A national voter-registration group admitted to Cuyahoga County election officials Tuesday that it cannot eliminate fraud from its operation.
The group blamed inefficiency and lack of resources for problems such as being unable to spot duplicate voter-registration cards or cards that may have been filled out by workers to make quotas.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, has turned in at least 65,000 cards to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections in the last year. The board has investigated potentially fraudulent cards since August.
The group has faced similar inquiries in other large Ohio counties. And Nevada state authorities recently raided ACORN's Las Vegas headquarters searching for evidence of fraud, according to the Associated Press.
Local representatives of the organization told Cuyahoga board members that they don't have the resources to identify fraudulent cards turned in by paid canvassers who are told to register low- and moderate-income voters.
Cuyahoga election workers flagged about 50 names on suspicious cards. The cards were to register the same names, raising the possibility that canvassers shared information when trying to make quotas.
"This is not something you can catch with your internal controls, apparently," said board member Sandy McNair at the meeting.
"Not perfectly, no," replied Mari Engelhardt, ACORN political director for Ohio.
Once stacks of registration cards are returned to ACORN offices, workers verify information by calling the phone number provided on the card, the board was told. If information is missing or ACORN identifies a suspicious card, it is given to the Board of Elections with a notice that it could be problematic.
ACORN workers who double-check cards can't be expected to remember names and addresses previously verified, said Teresa James, an attorney for Project Vote representing ACORN.
Engelhardt said supervisors sometimes fail to prevent different canvassers from attempting to register the same person.
"We do not have the resources to know if a particular card is fictitious," James said.
Voter-registration organizations cannot, by law, withhold registration cards from election boards. The groups are obligated to report potential errors, a spokesman for Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner told The Plain Dealer.
Kris Harsh, ACORN's head Cleveland organizer, blamed the elections board for not scrutinizing ACORN's suspicious cards. He said the group can't be expected to catch everything.
"None of us have ever achieved perfection," Harsh said.
The elections board will continue its inquiry Monday, when it expects testimony from three people it will subpoena after a review of the ACORN investigation. The names appeared on multiple registration cards submitted by ACORN and other organizations.
Posted by Joe Guillen/Plain Dealer Reporter (cleveland.com/blog) October 07, 2008