fraud.”

Democrats and officials with Acorn accuse Republicans of trying to manufacture a controversy to deflect attention from alleged voter suppression activities in several states. Election officials and experts say there is little chance that significant numbers of supporters of either party would actually try to vote through a fraudulent registration.

Over the last few weeks, the Acorn registration drive has become a flash point in the campaign when the flood of new voter registrations prompted complaints from election officials about the high number of improper submissions. State and local officials have begun investigations into possible fraudulent activity in at least 10 states.

If interviews with two dozen voters in the swing states of Florida and Ohio are any indication, Republicans’ efforts appear to have resonated with some members of their own party as well as with some independents and Democrats.

“I’d have to see how bad it is and what happens,” said Dorrie Cohen, an 82-year-old Democrat in Boynton Beach, Fla. “If it’s very organized fraud, I think that I would question the election. If it’s just a few people trying something, I don’t think I would. However, there’s so much on the newspapers and the TV about it, I imagine it will be organized.”

Mr. Slater and Acorn officials have defended their voter registration work. They said that it remained technically difficult to weed out duplications without better access to election records, and that their internal auditing identified many of the fraudulent registrations, which they flagged for election officials to review.

“Everybody knows that when 1.3 million applications are submitted, not every single one of them gets on the rolls,” said Brian Kettenring, a spokesman for Acorn. “That’s common sense.”

The Republican drive to publicize Acorn’s problems has had another less visible impact on the race, shifting the focus of election lawyers in the homestretch to the Nov. 4 election. Much of the Democratic team of lawyers and operatives who had intended to work on monitoring voter rights at the polls has instead played defense the last two weeks, responding to accusations of fraud.

The Obama campaign has also sought to deflect Republican efforts to tie Acorn’s registration campaign to the Democratic presidential nominee, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. The Republicans highlighted a federal election filing by the Obama campaign that showed an $832,598 payment last February to an Acorn affiliate, Citizens Services Inc., for “staging, sound, lighting.” The Republicans suggested that the payment was actually for voter registration. But the Obama campaign said it had mislabeled the payment, and it filed an amended report that reflects the money was for get-out-the-vote efforts.

In a letter on Thursday to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey, the general counsel for the Obama campaign, Robert F. Bauer, said he worried that Republican Party officials or candidates would pressure the Justice Department to improperly involve itself in the election.


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