(Some talk about 20% of any returns in the bailout plan goes to Acorn):
Cuyahoga board probes ACORN voter registration drive
Posted by Joe Guillen August 27, 2008 23:55PM
CLEVELAND -- A national organization that conducts voter registration drives for low-income people has curtailed its push in Cuyahoga County after the Board of Elections accused its workers of submitting fraudulent registration cards.
The board is investigating the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Results of the inquiry could be turned over to the county prosecutor.
Board employees said ACORN workers often handed in the same name on a number of voter registration cards, but showing that person living at different addresses. Other times, cards had the same name listed, but a different date of birth. Still another sign of possible fraud showed a number of people living at an address that turned out to be a restaurant.
"I'm obviously very concerned," Board Chairman Jeff Hastings said. "This goes to the essence of our democracy."
ACORN had a part-time staff of 30 who worked five days a week to find unregistered people. The workers made $8 an hour and were required to sign up 20 voters in each five-hour shift.
The elections board's registration department said in a report that ACORN's quota contributed to the possible fraud.
ACORN stopped the registration efforts of the part-timers on Aug. 15. Three salaried employees continue the drive to sign up voters.
Kristopher Harsh, head organizer for the agency's Cleveland office, said it is unlikely a full-fledged movement will resume before the Nov. 4 election.
ACORN has submitted about 75,000 voter registration cards to the Cuyahoga board this year.
Board employees are unsure how many of the cards are fraudulent. But the voter registration department received so many suspicious cards that it began compiling a binder with evidence. The binder grew to be an inch-thick.
At its Tuesday meeting, the elections board cancelled five fraudulent registrations submitted by ACORN workers. The cases involved already-registered voters who alerted the board after being notified by mail that their registration records had been updated.
Fraudulent cards not caught by the board should not harm the November election, said Betty Grant Edwards, manager of the board's registration department. She said information on registration cards must match required identification shown at the polls. If the facts do not match, a voter receives a provisional ballot and the information is checked before the vote is counted.
ACORN is a national organization that promotes social justice for low and moderate-income families. It is among many groups, some politically affiliated, that register voters.
In August 2006, elections boards in Franklin and Summit counties investigated potentially bogus registration cards submitted by ACORN. The Franklin board turned over 500 cards to its county prosecutor, but the board's Deputy Director Matthew Damschroder said the prosecutor could not file charges because it was impossible to nail down who filled out the fake cards.
ACORN's national voter registration director, Kimberly Olsen, said Cleveland voter registration efforts have been wildly successful.
"We hit our goals early, registering 86,000 people in Cleveland proper," Olsen said Wednesday in a written statement.
Elections board member Eben "Sandy" McNair said it was doubtful the agency deliberately defrauded voters.
"You had a badly run operation that was not paying sufficient attention," he said.