The Acorn Indictments
A union-backed outfit faces charges of election fraud.
Friday, November 3, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
So, less than a week before the midterm elections, four workers from Acorn, the liberal activist group that has registered millions of voters, have been indicted by a federal grand jury for submitting false voter registration forms to the Kansas City, Missouri, election board. But hey, who needs voter ID laws?
We wish this were an aberration, but allegations of fraud have tainted Acorn voter drives across the country. Acorn workers have been convicted in Wisconsin and Colorado, and investigations are still under way in Ohio, Tennessee and Pennsylvania.
The good news for anyone who cares about voter integrity is that the Justice Department finally seems poised to connect these dots instead of dismissing such revelations as the work of a few yahoos. After the federal indictments were handed up in Kansas City this week, the U.S. Attorney's office said in a statement that "This national investigation is very much ongoing."
Let's hope so. Acorn officials bill themselves as nonpartisan community organizers merely interested in giving a voice to minorities and the poor. In reality, Acorn is a union-backed, multimillion-dollar outfit that uses intimidation and other tactics to push for higher minimum wage mandates and to trash Wal-Mart and other non-union companies.
Operating in at least 38 states (as well as Canada and Mexico), Acorn pushes a highly partisan agenda, and its organizers are best understood as shock troops for the AFL-CIO and even the Democratic Party. As part of the Fannie Mae reform bill, House Democrats pushed an "affordable housing trust fund" designed to use Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac profits to subsidize Acorn, among other groups. A version of this trust fund actually passed the Republican House and will surely be on the agenda again next year.
Acorn and its affiliates have pulled some real stunts in recent years. In Ohio in 2004, a worker for one affiliate was given crack cocaine in exchange for fraudulent registrations that included underage voters, dead voters and pillars of the community named Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy and Jive Turkey. During a Congressional hearing in Ohio in the aftermath of the 2004 election, officials from several counties in the state explained Acorn's practice of dumping thousands of registration forms in their lap on the submission deadline, even though the forms had been collected months earlier.
"You have to wonder what's the point of that, if not to overwhelm the system and get phony registrations on the voter rolls," says Thor Hearne of the American Center for Voting Rights, who also testified at the hearing. "These were Democratic officials saying that they felt their election system in Ohio was under assault by these kinds of efforts to game the system."
Given this history, it's not surprising that Acorn is so hostile to voter identification laws and other efforts to ensure fairness and accuracy at the polls. In Missouri last month, the state Supreme Court held that a photo ID requirement to vote was overly burdensome and a violation of the state constitution. Acorn was behind the original suit challenging the statute, and it has brought similar challenges in several other states, including Ohio.
A recent Pew Research Center survey found that blacks today are almost twice as likely as they were in 2004 to say they have little or no confidence in the voting system. Such a finding would seem like a powerful argument for voter ID laws, which consistently poll well among people of all races and incomes and would increase confidence in the voting process. Of course, voter ID laws would also cut down on fraud, which, judging from the latest indictments, would put a real crimp in Acorn's style.
Just so you know who's behind the suit challenging voter photo ID requirements in Ohio.