ACORN: Blame authorities for registration fraud

A community activist group under fire for fraudulent voter registration defended itself Wednesday, saying it tried in vain to work with officials to get rogue canvassers prosecuted months before Tuesday’s surprise raid on its office by state authorities.

“For six months we have been handing the Board of Elections smoking gun after smoking gun, saying, ‘We want you to prosecute these people,’” said Matthew Henderson, regional director of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as ACORN. “They sat on them, then staged this raid where they acted as if they didn’t know us.”

Secretary of State Ross Miller, whose office is spearheading the probe, said it was necessary to collect evidence about serious problems that could prompt felony charges.

“It’s very disappointing to think ACORN would minimize the importance of maintaining integrity in the (election) system,” he said. “It’s the equivalent of a suspected bank robber suggesting he was arrested because the police had nothing better to do.”

Miller’s office, working with the Nevada attorney general’s office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, claim ACORN canvassers — including prison inmates on work-release — falsified and copied names on voter registration forms.

The investigation was continuing Wednesday as authorities examined evidence contained in documents and computers seized in Tuesday’s raid on the group’s downtown Las Vegas headquarters in the Commercial Center complex, 953 E. Sahara Ave.

ACORN is a nonpartisan organization, but it has a liberal political agenda and ties to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama. The low-income people it seeks to enfranchise are a group that tends to vote Democratic. Neither the Democratic Party nor the Obama campaign worked with ACORN on the voter drive.

But with the election less than a month away and Nevada one of a half-dozen top swing states, partisans rushed in to make hay of the controversy, with its dark undertones of dirty political tricks. The Republican National Committee on Wednesday pointed to reports of suspect ACORN work in states including Missouri, Connecticut, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Indiana, and questioned its motives and agenda.

“This group is engaged in a systematic effort to undermine our electoral system,” the RNC’s Danny Diaz said in a telephone news conference.

Authorities, however, emphasized that they do not believe the election will be tainted because faked registrations wouldn’t make it past the checks they’re subject to. Phony addresses and duplicates never make it onto the voter rolls; registrations without valid driver’s license or Social Security numbers require identification be shown at the polls.

“The investigation into potential registration fraud should not diminish Nevada voters’ confidence that only eligible voters will be able to cast ballots on November 4th,” Miller, a Democrat, said. “The investigation and information obtained in furtherance of executing the search warrant proves that our system works.”

ACORN’s mission

ACORN and its partner group, Project Vote, are working this year in 21 states where they say they have registered 1.3 million new voters. In Nevada, they have spent more than $1 million and registered more than 90,000 since February. Their stated goal is to make American democracy more representative by increasing the number of low-income citizens who cast ballots.

Until Oct. 4, the last day canvassers could register voters for the upcoming election, ACORN recruited and trained 700 canvassers whom it sent to government offices, stores and other parts of lower-income neighborhoods. Armed with clipboards and stacks of voter registration forms, they spent hours each day on their feet in sometimes brutal heat.

Although the workers were paid an hourly wage and ACORN officials said they weren’t subject to strict quotas, they were told to shoot for 20 registrations a day, subject to retraining if they fell short and firing if they consistently didn’t come close to the target.

Authorities say that created an incentive for the workers to forge and copy forms. ACORN officials agree that some individual workers did so, but they say the organization worked to find and fire the fraudsters, and could not get authorities to further pursue the incidents.

Joe Camp, who oversaw the voter drive’s quality-control operation, said whenever a batch of registrations didn’t seem kosher based on phone checks, they were submitted to the Clark County Election Department with a “Problematic Card Cover Sheet.” ACORN on Wednesday supplied examples of such submissions going back to April.

By law, ACORN could not simply not turn in a suspect registration, even if it was in the name of Mickey Mouse. It is a felony to discard or destroy voter registration forms, which are tracked with individual serial numbers.

