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GOP Issues Absurd Attack on Voter Registration Group

The RNC calls ACORN "quasi-criminal" after finding two questionable voter applications in rural Florida.
 
 
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The Republican Party is increasingly attacking voter registration groups that are perceived by the GOP as enfranchising likely Democratic voters, calling one of those groups "a quasi-criminal" organization because two voter registration applications in a rural Florida county were discovered to be problematic.

The two questionable voter registration applications found in Seminole County, Florida, were submitted by ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which has registered more than 1.15 million voters in two dozens states in 2008. ACORN is the nation’s largest non-profit voter registration organization.

In a Wednesday conference call, Republican National Committee chief counsel Sean Cairncross called ACORN a "quasi-criminal" organization that was trying to create chaos with voting. He said it was "disturbing" that the group has links to the Obama campaign, saying the Democratic nominee worked with ACORN more than a decade ago.

The RNC teleconference came two days after the McCain-Palin 2008 campaign held a similar press conference call with former Sen. John Danforth (R-MO) and former Sen. Warren Rudman (R-NH) that discussed "issues of voter fraud, state specific voter fraud accusations, and the McCain-Palin 2008 Honest and Open Election Committee."

"The big picture is this is a Republican and McCain strategy to go after voter groups," said Brian Kettenring, head organizer of Florida ACORN, who said he has spent the past several days dealing with members of the media who are reacting to the GOP charges. He noted that the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections, Mike Ertel, has said that only two voter applications out of thousands submitted in 2008 are questionable and that the county's process to review these forms is working.

In Florida, where ACORN has gathered 135,000 new voter registrations this year, Kettenring said one of the registrations in question appeared to be filled out by a young woman for a friend. In the second case, a man’s voter registration form appeared to be incomplete. Typically, these errors would prompt local officials to reject the forms.

"What's going on here is a right-wing radio station called the supervisor trying to drum up a story," Kettenring said.

The increased Republican attacks on voter registration groups comes as many states across the country are approaching to the close of voter registration for the November election. In Florida, for example, registration closes on Monday, October 6th.

ACORN has been a perennial target for the GOP, especially as Election Day approaches. In past elections, the organization, which hires people to register voters and works in low-income communities, has had problems with a handful of erroneous registration forms in some states. In the past, ACORN alerted federal authorities if it discovered problems such as fabricated voter identities. The reaction to those isolated instances by the Bush Administration has been to pressure U.S. Attorneys to find and prosecute these cases.

In December 2006, the administration fired a number of U.S. attorneys who failed to bring these political prosecutions. While charges of Democratic voter fraud were seen as overblown and dismissed -- because the Justice Department could not bring more than two dozen cases -- the same partisan accusations and rhetoric is now appearing as the 2008 presidential campaign builds to a close.

Kettenring said the attack on ACORN is covering up the a broader effort by the GOP to disenfranchise Florida voters. Most notably, the Republican Secretary of State, Kurt Browning, recently has said he will be enforcing a law where voter applications will be rejected if the spelling of names does not match other state databases.

Voting advocates like Hettenring have said that data-entry errors by county employees -- not voters -- has led to thousands of Haitian-Americans and members of other minority groups losing their right to vote in the past two years. Under Florida law, the burden to correct these kinds of errors lies with voters, not election officials.

ACORN officials said it was ironic, but predictable, that the GOP would accuse ACORN of voter fraud over isolated incidents, such as two questionable voter applications, while promoting state laws and bureaucratic policies that have disenfranchised 1000s of voters over the same issue: improperly filled-out forms.

Steven Rosenfeld is a senior fellow at AlterNet.org and author of Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting (AlterNet Books, 2008).

 
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