By L.A. Williams. Correspondent
Christian Action League of North Carolina
RALEIGH – ACORN, bogus voter registrations and Barack Obama. It’s been a week of disturbing revelations that have, at the least, shaken our nation’s already shaky faith in the electoral system.
“At one point this week it was hard to say which was happening faster, new reports of fraudulent voter registrations across the nation or new reports of how closely tied Barack Obama is to the group responsible,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League.
In North Carolina, where the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now has registered some 28,000 new voters since last year, the State Board of Elections so far has found 135 bogus registration forms submitted by the group, and the investigation is continuing. Already the group has been the target of fraud probes in 17 states from Florida to Washington, where seven ACORN employees were indicted last year for falsifying more than 2,000 registration cards. Another 2,000 voter registration forms filed by ACORN last week were ruled bogus by election officials in Lake County, Ill.
The most recent probes, in addition to North Carolina’s, include one in Nevada, where officials say the organization tried to register a number of bogus voters including the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys football team. The attempts would be almost humorous were it not for the fact that Sen. Barack Obama has paid an arm of the radical group $800,000 to register new voters and has promised its leaders a chance to “shape the agenda” should he make it to the White House.
Although Obama has tried to distance himself from ACORN as reports of fraud have piled up, his own words show how closely he is tied to the organization that grew out of the 1960s “New Left” and its push against capitalism. While the Obama camp now says that their candidate was never an ACORN community organizer, the candidate’s own Web site touts his “history with ACORN and his beginnings in Illinois as a Project Vote organizer.”
“I come out of a grassroots organizing background. That’s what I did for three and a half years before I went to law school. That’s the reason I moved to Chicago was to organize. So this is something that I know personally, the work you do, the importance of it,” Obama told ACORN when receiving the group’s political endorsement in February. “I’ve been fighting alongside ACORN on issues you care about my entire career. Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote voter registration drive in illinois, ACORN was smack dab in the middle of it…”
While his campaign insists that “Barack Obama never organized with ACORN” and that he was never “hired” as a trainer for ACORN, records show he began teaching classes for “Future Leaders Identified by ACORN” around 1992, and three years later represented ACORN in a lawsuit against Illinois for its failure to implement the “motor voter” law to make voter registration easier. He also served on the boards of the Woods Fund and the Joyce Foundation, both of which, media reports show, channeled thousands of dollars in grants to the Chicago ACORN branch.
There is little doubt that Obama has a long history with ACORN and that ACORN’s attempts to abide by voter registration laws are shoddy at best. The big question now is how much of the registration fraud will become voter fraud on Nov. 4 and is there anything that can be done to prevent it.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only seven states request that voters show a photo identification; 17 more require ID, but not a photo ID; and North Carolina is not in either group. Voters in the Tar Heel state who registered in person will not be asked for any kind of ID. Voters who registered to vote by mail or through a recent registration drive, such as the one led by ACORN, and did not send in appropriate identification documents, will be asked for a current photo ID or some other form of identification such as a current utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck. Even if they can’t produce any kind of ID, they can still cast a provisional ballot.
Provided the safeguards built into the system work, does it matter that many on the voter rolls may not exist or may be dead? Even if no one shows up on election day to try to cast a ballot in the name of a false registrant, having the bogus names on the rolls does cause problems. Registration statistics are skewed and can discourage people from voting if swelled rosters make them think their party doesn’t have a chance. Also, when election officials try to purge the invalid names off the rolls, they are often accused of partisan politics; not to mention the fact that the bogus registrations cost boards of elections and ultimately taxpayers as workers are paid to verify them.
The problem, especially with ACORN, is widespread enough that some groups are calling on Congress to come back into session to pass emergency legislation to require voters to provide a state or federal ID when they vote. But North Carolina election officials are confident that their system of checks and vigilant adherence to federal requirements will weed out illegitimate registration attempts.
“Since 1995, the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) requires all states to send a confirmation letter, first class return postage, to the address of all new registered voters to confirm the address they use. Since 2004, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), requires that persons that register to vote provide a drivers license number or the last four of their Social Security number,” said Don Wright, the State Board’s general counsel. “Those numbers are checked real time with a computer interface contained within the N.C. statewide voter database (SEIMS). SEIMS also will not allow a voter to be registered more than once at the same time.”
Of the 135 bogus registration forms found in North Carolina, 104 are from Durham County, 30 from Wake and one from Mecklenburg. Wright said in an e-mail that the state agency’s findings will be sent to the district attorneys in the counties involved.