Will the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) steal the 2008 election for Barack Obama? Investigations into ACORN’s voter registration efforts have spread across the nation, with the Associated Press reporting that an FBI investigation of the group is underway. But according to an October 19th Rasmussen poll only 36% of those surveyed believed that Obama has ties to ACORN, while 29% were “not sure.”
In contrast, the poll found that those people “who say they are following news stories about ACORN very closely, believe that the group is deliberately registering illegal voters and that Obama or his campaign is affiliated with it exceed 60%.”
Barack Obama has denied any recent connection with ACORN. “Apparently what [ACORN has] done is they were paying people to go out and register folks, and apparently some of the people who were out there didn’t really register people, they just filled out a bunch of names,” Obama said during the last presidential debate.
“It had nothing to do with us. We were not involved. The only involvement I’ve had with ACORN was I represented them alongside the U.S. Justice Department in making Illinois implement a motor voter law that helped people get registered at DMVs.”
Obama also gave more than $800,000 to Citizen Services Inc., an ACORN subsidiary, for “get out the vote” activities during the Democratic primary, a fact the candidate initially tried to conceal.
Obama’s “Fight the Smears” website claims that “ACORN was not part of Project Vote, the successful voter registration Barack ran in 1992.”
“Now ACORN says ‘we only had him for two conferences, for one hour each,’ but that’s not what contemporary newspaper accounts at the time say,” commented John Fund, author of Stealing Elections, at Heritage last Monday. He said that Project Vote and ACORN were affiliated at the time, a relationship which grew into a full partnership.
Fund is a leading expert on voter fraud in the United States. His book, published in 2004 and updated for the 2008 election, chronicles voter fraud and voter suppression perpetrated by both sides of the aisle.
Not Really Fraud?
The message promoted by the mainstream media over the last couple weeks has been that if voter registration fraud is occurring, it is not likely to result in fraudulent votes.
“McCain is correct that at least a handful of ACORN canvassers are currently being investigated across the country by local officials on suspicion of submitting false registration cards…But in alleging voter fraud, McCain goes too far,” wrote the Associated Press on October 16. “To commit fraud, a person would have to show up on Election Day with identification bearing the fake name.”
“A lot of people say that the voter registration fraud that we have seen isn’t really voter fraud. Well, yes that’s true technically,” said Fund at Heritage. “But I believe this is like an iceberg. Remember, an iceberg is one tenth above the surface and nine tenths below the surface.” Fund reminded the audience that since Americans use an anonymous ballot system, it is hard to measure voter fraud and “we have examples of voter registration fraud people actually casting ballots” such as Darnell Nash in Ohio.
In an October 22 story, New York Times writer Stephanie Strom actually contradicts her previous article in order to minimize the association between Obama and an arguably corrupt ACORN. She now characterizes the ACORN investigation as a partisan attempt to discredit Obama.
“Republicans have tried to make an issue of Senator Barack Obama’s ties to the group, which he represented in a lawsuit in 1995,” wrote Strom. “The Obama campaign has denied any connection with ACORN’s voter registration drives.” Strom then goes on to cover Elizabeth Kingsley’s internal ACORN report, which raises questions about whether the group violated federal laws.
Similarly, the AP article merely quotes Obama’s denial of a connection between him and ACORN’s voter registration efforts, without checking the facts. This for an article titled “Fact Check: GOP Vitriol Rages over ACORN.”
“I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career.” These words, spoken by Obama himself, were reported on February 21 by the blogger and “on leave” Nation freelancer, Sam Graham-Felson.
The November statement by Obama, in its entirety, reads:
“I come out of a grassroots organizing background. That’s what I did for three and half years before I went to law school. That’s the reason I moved to Chicago was to organize. So this is something that I know personally, the work you do, the importance of it. I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career. Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drive in Illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work.”
The first four sentences can be found in a cached version of an ACORN e-newsletter, as well as on Graham-Felson’s blog. The second half of the quote was corroborated by the New York Post and, ironically, the last sentence was quoted by Stephanie Strom herself in an article for The Times just 11 days earlier.