Camp said 46 packets of especially suspicious forms, totaling about 700, were submitted, and more than 50 canvassers were fired. Henderson, the regional ACORN director, said the group wished legal action would have been taken against those people.

“Imagine if the authorities had made a federal case in April, found the individual who committed this fraud and prosecuted them under Nevada law,” Henderson said.

“Imagine how that would have been a help to ACORN to get our direction to our canvassers to take this seriously.” Future canvassers, he said, would have been deterred from cheating knowing they wouldn’t get away with it, and in turn fewer suspect registrations would have been turned in.

Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax acknowledged that ACORN did flag some suspicious registrations, but plenty more were dumped on his office to weed out.

“It was a pathetic effort at quality control, if it was a serious effort,” he said. “I know their argument is they’re out there doing a greater good, but they’re unbelievably sloppy. What I saw was a very poorly overseen effort to register voters.”

Lomax said his role was simply to pass on potential fraud to the secretary of state’s office, which has investigative authority that his office lacks.

Miller said although some evidence of fraud came from ACORN itself, other information came to authorities separately, leading to the determination that the organization’s files had to be comprehensively examined to determine the scope of the problem. He declined to say whether it was the organization or only individual canvassers who were targets of the investigation or what potential charges they faced.

Project Vote is a separate nonprofit that works to liberalize voting laws and fight voter suppression in addition to the voter drives it contracts with ACORN to conduct.

Its executive director, Michael Slater, compared the situation to that of a large retailer that hires thousands of employees, some of whom turn out to be dishonest and steal merchandise.

“Just like Target or Wal-Mart, when some workers are dishonest or they steal, they fire those workers and report them to the police,” he said. “We don’t then say Target or Wal-Mart is a criminal enterprise.”

Partisan politics

In 1992, Obama spent several months running a voter registration drive for Project Vote in Chicago. At the time, the group did not have its current relationship with ACORN, which also does housing-assistance and community organizing work in low-income communities across the country.

In 1995, Obama was one of a team of Illinois civil-rights lawyers who took up a case suing the state for failing to provide adequate voter registration opportunities under the National Voting Rights Act, known as the “motor voter” law for its provision requiring motor vehicle departments to take voter registrations. ACORN was the plaintiff in the case.

In the current election, ACORN’s political action committee, which is separate from its community organizing functions, has endorsed Obama for president.

Because of those ties, Republicans link Obama to the spate of problems with ACORN and say he should have to answer for its alleged actions. “This is something they (the Obama campaign) should have to speak to, considering this group is engaged in systematic voter registration fraud not just in the state of Nevada but across the country,” the RNC’s Diaz said.

The Obama campaign has declined to address the links beyond noting that the campaign and ACORN do not work together in any way. In a prepared statement, campaign spokeswoman Kirsten Searer said, “The Obama campaign is committed to protecting the integrity of the voting process. We support the secretary of state’s investigation and full prosecution of any illegal activities.”

The Nevada Democratic Party also condemned “any efforts to improperly register voters.”

Contact reporter Molly Ball at mball@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.

