Potential fraud feared in drive to sign up voters

By Keith Ervin
Seattle Times staff reporter

Feb. 23, 2007

King County, WA - Hundreds of voter-registration cards submitted as part of a drive to sign up low-income and minority voters may have been forged by paid canvassers, a King County election official said Thursday.

Problems were found with many of the 1,829 forms within a day after they were received from ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, whose canvassers have been under investigation in some other states for possible registration fraud.

"When we opened the box we very quickly noticed there were hundreds of forms where the handwriting was the same," said election spokeswoman Bobbie Egan. "We were able to see very quickly and clearly there appears to be evidence of possible forgery."

An election worker called the voters' phone numbers listed on 400 of the registration cards — and found that only two were correct, Egan said. Those two people said they hadn't filled out registration forms during the drive last fall.

Officials have sent letters asking ACORN-registered voters for more information, Egan said, and, "a vast majority are coming back as undeliverable."

The election office will begin sending batches of suspect registrations to the Prosecuting Attorney's Office within the next few weeks, Egan said.

The prosecutor could challenge the registrations in an administrative proceeding and could initiate a criminal investigation, said prosecutor's spokesman Dan Donohoe.

ACORN's national spokesman, Kevin Whelan, said the organization welcomes the prosecution of any canvassers who have broken the law.

"If somebody is caught doing something wrong, we are eager to see them prosecuted because they are defrauding our organization," he said.

"Literally thousands of people worked on the voter-registration drive around the country last year and the vast majority did a great job," Whelan said.

ACORN's King County registrations made news in October when election officials said they were received too late for the new voters to participate in the November election. The box of registration cards was shipped by UPS before the deadline for postmarked mail — which county and state officials said means the U.S. Postal Service only.

Election officials said in internal e-mails that ACORN also failed to comply with a state law that requires anyone collecting registration forms to send them in at least once a week. Some of the cards, delivered to the county Oct. 9, were signed as far back as Sept. 23.

ACORN says it signed up 5,388 voters in King and Pierce counties last year, as part of a national effort that registered 540,000 voters nationally. The campaign was funded by Project Vote.

Compared to other organizations that registered voters last year, Pierce County Auditor Pat McCarthy said ACORN submitted an unusually large number of forms with missing information, such as date of birth or address. She said election officials there also took a close look at registrations with a common address — which turned out to be a homeless shelter.

McCarthy said she didn't recall instances of similar handwriting that could suggest forgery.

ACORN's Whelan said at least two paid canvassers in King and Pierce counties were fired last fall because of "quality-control concerns," but he said he had no other details about the firings.

If any registration cards were forged, he said, it would likely have been done by temporary workers "trying to pad their hours."

Most of the registration drive was conducted by 43 paid canvassers, who initially earned $8 an hour but were given a raise to $9 when ACORN needed more workers. Initials on the King County registration forms indicate they were collected by six canvassers, Egan said.

Four ACORN canvassers in Kansas City were indicted for felony voter-registration fraud. One defendant has pleaded guilty and three have pleaded not guilty.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company


Investigation into possible King Co. voter registration fraud urged

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

March 16, 2007

A homebuilding industry group has asked the interim U.S. attorney for Western Washington to investigate possible voter registration fraud in King County.

The issue involves an activist group called Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, and the nearly 2,000 completed voter registration applications it submitted to the King County elections department in October. A department spokeswoman said in February that the applications appeared suspicious because many of the signatures were similar. Follow-up calls and letters to the supposed registrants have failed to confirm the validity of the applications, she said.

The elections department has so far forwarded 151 apparently fraudulent registrations to the county prosecutor for possible prosecution and its investigation is continuing, Egan said Thursday. A spokesman for the prosecutor said the records are being reviewed for possible criminal investigation.

A spokesman for ACORN, a national group based in New Orleans, said in February the organization supported prosecution of anyone involved in fraudulent registration attempts.

The BIAW asked U.S. Attorney Jeff Sullivan to investigate and prosecute anyone involved in fraudulent registration attempts. The association said it had sent him public records in had obtained, including emails among county and state officials discussing the ACORN registrations.

None of the ACORN registrations were submitted in time for the November election.

Acting under state law, the elections department recorded the registrations, but flagged them. Any of those registrants attempting to vote would have to provide supporting identification, a state elections official has said.



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