- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Nevada voter-fraud task force Tuesday raided the state headquarters of a Democrat-allied organization that works to get low-income people to vote, setting off a skirmish over efforts to expand the electorate on behalf of Sen. Barack Obama.

Authorities searched the Las Vegas office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which is accused of submitting multiple voter registrations with duplicate and false names, including names of former Dallas Cowboys players.

Bob Walsh, a spokesman for Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat, whose office leads the task force, stressed that ACORN was not charged with a crime but served with a search warrant as part of an ongoing investigation.

“We went in and seized computer equipment and documents,” he said.

Republicans accused the Obama campaign of associating with a group known for signing up unqualified voters, and which has been accused of submitting fraudulent or inaccurate voter registrations in Connecticut, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Wisconsin.

The Obama presidential campaign and the Democratic National Committee declined to comment on the raid.

But Bertha Lewis, ACORN’s interim chief organizer in Las Vegas, called it a political hit job and said the organization for months had tried in vain to work with Nevada elections officials to identify potentially fraudulent voter applications.

“Today’s raid by the secretary of state’s office is a stunt that serves no useful purpose other than discredit our work registering Nevadans and distracting us from the important work ahead of getting every eligible voter to the polls,” she said.

The Republican Party has long clashed with ACORN, including successfully fighting Democratic efforts to include $20 billion for the group’s homeownership program from the $700 billion economic rescue approved last week.

Republicans say the group is a partisan player that engages in unscrupulous election practices. They point to 12 ACORN members convicted of voter fraud in Missouri in 1986 and to the organization’s entry into a 2006 consent decree in Washington state to refrain from improper voter registration activities or else face criminal prosecution.

“Our calling it quasi-criminal organization, we don’t say that lightly,” said Sean Cairncross, chief counsel to the Republican National Committee. “When you have your office raided by law enforcement agencies, it is not an indication that you are in compliance with the law.”

The Las Vegas office was raided the same day Republicans were complaining about ACORN’s activities in northwestern Indiana, where news reports say local elections officials think the group submitted hundreds of bad voter applications.

Voter registration is key to the Democrats’ election strategy. First-time voters - especially students and minorities - helped fuel Mr. Obama’s primary wins, and his campaign is looking for the same results to capture swing states such as Nevada on Nov. 4.

In the swing state of Pennsylvania, which is a must-win on the electoral map for Mr. Obama, a record 8.6 million have registered for the presidential election with the number of Democratic voters up 13 percent compared with Republican ranks shrinking by 1 percent, according to early totals released by state election officials.

While Democrats have focused on expanding turnout, Republicans have put their efforts into trying to prevent election fraud. They have pushed measures to clean the rolls of voters who have died or moved, and to require voters to show identification at the polls.

ACORN recently concluded its Project Vote registration drive that signed up more than 1.3 million voters in 21 states, which was the most successful drive in the group’s 38-year history.

On Tuesday, Sen. John Ensign, Nevada Republican, called for the suspension of federal payments to ACORN as part of an affordable housing fund run by mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“With the government takeover of Fannie and Freddie, the government will be taxing itself to create a backdoor slush fund, and we must prevent these taxpayer dollars from going toward ACORN,” Mr. Ensign said. “With the recent news tying ACORN with voter fraud, suspending these funds is even more urgent.”

The day after the 2006 congressional elections Sen. Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, asked the Internal Revenue Service to consider suspending ACORN’s tax-exempt status. He cited the indictments of four ACORN employees in Kansas City, Mo., on charges they submitted false voter registrations. “Engaging in voter fraud is not a charitable activity,” Mr. Grassley said at the time.

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