Friday, March 20, 2009

First it was President Obama trying to break all precedent and run the 2010 census from within the White House. While the administration finally backed down from that politicization of the census, it clearly hasn’t learned its lesson. Now it is having ACORN officially “partner” with the Census to help count the number of Americans in the country. It’s like Santa trusting a child to tell him how many times he or she has been good in the past year.

We could write a book on the false voter registrations submitted by ACORN. There are bizarre stories, such as one from Cleveland, where ACORN employees reregistered the same individual 77 times, even though the individual kept on telling the ACORN workers that he was already registered. But ACORN’s people kept offering to bribe him with cigarettes or money to get him to fill out another form. Similar examples from across the United States are too numerous to count.

King County (Seattle) election officials were forced to remove 1,762 voter registrations submitted by one group of ACORN employees. Five employees were sentenced to jail. The Delaware County Times noted that out of 2,000 fraudulent voter registration forms in that Pennsylvania county, nearly every single one was filed by ACORN. Chicago had 10,000 false registrations. Criminal indictments and convictions have been leveled in numerous states.

Last year alone, voter fraud investigations took place in 12 states: Connecticut, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Wisconsin.

ACORN admits (how could it not?) that it has made mistakes in accurately registering people to vote. Brian Kettenring with ACORN told the Times that most of these concerns - and linking them to the census - were “right wing fantasies.” He pointed out that he guessed that “fewer than three dozen” ACORN employees have been convicted of fraud, “but that is only a guess.” Kettenring also claims that many individuals who said they were paid to register numerous times had “lied.”

Yet the systematic problems year after year and in state after state make it impossible to blame ACORN’s problems on a few rogue employees. There is a much deeper problem here.

A news story earlier this week incorrectly reported that the Census would be paying ACORN workers to count people, but the voter registration problems have occurred even without any state secretaries of state paying ACORN. The concern is why the Census should be “partnering” with an organization that has so frequently bribed people to register voters.

For a nonpartisan organization such as the Census, ACORN’s political connections are also troubling. Last year, the Obama campaign paid ACORN $800,000 to register voters and do other work. ABC News’ Jake Tapper caught Obama campaign officials in numerous attempts to hide Mr. Obama’s past connections with ACORN. Mr. Obama also gave ACORN money when he served on the board of the Woods Fund in Chicago. For all the work that he has done for ACORN over the years, Investor’s Business Daily called Mr. Obama “ACORN’s Senator.”

ACORN is a “bipartisan” organization in name only. Giving it any type of official role in the process, including making it a so-called “Census Bureau partner,” is disturbing. We worry about how ACORN may misuse this affiliation in representing itself to others.

What is at stake from an accurate census is huge. The allocation of seats in Congress, and ultimately questions of who controls it, depend on an accurate count. Much of the money Congress spends is allocated based on the census. Requiring that the census be non-partisan is the first requirement that must be met.

Disturbingly, the Census Bureau was unwilling to answer any questions on the record, and was only willing to talk off the record to try to dissuade the Times from writing this editorial. We wish that we could share the off-the-record responses with our readers. The only official response was a short one-sentence email that any concerns were “baseless.” If the concerns are so “baseless,” why won’t the people at the Census discuss the issue on the record?

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