Whats this ACORN thing I have been hearing about?

October 15, 2008

ACORN has been all over the news recently for alleged voter registration fraud. I decided to do some digging into what the media has been saying about them.

Background: ACORN=Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. They are known for several things, but most prominently as an anti-poverty group.

This year, they have signed up approximately 1.3 million new voters, primarily in lower income, urban areas, e.g. black and Democrats. But the GOP has seized upon allegations against the group that they have produced 1000s of fraudulent voter registration submissions across the country, but mainly in Ohio, and Nevada.

My outlook on this is this sucks any which way you cut it. I spent time volunteering to get new people to register to vote and so did a lot of other people I saw here in Philly. So either ACORN is giving my effort a bad name or the GOP is.

I am left with three questions:

  1. ‘What are Acorn’s tactics, and when the register people, how do they police this?
  2. Do phony registration translate into phony votes being cast?
  3. Why are the GOP bringing these allegations up?

I got some answers to these questions from an NPR article I dug up.

Republicans, ACORN Spar Over Voter Registration

What are Acorn’s tactics?

But ACORN officials defended their efforts, saying they’re the ones pointing out problem registrations submitted by their canvassers, whom they pay by the hour, not by the registration. They also said they’re required by law to turn in every form they collect, even if it’s signed by Donald Duck.

Do phony registrations translate into phoney votes being cast?

Rick Hasen, an election law expert at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said there is little evidence that voter registration fraud translates into fraud at the polls, even though that may be beside the point.

Why are the GOP bringing this up?

Critics said that ACORN is part of an effort to steal votes and possibly throw the outcome of the election into doubt. Former Missouri Sen. John Danforth co-chairs the McCain campaign’s Honest and Open Election Committee, and he said whoever loses on Nov. 4 could feel cheated and want to challenge the results in court.

“If there are a number of states where the election is close and there have been many, many people registered by this organization, ACORN, and where there are numerous cases of fraudulent registration, then the contest could go on for a very long time,” he said.

Rick Hasen said he thinks Republicans are leveling the criticisms in case they lose.

“I think this is just part of a kind of a long-term Republican strategy to play up allegations of voter fraud,” Hasen said. “As a kind of insurance policy in case there’s a very close election.”

My take

What I took away from these and other articles is that ACORN knew about a lot of these fradulant forms, but they are required by law to turn them in wither way. Which makes sense, you don’t want a liberal to throw out a new registrant who happened to be republican.

And even from the most conservative sites I visited, I did not find any direct instances of voter fraud tied to these ACORN allegation, which are obviously very different than the voter registration fraud being alleged against ACORN.

The ultimate question behind this is: Just how easy should voting be?

Should we require IDs? Should every person be automatically registered to vote? Same day sign up? Register at the DMV?

There are a lot of schools of thought on this. I will try to do some more digging to learn more myself. In the meantime, here are some articles from the left and right that I read to inform myself about the issue.

Moderate

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95695996&ft=1&f=1001

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/14/acorn/

Left

http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2008/10/its_all_connected_man.php

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2008/oct/13/election-acorn-voter-fraud

http://yglesias.thinkprogress.org/archives/2008/10/error_rates.php

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/237009.php

(I didn’t bring this up in the article, but this points out the connection between the GOP’s rants against voter fraud and the US attorney firings from last year that were politically motivated.)

http://marcambinder.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/10/acorn_mccain_obama_cracking_th.php

Right

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122394051071230749.html

http://www.pajamasmedia.com/instapundit/archives2/025708.php

http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/the-complete-guide-to-acorn-voter-fraud/

http://www.ibdeditorials.com/IBDArticles.aspx?id=308875644500971

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