Monday, October 13, 2008

ACORN and Right-Wing Demagoguery

As I indicated weeks ago, I'm trying to take a break from politics. Yes, it is counter-productive to my hope of being a part of a new movement for change. But, it also protects my chi.

However, there are some stories that break though my online chatting and fantasy football that disturb and disquiet me. Lately, there have been cries of foul against ACORN. Most especially by Lou Dobbs, and if you want to know what I think of him, I pretty much agree with Keith Olbermann.

It's pretty late for me. I'm really sleepy. But I wanted to put this out as soon as possible. So, please excuse any unattractive aesthetics. I'm posting ACORN's response to the false and baseless charges and allegations. Here is The Nation article to which Ms. Lewis and Mr. Kest are probably referring. - No1KState

The Truth About ACORN's Voter Registration Drive
by Bertha Lewis and Steve Kest
CommonDreams.orgOctober 10, 2008 Day is less than a month away, and our effortsto make sure that low-income and minority voters have avoice and vote on November 4th are in full swing.Unfortunately, just as we've seen in previous electioncycles, the more success we have in empowering thesevoters, the more attacks we have to fend off frompartisan forces making unfounded accusations todisparage our work and help maintain the status quo ofan unbalanced electorate. We want to take thisopportunity to separate the facts of our successes fromthe falsehoods of our attackers.

On Monday, October 6, as voter registration deadlinespassed in most states, ACORN completed the largest, mostsuccessful nonpartisan voter registration drive inhistory. In partnership with the nonpartisanorganization Project Vote, we helped register over 1.3million low-income, minority, and young voters in atotal of 21 states. Highlights of this success include:

We collected over 151,000 registrations in Florida,153,000 in Pennsylvania, 215,000 in Michigan, and nearly250,000 in Ohio.

An estimated 60-70 percent of our applicants are peopleof color.

At least HALF of all are registrations are from youngpeople between 18-29.We are proud of this unprecedented success, and gratefulto everyone who supported us in this massive effort,from our funders and partners to the literally thousandsof hardworking individuals across the country whodedicated themselves to the cause and conducted thedifficult work of registering 1.3 million Americans, onevoter at a time.

And this work is far from over: now begins our effortmobilize these new voters around local and nationalissues, getting them to the polls and helping to channeltheir commitment and conviction into an ongoing movementfor change in our communities.

As The Nation pointed out recently, ACORN's success inregistering millions of low-income and minority votershas made it "something of a right-wing bogeyman." ThoughACORN believes that the right to vote is not, and shouldnever be, a partisan issue, attacks from groupsthreatened by our historic success continue to come,motivated by partisan politics and often perpetuated bythe media without full investigation of the facts. As aresult, there have been a few recent stories aboutinvestigations of former ACORN workers for turning inincomplete, erroneous, or fraudulent voter registrationapplications. Predictably, partisan forces have tried touse these isolated incidents to incite fear of the"bogeyman" of "widespread voter fraud." But we want totake this opportunity to set the record straight andtell you a few facts to show how these incidents reallyexemplify everything that ACORN is doing right:

Fact: ACORN has implemented the most sophisticatedquality-control system in the voter engagement field,but in almost every state we are required to turn in ALLcompleted applications, even the ones we know to beproblematic.Fact: ACORN flags incomplete, problem, or suspiciouscards when we turn them in, but these warnings are oftenignored by election officials. Often these sameofficials then come back weeks or months later andaccuse us of deliberately turning in phony cards.

Fact: Our canvassers are paid by the hour, not by thecard, so there is NO incentive for them to falsifycards. ACORN has a zero-tolerance policy fordeliberately falsifying registrations, and in therelatively rare cases where our internal qualitycontrols have identified this happening we have firedthe workers involved and turned them in to electionofficials and law-enforcement.

Fact: No charges have ever been brought against ACORNitself. Convictions against individual former ACORNworkers have been accomplished with our fullcooperation, using the evidence obtained through ourquality control and verification processes.

Fact: Voter fraud by individuals is extremely rare, andincredibly difficult. There has never been a singleproven case of anyone, anywhere, casting an illegal voteas a result of a phony voter registration. Even ifsomeone wanted to influence the election this way, itwould not work.

Fact: Most election officials have recognized ACORN'sgood work and praised our quality control systems. Evenin the cities where election officials have complainedabout ACORN, the applications in question represent lessthan 1% of the thousands and thousands of registrationsACORN has collected.

Fact: Our accusers not only fail to provide anyevidence, they fail to suggest a motive: there isvirtually no chance anyone would be able to votefraudulently, so there is no reason to deliberatelysubmit phony registrations. ACORN is committed toensuring that the greatest possible numbers of peopleare registered and allowed to vote, so there is also NOincentive to "disrupt the system" with phony cards.

Fact: Similar accusations were made, and attackslaunched, against ACORN and other voter registrationorganizations in 2004 and 2006. These attacks were notonly groundless, they have since been exposed as part ofthe U.S. Attorneygate scandal and revealed to be part ofa systematic partisan agenda of voter suppression.

These are the facts, and the truth is that a relativelysmall group of political operatives are trying toorchestrate hysteria about "voter fraud" and manufacturepublic outrage that they can use to further suppress thevotes of millions of low-income and minority Americans.

These tactics are nothing new, and history has shownthat they will come to nothing. We'll continue toweather the storm, as we've done for years, and we'llcontinue to share the truth about our work and expresspride about our accomplishments. Most importantly, wewant to assure you that this good work continues,unabated and undeterred. ACORN will not be intimidated,we will not be provoked, and in this important moment inhistory we will not allow anyone to distract us fromthese vital efforts to empower our constituencies andour communities to speak for themselves. If the partisanpolitical machines are afraid of low-income and minorityvoters, they're going to have to do a lot better thancoming after ACORN.

After all, there are now at least 1.3 million more ofthem, and they will not be silenced. They're taking aninterest, and taking a stand, and they'll be takingtheir concerns to the voting booth in November.

And ACORN will be here, to make sure that the voices ofthese Americans are heard, on Election Day and for everyday to come.

Bertha Lewis is a senior organizer for ACORN. Steve Kestis ACORN's Executive Director. ACORN, the Association ofCommunity Organizations for Reform Now, is the nation'slargest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice andstronger communities.

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