Saturday, October 18, 2008

ACORN is Not a Bad Seed

In the Orwellian world of the Republican campaign machine, ACORN is a bad seed. Just as black is not white and up is not down, the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, a.k.a. ACORN, is not a bad seed.

Today issued a very even-handed assessment, as usual, of the McCain campaign's claims regarding ACORN.

In sum, ACORN does the good work of helping folks register to vote. Some of its employees faked voter registration forms to get paid for work they didn’t do, NOT to cast fraudulent votes.

Making unfounded accusations of voter fraud intimidates the very real voters ACORN reached. Additionally, these false claims are part of the Republican machine's move for more hoops for voters and local election officials to jump through, which waste time and resources and erect barriers to free and fair elections. Arguably, the Republican machine's intentional dissemination of this false information in order to disenfranchise potential voters is a more clear cut case of voter fraud than anything done by any ACORN employee.

The Republican party has made a concerted effort to paint anyone helping people register to vote as perpetrators of voting fraud. This is patently false. The prosecutors who have attempted to follow up on these outrageous claims have universally found them to be false. For example, Dan Satterberg, the Republican prosecuting attorney in King County, Washington, where the largest ACORN case to date was prosecuted, said

[A] joint federal and state investigation has determined that this scheme was not intended to permit illegal voting.

Instead, the defendants [people ACORN paid by the hour to canvas] cheated their employer, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or ACORN), to get paid for work they did not actually perform. ACORN's lax oversight of their own voter registration drive permitted this to happen. ... It was hardly a sophisticated plan: The defendants simply realized that making up names was easier than actually canvassing the streets looking for unregistered voters. ...

[It] appears that the employees of ACORN were not performing the work that they were being paid for, and to some extent, ACORN is a victim of employee theft.

Democracy Now had an excellent interview with Bertha Lewis, the Chief Organizer for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, ACORN, and Cleta Mitchell, an attorney specializing in election law for Republican clients (and Samantha Bee interviewed her on The Daily Show in the 2004 election cycle about how to start her own 527 group and what content her 527's attack ads could get away with - it's all on DVD The Daily Show: Indecision 2004: Disc 3).

For other examples of systematic insidious voter deception, check out this article in the Miami Herald.

Full Disclosure: during the 2004 election I volunteered for Election Protection, a subsidiary (?) of People for the American Way, to monitor polls in Atlanta, Georgia. I have NO idea if Election Protection or PfAW have any connections to ACORN. But I do believe everyone who is eligible to vote should be registered and should vote without duress. If that makes me guilty of voter fraud in the eyes of Republicans, then so be it.

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