ACORN has just completed the largest, most successful nonpartisan voter registration drive in U.S. history. We helped 1.3 million low-income, minority and young voters across the country register to vote.
Unfortunately, just as in 2006, that success in bringing people into the democratic process, have been greeted with unfounded accusations to disparage our work and help maintain the status quo of an unbalanced electorate.
After a similar spate of charges against ACORN in 2006, we learned that then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales had fired Republican U.S. Attorneys because they refused to prosecute ACORN and other voter assistance groups on trumped up fraud charges. This was the heart of the U.S. Attorney-gate scandal that led Karl Rove, Gonzales and other top Department of Justice officials to resign. Because the press didn’t catch on until long after the election, it was part of a successful strategy to create an unfounded specter of voter fraud and to suppress voting.
1. In order to help 1.3 million people register to vote, we hired more than 13,000 registration assistance workers. As with any business or agency that operates at this scale, there are always some people who want to get paid without really doing the job, or who aim to defraud their employer. Any large department store will have some workers who shoplift.
2. Any large voter registration operation will have a small percentage of workers who turn in bogus registration forms, Their goal clearly is not to cast a fraudulent vote. It is simply to defraud their employer, ACORN, by getting a paycheck without earning it. ACORN is the victim of this fraud – not the perpetrator.
3. In nearly every case that has been reported , it was ACORN that discovered the bad forms, and called them to the attention of election authorities, putting the forms in a package that identified them in writing as suspicious, encouraging election officials to investigate, and offering to help with prosecutions. We are required by law to turn in all forms, but instead of just turning them in and figuring that it is the responsibility of the board of elections to figure out which are valid, we spend millions of dollars verifying that forms are valid, and then separate out those that are suspicious.
4. This has nothing to do with “voter fraud” – nothing at all to do with anyone trying to cast an extra vote. There has never been a single reported instance in which bogus registration forms have led to anyone voting improperly. To do that, they would have to show up at the polls, prove their identity as all first-time registrants must, and risk jail. The people who turned in these forms did so not because they wanted an extra vote, but because they didn’t care enough to make sure eligible people got to vote at all.
5. When a department store calls the police to report a shoplifting employee, no one says the department store is guilty of consumer fraud. But for some reason, when ACORN turns voter registration workers over to the authorities for filling out bogus forms, it gets accused of “voter fraud.” This is a classic case of blaming the victim; indeed, these charges are outrageous, libelous, and often politically motivated.
6. Similar attacks were launched against ACORN and other voter registration organizations in 2004 and 2006. The bogus charges were at the heart of the U.S. Attorney-gate scandal that led to the resignations of Karl Rove, Attorney General Ablerto Gonzales and other top Justice Department Officials. It turned out that it was the charges that were fraudulent, and that they were part of a systematic partisan agenda of voter suppression. Republican U.S. Attorneys David Iglesias (NM), Todd Graves (MO), and John McKay (WA) all were fired primarily because they refused to prosecute similar bogus charges of “voter fraud.” Another U.S. Attorney, Bradley Schlozman, who did politicize prosecutions against former ACORN canvassers, was forced to acknowledge under cross examination by the Senate Judiciary Committee that ACORN was the victim of fraud by its employees and ACORN had caught the employees and had identified them to law enforcement.
7. The goals of the people orchestrating these attacks are to distract ACORN from helping people vote and to justify massive voter suppression. That’s the real voter fraud; the noise about a small fraction of the forms ACORN has turned in is meant to get the press and public take their eyes off the real threat, while those hurling the charges are stealing people’s right to vote in broad daylight. They have already tried to prevent Ohio from registering voters at its early voting sites. In Michigan, they planned to use foreclosure notices to challenge thousands of voters. And if this year is like past years, they are preparing to use this so-called voter fraud to justify massive challenges to voters in minority precincts on Election Day.
Fact: ACORN has implemented the most sophisticated quality-control system in the voter engagement field but in almost every state we are required to turn in ALL completed applications, even the ones we know to be problematic.
Fact: ACORN flags in writing incomplete, problem, or suspicious cards when we turn them in,. Unfortunately, some of these same officials then come back weeks or months later and accuse us of deliberately turning in phony cards. In many cases, we can actually prove that these are the same cards we called to their attention.
Fact: Our canvassers are paid by the hour, not by the card . ACORN has a zero-tolerance policy for deliberately falsifying registrations, and in the cases where our internal quality controls have identified this happening we have fired the workers involved and turned them in to election officials and law-enforcement.
Fact: No criminal charges related to voter registration have ever been brought against ACORN or partner organizations. Convictions against individual former ACORN workers have been accomplished with our full cooperation, using the evidence obtained through our quality control and verification processes — evidence which in most cases WE called to the attention of authorities
Fact: Most election officials have recognized ACORN’s good work and praised our quality control systems. Even in the cities where election officials have complained about ACORN, the applications in question represent less than 1% of the thousands and thousands of registrations ACORN has collected.
Fact: Our accusers not only fail to provide any evidence, they fail to suggest a motive: there is virtually no chance anyone would be able to vote fraudulently, so there is no reason to deliberately submit phony registrations. ACORN is committed to ensuring that the greatest possible numbers of people are registered
ACORN will not be intimidated, we will not be provoked, and in this important moment in history we will not allow anyone to distract us from these vital efforts to empower our constituencies and our communities to speak for themselves.
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