ad-high_impact_4
News
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive Remembrance Wall
(Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October Blood Drive
Vitalent hosts a blood drive at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, Oct. 1, 2018, the first anniversary of the Las Vegas shootings. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1October sunrise remembrance ceremony in Las Vegas
Myanda Smith, sister of Las Vegas shooting victim Neysa Tonks, speaks at the sunrise remembrance ceremony at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Chitose Suzuki/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
‪Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to crowd at Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬
‪Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval speaks to the crowd at the Oct. 1 sunrise remembrance ceremony ‬at the Clark County Government Center in downtown Las Vegas, Monday, Oct. 1, 2018. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Father of Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim talks about college scholarship in his daughter's memory
Chris Davis, father of a Route 91 Harvest festival shooting victim, Neysa Tonks, talks about a college scholarship in his daughter's memory to assist the children of those who died in the shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Oct. 1 survivor Malinda Baldridge talks about life after the shooting
Malinda Baldridge of Reno attended the Route 91 Harvest festival with her daughter, Breanna, 17, and was shot twice in the leg when the gunman fired on the crowd.
Route 91 survivor talks about lack of progress in gun legislation
Heather Gooze, a Route 91 survivor, talks about lack of progress in gun legislation since the Oct 1. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas/Review-Journal) @reviewjournal
Review held in death of man after encounter with Las Vegas police
The mother of Tashii Brown, who died after an encounter with Las Vegas police on the Strip, not satisfied after public review of evidence. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County Museum opening "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials"
The Clark County Museum is opening an exhibit "How We Mourned: Selected Artifacts from the October 1 Memorials" of items left to honor the victims killed in the Route 91 Harvest festival shooting. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Memorial service for former RJ lawyer Mark Hinueber
Mark Hinueber, the Review-Journal's former lawyer and defender of the First Amendment, died in Las Vegas on Aug. 23. Hinueber, who was 66, worked at the RJ and other newspapers for 42 years. On Saturday, his friends and family gathered for a memorial service.
Army veteran honored in Henderson event
Army Sgt. Adam Poppenhouse was honored by fellow veterans in an event hosted by a One Hero at a Time at the Henderson Events Center.
Michelle Obama and Keegan-Michael Key urge Nevadans to vote
Former first lady Michelle Obama and comedian Keegan-Michael Key urged Nevadans to vote at Chaparral High School in Las Vegas Sunday, Sep. 23, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
Nevada Task Force One Cheers Golden Knights
1 dead, 1 wounded in North Las Vegas standoff
A woman was hospitalized with serious injuries on Thursday morning after being shot inside a North Las Vegas house. Police responded about 11 p.m. to a shooting at a home on the 5600 block of Tropic Breeze Street, near Ann Road and Bruce Street. The wounded woman, police believe, was shot by a man, who later barricaded himself inside the house. SWAT was called to assist, and when officers entered the house, they discovered the man dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Las Vegas Teen Makes Clothing Resale His Side Hustle
Las Vegas resident Reanu Elises, 18, started buying and selling streetwear online when he was a high school junior. Like many other young adults, the world of online resale applications like Depop and Mercari have made selling clothing online for a profit easy. Now, Elises spends his free time at thrift shops looking for rare and vintage clothing he can list on his on his shop. Now in his freshman year at UNLV as a business marketing major, Elises hopes to open a shop of his own one day and start his own clothing brand. He estimates that he's made about $1000 from just thrifted finds in the past year, which he'll use to buy more thrift clothing and help pay for expenses in college. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Fruition Vineyards Encourages Young Entrepreneurs to "Buy, Flip, Dream"
Once a month, young adults gather at Fruition Vineyards on South Maryland Parkway near UNLV to dig through a stack of rare, vintage and designer clothing that's marked down well below it's resale value. Shop founder Valerie Julian began the vent, dubbed "Fruition Vineyards" in August after running her streetwear shop since 2005. The event gives young entrepreneurs the opportunity to "buy, flip, dream" according to Jean. Meaning that they're encouraged to buy the clothing for sale and find a way to resell it for a profit, then reinvest that into whatever dream they pursue: college, a hobby or their own resale business. Shoppers lined up starting an hour before noon on the last Saturday in April for the opportunity and spoke about what they hoped to do with their finds and profits. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Local man goes under cover searching for answers to homelessness
Licensed mental health therapist Sheldon Jacobs spent 48 hours under cover posing as a homeless man in an attempt to gain perspective on the complex issue.
Social Work UNLV Lecturer's Calling
Ivet Aldaba-Valera was the first person in her family to graduate from both high school and college. The 33-year-old UNLV lecturer is now pursuing her Ph. D in public policy at the school and has used her degree in social work to engage with the young Latino and Latina community of Las Vegas. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like