Not only is it misleading for Strom to claim that the Obama campaign has “denied any connection with ACORN’s voter registration drives” if Obama himself has said that ACORN was “smack dab in the middle of” such efforts, but ACORN itself has acknowledged a long-standing relationship between Obama and themselves.
The cached version of ACORN’s February 21st e-newsletter also states the following:
“Obama continued to work with ACORN after he was elected to state office in Illinois and then to the U.S. Senate.”
ACORN’s allegations about Republican “voter suppression” tactics maintain that the ACORN vets its own registration efforts and that investigations mask an attempt to disenfranchise minorities. The group released a Youtube video in conjunction with Brave New Films on October 20th to combat what they call the “concocted Republican issues of voter fraud and the Republican coordinated attempts at voter suppression.”
The group claims that allegations of fraud constitute a concerted Republican strategy to suppress voter turnout in the 2008 election. “These attacks on ACORN are part of a pattern of voter suppression that the GOP has been carrying on for a long time,” says ACORN board member Carmen Arias in the video.
“I’ve watched ACORN for a while,” said Fund at Heritage. “In 2002 they had voter registration scandals, in 2004 they had voter registration scandals, in 2006 ACORN employees were indicted and convicted in Kansas City and St. Louis. And in Seattle, seven ACORN employees were indicted in the largest voter registration scheme in the state’s history.”
“After each of these instances, ACORN says ‘we’re going to clean up our act, we’re going to impose quality control programs.’ They never seem to get around to doing it,” he said.
ACORN’s video uses a clip of Andrew Sullivan speaking on the Chris Matthews show. Sullivan says in the clip that part of the Republican “post-election warfare” strategy is “the ACORN strategy, which is trying to delegitimize the result in advance, if Obama were to win, by saying it was rigged by minority voters—that’s what this is about.”
According to Fund, members from both campaigns are waiting with bated breath to contest this year’s election results. “I fear that if this election is close, we are going to have the thousands of lawyers that have volunteered for Barack Obama and the thousands of lawyers who have volunteered for John McCain watching like a hawk for any possible reason or even excuse to file a lawsuit, to demand a recount, to engage in endless recriminations about what happened on election day…,” he said.
“You no longer have to win by a margin of victory, you have to win by a margin of victory beyond the margin of litigation,” he argued. So far, Obama’s legal eagles may outnumber McCain’s by as much as three to one.
“Voter registration fraud is also a problem because some groups seem to have developed a habit of dumping an enormous number of registrations, both valid and invalid, on overworked election officials at the last possible minute,” said Fund. “What that means, effectively, is the overworked officials often don’t process them all fully or completely or accurately.”
One such area might be Lake County, Indiana. A CNN special investigation found that ACORN had submitted 5,000 voter registration forms to Lake County officials before the October 6th deadline. About 2,100 were unusable. “We have no idea what the motive behind it is, it’s just overwhelming to us,” election board administrator Ruth Ann Hoagland (R) told CNN.
According to Fund, such dumping causes “electoral chaos,” and by overworking the local staff allows voter fraud to creep in around the edges of the system. “So voter registration fraud can overburden the system leading to unintended consequences and a cascading series of other mistakes.”
But could there be another reason for inflating the “registration” rolls? Roger Aronoff wrote in an Accuracy in Media special report that “polls are often fraudulent and biased, with a clear agenda to help create a sense of inevitability for an Obama victory, and a sense of despair for the McCain side. And they can become self-fulfilling.”
Similarly, news outlets have been using high registration rates in Democrat-favored areas as a barometer for both candidate’s chances of success.
On Friday, October 24, the New York Times reported that ACORN’s 1.3 million new voters actually amounted to little more 450,000 new registrations, according to statistics released by Project Vote’s executive director Michael Slater.
Reporters Michael Falcone and Michael Moss write that 400,000 registrations “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.” This leaves roughly 450,000 registrations which were simply changes of address.
This did not, however, keep news outlets from repeatedly touting how new registrations favored Obama in the weeks between ACORN’s October 6th announcement and the present day.
Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.