- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Democrat-allied group’s voter-registration efforts have brought “a cloud of suspicion” over the elections, Sen. John McCain‘s campaign said Friday, as he and Democrats exchanged accusations of voter fraud and suppression.

Mr. McCain’s campaign demanded that Democratic opponent Sen. Barack Obama explain his ties to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, which has been accused of submitting thousands of fraudulent voter registrations.

The FBI is reportedly looking into ACORN’s actions - but that news infuriated Mr. Obama’s campaign, which thinks the probe is part of a Republican effort to try to keep voters from going to the polls.

Mr. Obama’s lawyer, Bob Bauer, demanded a special prosecutor look into whether the Justice Department is politicizing the investigation by leaking it less than three weeks before the Nov. 4 election. “Let’s be very clear - ACORN is a tool for attacking voters,” he said.

He said that although there may be registration fraud, there’s no evidence of widespread voter fraud, which would require someone to actually vote illegally. The McCain campaign agreed, but said the bogus registrations open up the possibility of bad votes being counted.

The fight over voter access has been brewing for years. Republicans want more checks on fraudulent voting, such as voter identification at the polls, while Democrats have fought them. The Supreme Court earlier this year upheld an Indiana law requiring identification. But the matter exploded in recent weeks as reports grew that ACORN has submitted thousands of fraudulent voter registrations across the country.

Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, said those reports are evidence of “a cloud of suspicion that seems to right now hang over this election,” and demanded reporters press Mr. Obama to explain whether as a community organizer he worked with the organization, and to detail more than $800,000 his campaign paidto an ACORN affiliate during the primaries.

“If they’re not that big a deal, you know, why not just release the documentation on ACORN? Why not open themselves up to a discussion of what exactly happened with that $830,000?” Mr. Davis said.

Obama campaign officials have repeatedly detailed for reporters the payment, which was not for voter registration but for a voter canvass - identifying supporters door to door in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania.

ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring called the charges “Nixon-style gutter politics” designed to intimidate opponents and suppress the vote.

Also Friday, the Supreme Court ruled against Republicans who had wanted Ohio to take stricter steps to vet the voter rolls there.

The court said Congress probably didn’t intend for political parties or other private individuals to sue to enforce the Help America Vote Act. That ruling means the Ohio secretary of state doesn’t have to create a database to clean the rolls.

• Christina Bellantoni contributed to this report.

• Explore different election-night scenarios with our ‘Road to 270’ interactive electoral college map.

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