LANCASTER – Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin said here yesterday that more needs to be known about the links between Democrat Barack Obama and ACORN, the community-activist group now being investigated by the FBI in connection with voter-registration fraud.
At an outdoor, morning rally at a minor-league ballpark, the Alaska governor told about 6,000 wind-chilled supporters that Obama, as a lawyer, had represented the group once in the 1990s and that his campaign had hired an ACORN-related group earlier this year for get-out-the-vote activities.
“Wouldn’t that be a lot of baggage to drag into the Oval Office?” Palin asked.
“On Election Day, we have to choose between a candidate [Obama] who won’t disavow a group committing voter-registration fraud and a leader [John McCain] who will not tolerate it,” she said.
ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has acknowledged that some of its workers, many of whom are paid on the basis of how many voters they register, may have turned in fraudulent registrations.
The law in many states, Pennsylvania included, requires that a group submit all the registration cards it collects, even the dubious ones. And ACORN officials say they have segregated questionable cards to make them easier for state officials to review.
At the rally, Palin defended the amount of attention she and McCain have given to such matters, which Democrats say are meant to distract voters from more pressing concerns, such as the economy.
An investigator enters the ACORN office in Las Vegas, Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008. A Nevada secretary of state’s office spokesman said Tuesday that investigators are looking for evidence of voter fraud at the office.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
“It is not mud-slinging….
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FORT WORTH — Derrick Richardson knows he has a very important job: Get voters to the polls Nov. 4.
As a field organizer with ACORN, he’s calling and visiting local voters to make sure they cast a ballot in this year’s presidential election.
His efforts are being duplicated across the country by workers with the nonpartisan group that works to help low-income people, many of whom traditionally lean Democrat. But claims of voter registration fraud in several states are bringing national scrutiny to their work that’s also spilling over into the presidential campaign.
Calls for state and federal investigations — including by the FBI — went out recently after workers in some states turned in registration lists that included Mickey Mouse and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Workers with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now say that by law they must turn in all registration forms and let election officials weed out the good from the bad.
“We take it for what it is,” Richardson, 51, said of the scrutiny. “It’s sad it’s occurring, but we can’t let it stop what we are doing.”
Critics of ACORN say that the group is tied to Democrat Barack Obama and that the bogus registrations were submitted intentionally. They note that workers are paid based on the number of registration forms they submit.
“They [ACORN] are a hyper-partisan group whose flaunting of election law is cause for grave concern both nationally and in Texas,” said Hans Klingler, spokesman for the Texas Republican Party. “Voter fraud is real and pervasive.”
A political analyst said much of the controversy around ACORN is politics as usual.
“Republicans are picking up any rock on the ground and throwing it in Obama’s direction hoping for a hit,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University.
County officials in several states have reported finding fake voter registration applications, many turned in by canvassers for ACORN. Group organizers, who tout registering 1.3 million new voters in 21 states, say they’ve fired workers known to have turned in false information.
The FBI is investigating to determine whether there was a coordinated national fraud effort, and at least one racketeering lawsuit against the group has been filed in Ohio, similar to one filed in 2004 that was dropped after the election. In the past few days, at least two ACORN offices — in Boston and Seattle — have been vandalized or robbed, and an ACORN community organizer in Cleveland received a death threat.
Accusations of stolen votes have a long history in presidential elections. In the 2000 recount debacle, Republicans said that illegal ballots were cast. Democrats said that legal ballots were thrown out. In 2004, when Ohio gave the presidency to George W. Bush, Democrats said that long lines and malfunctioning machines in that state led to an inaccurate count.
On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court threw out a Republican lawsuit in Ohio that could have made it easier to challenge newly registered voters.
But in this contest, involving the first African-American in American history with a real chance at becoming president, the vitriol is particularly pointed.
Republicans point out that Obama has conducted two training sessions for ACORN and served on a team of lawyers that represented it in 1995. His campaign paid $832,000 this year to a consulting firm affiliated with ACORN for a get-out-the-vote effort.
“We need to know the full extent of Sen. Obama’s relationship with ACORN, who 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,” Republican John McCain said during the last debate.
But ACORN officials say they are disappointed in the attacks and note that McCain spoke at a 2006 immigration rally that ACORN co-sponsored. They say a small percentage of fraud is expected with such a massive voter registration drive, which used 13,000 workers, and they note that they called many of the questionable forms to the attention of election officials.
Obama’s staff dismisses GOP talk about ACORN as a political move.