Arizona wants ACORN Investigated
From the Tucson Citizen:
Secretary of State wants ACORN in Arizona investigated
Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer has turned over information about a grassroots organizing group that conservatives have accused of voter registration fraud.
Brewer, a Republican, gave Democratic state Attorney General Terry Goddard information about the group's effort to register voters but did not disclose specifics about what the group had done wrong in a news release.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now has been accused of turning in fraudulent registration forms solicited by organizers who are paid by the number of new voters they sign up. ACORN leaders counter that the fraudulent forms only defrauds the group, because they paid to sign up a voter who can't vote.
Goddard spokeswoman Anne Titus Hilby would not discuss Brewer's complaints specifically.
"Any election-related issue that the Secretary of State's office sends to us, we will we look into," Hilby said.
Republican Arizona Sen. John McCain claimed in the final presidential debate Wednesday that the organization "is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy."
He kept up the attack on Thursday, saying ACORN is being investigated for voter fraud "in every single battleground state" and demanding that Democrat Barack Obama detail his ties to the group.
A handful of ACORN canvassers are currently being investigated across the country by local officials on suspicion of submitting false registration cards, some with names like "Mickey Mouse" or "Donald Duck."
The group recently completed a massive registration drive in poor and working-class neighborhoods — which tend to vote Democratic — across 21 states, signing up 1.3 million new voters. Arizona was not part of that drive. Bogus registration cards filled out in the names of cartoon characters and the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys have been targeted for investigation in about 12 states, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Missouri, Nevada and South Carolina.
ACORN, which advocates for the underprivileged, has said for days that it was its own quality-control workers who first noticed problem registration cards, flagged them and submitted them to local election officials in every state that is now investigating them.
ACORN hires canvassers from disadvantaged communities, pays them $8 an hour and provides them with a day of training, according to the group's spokesman, Brian Kettenring. He said those who forged registration cards were lazy employees trying to earn money for doing no work, and were fired.
Many states, including Arizona, require that every collected registration card be submitted to election officials so that bogus cards or those with incomplete information are vetted by voting professionals, not the groups that collect them.
Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign gave $800,000 to ACORN to organize voters in Ohio, Indiana, Texas and Pennsylvania during the primaries. He didn't win any of the races. The issue has been discussed on conservative talk radio and in the blogosphere.
Press inquiries and citizen phone calls prompted Brewer's office to turn give Goddard's office a list of complaints about the group from this and previous elections, said State Elections Director Joe Kanefield.
"We have seen an unusually high number of registration forms that were false," Kanefield said.
ACORN has turned in forms late and others that involved the same people registered a number of times, Brewer said in the news release, though no specifics were provided.
ACORN organizers say they are being "smeared" for following state law requiring all registration forms be turned in, even ones they understand won't get a new voter on the rolls, said Kristy Theilen, who runs ACORN's Tucson operation.
"You may see that Mickey Mouse has been registered, so you flag it for the elections board," Theilen said. "Mickey Mouse is, obviously, not going to vote in the election."
Theilen said ACORN-Tucson is not doing voter registration here in 2008.
The group has been active in the past and has had no more problems than other voter registration drives, said Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez.
"The problem is that, if they are paying them by the piece, you know they are going to turn them in, whether they are valid or not," Rodriguez said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Good thing Arizona requires ID to vote. Right?