Allegations Trip Up Voting Rights Group

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By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS
The Associated Press
Monday, October 2, 2006; 8:36 PM

-- An advocacy group that registered more than a million voters two years ago is facing new allegations of voter fraud and sloppy work just weeks before crucial midterm elections.

Philadelphia's municipal voter registration office has rejected about 3,000 cards submitted by ACORN _ the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now _ since April because of missing information or invalid addresses.

Denver County election officials forwarded about 200 cards to the secretary of state's office after finding similar handwriting on signatures.

In Ohio, election officials in three of the state's largest counties have cited problems with hundreds of voter registration cards. ACORN is accused of submitting cards with nonexistent addresses, forged signatures and, in one case, for someone who died seven years ago.

"In my opinion, there's a lot of words but little action in terms of fixing the problem," said Matt Damschroder, elections board director in Franklin County, Ohio.

ACORN, which has about 220,000 members nationally, registered 1.2 million people to vote in 2004 and is running voter registration drives in 17 states this year.

The nonprofit group dispatches workers and volunteers to poor neighborhoods, gas stations, courthouses and other places to sign up new voters.

Although it is nonpartisan, ACORN recruits new voters in heavily Democratic poor and minority neighborhoods. The group says those areas are the most underrepresented in the political process.

Republicans are among ACORN's loudest critics. Ohio GOP chairman Bob Bennett says the group is "notorious for abusing Ohio election laws."

Democrats largely support its work. In July, Hillary Rodham Clinton, a potential 2008 Democratic presidential candidate, addressed the group's national convention in Columbus.

Democrats hope to regain control of the U.S. House and narrow or erase the GOP majority in the Senate on Nov. 7.

ACORN was accused of submitting questionable voter registration cards in 2004 in Ohio, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina and Virginia, and in 2003 in Missouri. Prosecution is rare, and federal lawsuits accusing the group of fraud were dismissed in Florida.


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© 2006 The Associated Press

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