Oct. 10, 2008 -- The law does not take voter-registration fraud lightly, and Tyaira Williams, a former canvasser for get-out-the-vote group ACORN, wears the electronic ankle bracelet to prove it.
"I'm on two years' probation and four months house arrest," said Williams Sunday as she sat with her three young children on the front steps of her St. Louis home. ACORN "didn't do no training. All they did was tell us to register people to vote."The raid on the Las Vegas headquarters of ACORN earlier this month was not the first time the community group had attracted attention from state and federal law enforcement agencies. Williams, 23, was one of eight former ACORN employees who pleaded guilty to federal charges of creating bogus voter-registration forms in St. Louis just before the 2006 congressional elections. And she is one of the first employees to talk publicly, from the inside, about how some ACORN workers met their registration goals."People was using the phone books," she explained. "People was registering their kids, people was registering out of town people."Williams said she did none of that. But she did fill out registration forms for other people, a crime that she said she committed because ACORN pressured its canvassers to work quickly and sign up 25 new voters a day."They didn't train us. They gave us cards and told us to go out and get people registered to vote," she said. "Whatever you have to do, get out here and register these people to vote. I don't care how you have to do, do it."Officials at the ACORN office in St. Louis where Williams worked did not return phone calls requesting comment. But ACORN spokesman Lewis Goldberg told ABC News that "ACORN has spent $2.5 million -- or 2.5 percent of our total voter-registration costs -- more money than any other organization in the country, to develop the most stringent quality-control measures in the country.""And the proof is in the pudding," he said. "Dozens of boards of elections around the country have cited ACORN for our quality efforts to register millions of new voters." The organization said it had registered more than 1.3 million voters in 21 states this election year alone.
According to ACORN spokesman Kevin Whelan, the real problem is that almost one-third of eligible voters are not registered. "The upshot of the attacks," he said at a Washington news conference last week, "is to try to cast aspersions on thousands of voters trying to case legitimate votes."