A prominent voters registration group admitted today that it had fired some of its workers for falsifying voter registrations, but said that it had helped authorities to identify the phony voter cards and that its efforts shouldn't be tainted by the fraudulent activities of a few workers.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has come under fire for submitting applications of dead people, the name of a fast food restaurant and the entire roster of the Dallas Cowboys football team.
The incidences of fraud in the ACORN registrations have become embroiled in presidential politics. The campaign of John McCain has tied the ACORN effort to Barack Obama, who once represented ACORN.
And because of the group's focus on minority or low income voters, Republicans have long connected the group's voter registration drives as benefiting Democrats.
"ACORN is tampering with America's most precious right. There has to be a full and complete investigation," McCain said during a campaign stop in Florida.
"Given the extensive relationship between Barack Obama and ACORN, our campaign also feels that Sen. Obama has a responsibility to rein in ACORN's efforts and to work aggressively against wide-scale voter fraud," the McCain campaign said in a statement today.
Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate, told Rush Limbaugh on his radio show today that "this ACORN stuff is unconscionable."
Obama told reporters in Ohio that he is not connected to ACORN.
"First of all, my relationship to ACORN is pretty straightforward. It's probably 13 years ago when I was still practicing law, I represented ACORN and my partner in that representation was the U.S. Justice Department in having Illinois implement what was called the 'Motor Voter' law, to make sure that people could go to DMVs and drivers' license facilities to get registered," Obama said.
"There is an ACORN organization in Chicago," Obama said. "They have been active. As an elected official, I've had interactions with them. But they are not advising our campaign. We've got the best voter registration and turnout and volunteer operation in politics right now and we don't need ACORN's help."
ACORN held a news conference today to answer its critics.
Kevin Whelan, a spokesman for the nationwide group, admitted that in some states some of its workers had "decided to pad their hours" and had sent in duplicative or faulty registrations but that the "vast, vast majority" of its workers did a "great job."
"There is no evidence that these false registrations led to false attempts to cast a ballot," Whelan said.
Whelan said that ACORN tries to independently verify applications and that by state law "and good judgment" it turns over all its applications to election workers, even those it has flagged as potentially problematic.
Some of those registration cards have become the focus of fraud investigations in Nevada, Connecticut, Missouri and at least five other states. Election officials in Ohio and North Carolina also recently questioned the group's voter forms.
The group claims to have about 13,000 workers that have registered 1.3 million citizens to become voters in 2007 and 2008, but it could not immediately provide the number of workers it had fired in connection to the collection of faulty voter registration.