ACORN: what's the deal?

I’ve been hearing about some sort of voter fraud allegation/conspiracy, lately, to do with a group known as ACORN, but I’m having some trouble finding specifics on what the controversy’s about. What’s going on with this, and why are the two parties going back and forth on it?


ACORN paid people to sign up new voters. Insented by numbers instead of quality of the registrations, unscrupulous employees signed up fictitious people including Disney characters, ancient baseball team members, & dead people.

Republicans (who seemingly would rather have less people vote as apparently that tends to benefit their candidates) have been watching ACORN looking for any indication of badness. When this was uncovered, they screamed foul and have been trying to link this to a Democrat plot ever since (more convincingly to themselves than to others).

ACORN, among other things, sends out workers to try to get people registered to vote. The workers are paid (probably not the best idea) and, in some cases, workers filled out voting registration cards with fraudulent names.

This is being painted by Republicans as an attempt at election fraud.

However, the truth is more complicated. In many states, organizations like ACORN are not allowed to decide if a registration is fraudulent. (The idea is that a group could conceivably sign up a lot of voters and only send along those registered for one party or another). ACORN has been spotting the frauds and putting them aside and telling the election boards they are probably fraudulent, and the election boards have agreed. The Democrats have been trying to get this out.

But the facts seem to be these:

ACORN’s workers have signed up fake voters.
ACORN has spotted many of these and flagged them for the election boards. They also fired anyone caught doing it.
There may be others that ACORN didn’t flag, but the election boards do not automatically accept ACORN’s registrations as valid. They double check against other data.

As a further point, this is, even at worse case, registration fraud. Until the fraudulent voters show up to vote, it’s not going to affect the election.

Also, ACORN noticed the fake names on the voter registration forms and marked them as questionable and notified officials when they turned them in (by law in most of the states they were signing up voters, they had to turn them in instead of trashing them)

It was, of course, just voter registration forms. If they filled it out as Mickey Mouse, they’d need to show a Mickey Mouse ID in order to vote on election day.

Republican translation: obvious voter fraud by Obama to steal the election!

On the other side of the coin, the Dems are finally standing up for themselves. This complaint about ACORN followed the rejection by the Supreme Court of the Republican suit to suppress the vote at the polling places by adding additional disqualifiers to the law.

The Dems have now requested a special prosecutor to investigate the source of the Republican complaints to determine if this is just a ploy by them to suppress the vote before election day and possibly an effort to throw up as much flak as possible to disrupt the election process. They (the RNC) may have bitten off more than they bargained for with the Obama campaign, who was obviously prepared for just such a maneuver.

Way back in the middle ages, I used to work canvassing for an environmental research group. We shared a territory with ACORN. We hated ACORN. They made our lives miserable by poaching our turfs, stealing our issues, etc. If we found out that ACORN had been through less than six months before us, we had to bail on the turf and reschedule it for next year. The ACORN canvassers gave us all a bad name.

Robert Kennedy Jr. was on Larry King last night and explained it rather simply. He said that ACORN was defrauded out of money by workers who were paid by number of registrations they produced. This does not translate to voter fraud because only the *last**registration is valid. There have been no cases of fake names actually voting.

ACORN is confused about why McCain hates them now, as he loved them back in 2006:

How close was he?

Keynote speaker-close.

I recall when a major attack against Kerry was that he flip-flopped on issues.

I think this issue is mostly about a fish.

The fish is a herring.

The herring is red.

Yes, with any voter registration campaign you’ll get some bad registrations. Not many though. Whenever you pay people to get signatures this can happen. If there are fake people registering, they’re not going to vote. Why would they bother? If a person doesn’t exist, that person is not very inclined to vote.

Do any states other than Indiana actually have voter ID laws? In North Carolina, at least, it’d be fairly easy to vote several times if you had faked several voter cards: we just tell the election worker our name and verify the address. I could easily see stacking the voter rolls as being an avenue for voter fraud.

I should add that this isn’t what it looks like in this case, but this is a serious issue. It doesn’t help the Democrats’ case (in Republicans eyes) that Democrats are usually against Voter ID laws based on its disproportionate disenfranchising effect on the poor.

