McCain Camp’s Anti-ACORN Campaign Goes Nationwide

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It looks like the effort by the McCain campaign and the Republican party to make an issue out of ACORN’s voter registration activities has gone national.

We’ve seen reports from several states in recent days that the group, which works to register low-income and minority voters, has submitted flawed or fraudulent voter registration forms — though it’s by no means clear how widespread the problem is.

But that’s not stopping the McCain team. At a town-hall meeting in Wisconsin today, when supporters began to chant the group’s name in derision, the Arizona senator seized the moment to go on the attack.

“You’ve seen the allegations, the multiple registrations under the same name, the more registered voters than the population, these are serious allegations, my friends, and they must be investigated, and they must be investigated immediately and they must be stopped before November the fourth, so Americans will not — will not — be deprived of a fair process in this election.

The Republican National Committee is also flogging the story. Under the headline “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up”, its website lists various cases of potential voter fraud, and links to a GOP press release noting that ACORN employees are under investigation in Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

And this morning, Fox News interviewed a Domino’s Pizza employee in Ohio, who said that he had been asked by an ACORN canvasser to fill out multiple registration forms. The story appeared on the front page of the New York Post this morning.

The Republican effort to raise the specter of voter fraud, with ACORN at the center, is being carried out on the local level as well. After Nevada investigators raided ACORN’s Las Vegas office Tuesday, Nevada’s Republican senator, John Ensign immediately called on the Bush administration to close a loophole through which the group, which works to register low-income and minority voters, is eligible to receive federal housing funds through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

No one has been charged in the raid, which was part of an investigation apparently being led by Democratic secretary of state, Ross Miller. But there are suggestions that it was prompted in part by GOP complaints. Tory Mazzola, a spokesman for Ensign, quickly ended a call without responding, after being asked by TPMmuckraker whether Ensign’s office had complained to state authorities about potential voter fraud by ACORN in advance of the raid. And as we reported this morning, the head of the state Republican party told TPMmuckraker that the state party had indeed expressed concerns about the issue to Miller’s office over the summer. Miller’s office has said that the raid was prompted by evidence that ACORN has submitted fraudulent voter registration forms.

Meanwhile, Missouri Republicans, led by former senator Jack Danforth, yesterday accused ACORN of filing thousands of false forms with election officials in the Show Me state. Danforth, who garnered a reputation as a bipartisan statesman during his tenure the Senate, is helping to lead a nationwide effort by the McCain campaign to raise concerns about voter fraud. On a September conference call with reporters, Danforth highlighted reports of faulty registration forms in Michigan, Colorado, and other states, and tried to link ACORN to Barack Obama, pointing out that the group’s political action committee affiliated had endorsed the Demcrat.

And in New Mexico — where David Iglesias was fired as U.S. attorney in 2006 in large part for failing to respond with sufficient alacrity to complaints about voter fraud lodged by GOP elected officials — the FBI has opened a preliminary investigation into 1400 potentially fraudulent registration forms filed at a county election office in Albuquerque. ACORN is active in the area. A Republican state legislator told the Wall Street Journal that even if fraud is rare, “every fraudulent vote cast cancels out a legitimate one.”

ACORN may have been lax, at best, in its procedures for gathering registration forms. But aside from the GOP’s continuing inability to pinpoint the scale of the problem, it’s also worth noting that, as the Wall Street Journal puts it, “a fake registration doesn’t necessarily mean an ineligible vote is tallied. Officials say canvassers sometimes make up registered names to impress bosses or earn bonuses, but that doesn’t result in anyone ineligible casting a vote.”

But by shrieking about voter fraud, the McCain camp hopes to make voting officials more willing to place restrictions in the path of voters on election day, potentially causing delays and confusion at the polls, and reducing overall turnout. And it seeks to discredit any Obama victory by raising the suggestion that it was aided by the votes of ineligible voters.