The Republican National Committee is ratcheting up its attacks on the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. ACORN, as the group is known, is a nonprofit — representing low-income and minority communities — that's been registering hundreds of thousands of new voters this year. But ACORN keeps getting into trouble because some of its registrations turn out to be fraudulent — with fake names or addresses.
In a conference call with reporters this morning (Wednesday), RNC chief counsel Sean Cairncross didn't mince words. He called ACORN a "quasi-criminal" organization that's trying to create chaos at polling sites in November. He said it was especially "disturbing" that the group has links to the Obama campaign (the Democratic nominee did some work with ACORN in the 1990s). This is the second time in a week that the RNC has held a conference call blasting the group, which focuses on communities that are more likely to vote Democratic.
Mike Slater is the executive director of Project Vote, which helps ACORN with its voter registration drives. He says it's the Republicans who are causing confusion and misleading voters. He says the RNC has distorted the group's record, and that actually ACORN is the one pointing out registration problems to local election officials. Slater says ACORN is the victim of a few bad workers (it hires people at $8.00 an hour) who are trying to defraud them. He adds: "It's like the RNC having a news conference every time a Wal-Mart employee is fired for theft."
In fact, several local election officials contacted by NPR say that ACORN is trying to clean up its act — there still are problems with false registrations, but they make up a small percentage of those turned in by the group. At the very least, there's a lot of sloppiness with the registration forms. And sorting through them eats up election officials' time as they try to prepare for what's expected to be an extraordinarily busy election.