The US has a long history of fake and/or dead people voting. q.v. Chicago’s rep in voting ethics

Not in New Mexico. Our poll workers are explicitly forbidden to ask for any ID other than the card they mailed to the registration address. If you have that card, and you say you are John Smith, and they have John Smith on the rolls, then they have to take your word for it.

Wow, I assumed they all did. This page gives a rundown and says “The federal Help America Vote Act mandates that all states require identification from first-time voters who registered to vote by mail and did not provide verification of their identification with their mail-in voter registration.”

So first timers who mail in their registrations do need ID before they can vote, either at the polls or during registration. I wonder if that would cover the ACORN registrations. Although they weren’t mailed in, they are collected by a third party. The first time voters have to be vetted by registration officials somehow. I wonder how.

How do they verify the voter before sending them the card?

Well, in New York, voters don’t have cards (they used to, but even then they weren’t required if you wanted to vote) in their possession.

The Board of Elections used to have a card for each voter; now it’s a computer printout. The card had your signature at the top; the computer printout prints that out. You are asked to sign your name. If the signatures match, then all is fine. It there’s a challenge (I’ve never seen one), then you can use any ID with your signature.

Works pretty well.

Republicans have taken potential voter fraud – something that is just not happening except for a handful of cases – as a way to disenfrancise voters. It’s especially strong this year, when new voters tend Democratic. New voters names, for instance, are checked against another database, like diver’s licenses. Some of this has been computerized, which can disenfranchise voters very easily.

For instance, consider the names James A. Smith and James A Smith, both of the same address. A computer might say the two names don’t match because one database has a period and the other does not. It might reject a person listed as living on 14th Street because the license says Fourteenth Street or 14th St. This sort of fuzzy logic has to be progammed, and it’s much easier to just insist the two things match exactly, especially if its a Republican County. They don’t mind disenfranchising a few Republicans, since they are disenfranchising many more Democrats.

There are also cases where, say, a felon is removed from the rolls (required in many states) and people with the same name are also removed. Tom Williams gets convicted and everyone named “Tom Williams” in his area are also removed. There are, BTW, far more documented cases of this happening than any actual voter fraud.

On less shaky legal ground is the fact that Republicans are double checking Democratic voters to make sure they haven’t moved. That’s a legitimate concern, but they are focusing on people who move November 1 – to late to register in their new location. Usually, they can still vote in their old district, and this is fraud in only the most expansive sense; they are, after all, only voting once and for the same cadidates that they would have without the move. Generally, election boards don’t push the issue, but the Republicans, since they’re behind in the polls, need to eliminate any Democratic votes they can.

Just in case you’re concerned that you’re only getting one side of the story here, here’s FactCheck’s article on ACORN. (FactCheck is essentially the Snopes of politics; they describe themselves as “a nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.”)

I stand corrected. Apparently, they have tightened it up (slightly) since 2004.

Some of those seem to me to be rather easy to forge. This is a border state. Phony ID’s are pretty easy to obtain.

That last sentence makes me think that it would be rather easy to poll the cemetaries.

In the last 8 years there has been 120 cases of voter fraud. 82 convictions. Most were not for improper voting. It is a remedy for a crime which practically does not exist. 28 million votes each presidential election. Nearly 60 mill total and 82 convicted voter frauds.

There were 122 million votes cast in 2004, 105 million in 2000.

The ACORN situation is different. The people convicted/investigated (and they are not many) are not voting on behalf of the fake registrations. They’re just turning in fake registrations. That’s because they get paid per registration–not for votes. If anything, ACORN is not defrauding, but being defrauded by their employees.

Read the rest of my post. While it’s almost certainly not the intent here, there’s huge potential for actual fraud in voting if there’s not tight controls on the front end.

No, there is not. Unless you think that thousands of people (which is what you would need to influence a national election) could all successfully conspire without letting the cat out of the bag. The whole “danger” theme is a red herring.

lest you think the above quote is some whaco lefty the person who said it is:

He was first appointed by Nixon and stayed through the Reagan and Bush terms.
David Iglesias former US Attorney and Republican appointee said:

he goes on to say:

Not only is there not a “huge potential” for voter fraud, apparently there is not even organized registration fraud happening.

Well except maybe Marc Jacoby the owner of a firm that the California Republican Party hired to register tens of thousands of voters this year was arrested in Ontario over the weekend on suspicion of voter registration fraud.
Mr. Jacoby is the owner of YPM a Republican financed group: