ACORN and elections

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This article specifically examines accusations made against Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) during the 2008 election.

Main article: Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

Neither ACORN nor its employees have been found guilty of, or even charged with, casting fraudulent votes.

2008 vote fraud accusations

During the 2008 Presidential election conservatives repeatedly accused ACORN of "voter fraud." These accusations had the appearance of a coordinated campaign. Though actual voter fraud involves knowingly casting an illegal ballot, these accusations occurred before any voting had occurred. The basis of the accusations stemmed from questionable voter registration applications submitted by ACORN-paid workers who had been sent into poor and minority communities to register voters, rather than from voter fraud. Some of the questioned registration applications were erroneous, had questionable names or were duplicates. Others clearly had elements from which one could conclude that some level of dishonesty was involved in the process, such as the registrant claiming the name "Mickey Mouse."

Conservatives charged that ACORN was intentionally submitting these "fraudulent" applications as part of scheme to "rig" the election, where the problematic registrations would enable people to vote multiple times.[1] ACORN stated that they have quality-control procedures and that registration gatherers are required to flag questionable applications so election officials will know they are suspect, but they were required by law to turn in all registration forms they receive.

McCain campaign makes accusation of voter fraud

The McCain/Palin Presidential campaign joined in these attacks. The McCain Campaign's blog describes a McCain ad attacking ACORN, ""The ad highlights Barack Obama's involvement with ACORN, a group now accused of widespread voter fraud across the country and accused of advocating for the very type of home loans that have led to today's financial crisis."[2]

During the October 15, 2008 presidential debate, McCain said of ACORN[3],

"We need to know the full extent of Senator Obama's relationship with ACORN, who is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy. The same front outfit organization that your campaign gave $832,000 for "lighting and site selection." So all of these things need to be examined, of course."

Nevada raid

On October 7, 2008, after weeks of news reports of accusations by Republicans of improper voter registrations, Nevada state authorities raided the Las Vegas offices of ACORN, looking for evidence of voter fraud.[4] The raid was "the result of a joint investigation by state agencies, the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation."[5] The state alleged that "ACORN had hired 59 felons through a work release program as canvassers and submitted nearly 300 apparently fraudulent voter registration cards as part of the drive." According to one press report[6],

"ACORN officials said they were stunned by the search because they had unilaterally identified and flagged suspicious voter registration cards to the county elections board starting in July and had been cooperating with authorities to cull bad information and fire workers who collected that information, said Brian Mellor, senior counsel for Project Vote."

No evidence of voter fraud was found in the raid and no charges were filed.

Lake County, Indiana

One highly-publicized accusation against ACORN before the 2008 election came from Lake County Indiana. Acorn was accused of submitting "thousands" of "faked" registrations. Approximately two thousand of five thousand registration forms submitted by ACORN had problems. ACORN says that they separated the questionable forms and noted that there might be problems with them, but were required by law to submit all forms that they collect.[7] The Republican Secretary of State asked the Lake County District Attorney to bring charges against the organization for "multiple criminal violations."[8]

Following the 2008 election Lake County Indiana officials said that "only about five" people from the questioned registrations had called to ask if they could vote, and that there were "no significant problems at the polls because of new voter registration forms generated by the controversial community activist group ACORN." "Those who did call in had their registrations verified by election staff, and were allowed to cast ballots."[9][10]

Obama campaign asks for special prosecutor to look into politicization of ACORN investigation

On October 17, 2008, the Obama campaign send a letter to the Justice department asking that the special prosecutor currently looking into Justice Department politicization expand the scope of that probe to see if the ACORN investigations are related. They compared the decision by the FBI and other government agencies to launch ACORN investigations just before the election with the previous scandal, in which several US attorneys were fired for refusing to pursue politically charged cases, including voter fraud. They also pointed out that only Justice Department insiders could have leaked the news of these investigations.[11][12].

Actual arrests and prosecutions

  • Oct. 28, 2005: Denver prosecutors charged two ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) employees with falsely filling out multiple voter forms to boost their pay in a paid registration drive.[13]

Barack Obama's connections to ACORN

One component of the conservative accusations of voter fraud against ACORN was that Barack Obama was closely and extensively associated with the organization.[14][15][16] In 1992 Obama had worked for a short time with Project Vote and helped registered 125,000 voters in Illinois that year. Since 1992 Project Vote has become affiliated with ACORN. The additional "association" with ACORN was that in 1995, along with a team of lawyers that included the U.S. Justice Department, Obama represented ACORN and others in a lawsuit against Illinois for failing to implement a federal law designed to make it easier for the poor and others to register as voters.[17] These are the basis of the conservative claims of "association."

Another alleged association was that the Obama campaign had hired ACORN to collect voter registrations. During the primaries the Obama campaign paid a company called Citizens Services Inc. for "get out the vote" efforts, not voter registration. Conservatives say the company is "affiliated" with ACORN. The company does contract work for ACORN and other organizations.[17]

Error rates with ACORN registrations

Of the 1.3 million voter registrations filed by the ACORN/Project Vote efforts in 2008, Project Vote's director Michael Slater estimates[18] that

  • 450,000 were new registrations
  • 450,000 were changes of address
  • 20-25% (260,000-325,000) were duplicates
  • 5% (65,000) were incomplete
  • 1-1.5% (13,000-19,500) were fraudulent

ACORN's investigations found 9,000 questionable registrations, and a lawyer for the group estimated that another 5,000-6,000 additional questionable registrations were turned in [18], for an estimated undetected error rate of .4-.5%.

ACORN had hired 13,000 temporary workers in 2008 to register voters. [19] They fired 829 of the 10,000 canvassers [18], roughly 8%.

ACORN compared to other voter registration efforts

Other mass-registration drives have had similar, if not worse problems. In 2006, the California Republican Party experienced problems with fake names on registrations, with an error rate as high as 60 percent.[20][21]

Vote fraud in the U.S.

The actual incidence of vote fraud in the United States is extremely low. According to one study, "from 2002 to 2005 only one person was found guilty of registration fraud. Twenty people were found guilty of voting while ineligible and five people were found guilty of voting more than once."[22]

Main article: Voter fraud

Other accusations against ACORN

Accusations that ACORN caused the 2008 financial crisis

Conservatives accused ACORN of causing the 2008 financial crisis by "forcing banks" to lend to "minorities."[23] However, most mainstream economists say the financial crisis was caused by the proliferation of complicated financial instruments called Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDOs) and Credit Default Swaps.

ACORN responded by releasing a report[24] that they claim "chronicles and analyzes the roles played by both ACORN and Senator John McCain (R-AZ) over the past decade leading up to the economic crisis".

Articles and resources

See also


  1. Example of a conservative accusation of fraud: "More ACORN Vote Fraud Attempts," Stop the ACLU blog, Sept. 15, 2008.
  2. McCain campaign website blog post, New Web Ad: "Acorn", October 10, 2008.
  3. "Complete final debate transcript: John McCain and Barack Obama," Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2008.
  4. "ACORN office in Vegas raided in voter-fraud probe," Associated Press at TPM, October 7, 2008.
  5. M.S. Bellows, Jr., "ACORN Office Raid Linked to U.S. Attorney Firings Scandal," Huffington Post, October 7, 2008.
  6. Mary Pat Flaherty, "ACORN Nevada Office Raided," The Trail blog, Washington Post, October 7, 2008.
  7. "Thousands of voter registration forms faked, officials say," CNN, October 10, 2008.
  8. "Rokita wants charges filed against ACORN in Lake County," Indianapolis Star, October 28, 2008.
  9. "Officials say ACORN registrations no problem," Chicago Tribune, November 17, 2008
  10.,lcvote.article "ACORN voter registration flap all but fizzles,"] Post Tribune, November 14, 2008.
  11. "Obama Camp Connects ACORN Probe to US Attorneys Scandal," Talking Points Memo, October 17, 2008.
  12. Obama "Campaign Asks Special Prosecutor To Look Into DOJ/McCain Campaign Collusion On ACORN Charges," Seeing the Forest, October 17, 2008.
  13. This past problem and description are from the VotersUnite! Election Problem Log. Click through for included links to origin of report.
  14. Stanley Kurtz, "Inside Obama’s Acorn," National Review, May 29, 2008.
  15. Michelle Malkin, "The ACORN Obama Knows," National Review, June 25, 2008.
  16. "RNC: Obama & Acorn Fact Sheet," Marketwatch, October 4, 2008.
  17. 17.0 17.1 "On Obama, Acorn and Voter Registration," New York Times, October 10, 2008.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Michael Falcone and Michael Moss, "Group’s Tally of New Voters Was Vastly Overstated", New York Times, Oct. 23 2008,
  19. Steven Rosenfeld, "California GOP had Same Voter Registration Problems as ACORN in 2006," Oxdown Gazette (FireDogLake), Oct. 15, 2008.
  20. Steven Rosenfeld, "California GOP had Same Voter Registration Problems as ACORN in 2006," AlterNet, October 14, 2008.
  21. "S.B. County Probes Voter Signup Firm," LA Times, March 7, 2006.
  22. Lorraine C. Minnite, "An Analysis of Voter Fraud in The United States," Dēmos, Undated, (Adapted from the 2003 report Securing The Vote, by L. Minnite and D. Callahan, with updates.)
  23. A widely-repeated example of these claims is an opinion piece by Stanley Kurtz, O'S DANGEROUS PALS, New York Post, September 29, 2008. "In other words, community organizers help to undermine the US economy by pushing the banking system into a sinkhole of bad loans. And Obama has spent years training and funding the organizers who do it."
  24. "ACORN vs. McCain: The Real Story of the Financial Crisis 1999 to 2008," ACORN, October 16, 2008.

External resources

External articles