Viewpoint

Partisans distort ACORN

In an election as close as this one, it's not surprising that partisans engage in exaggerations, distortions, and occasional outright lies – even about ACORN, a decades-old nonprofit that stands for the American principles of civic representation and participation by all citizens. What is surprising is that these attacks have become so relentless, so wildly exaggerated, and so unfair to all registered voters.

Why are these attacks unfair to voters? If voters hear enough rumors that the election is rigged, they won't vote. They'll be more cynical about their government, and won't participate in our civic enterprise. But the truth is, North Carolina's registration and election processes are clean, fair, and well-run. ACORN wants it that way, because we want EVERYONE to vote.

No illegal voting

The truth is, NO illegal votes will be cast as a consequence of ACORN's or any other group's voter registration program. Documented cases of illegal voting are almost non-existent during the past several election cycles – fewer than one out of every one million votes cast. NO illegal vote has ever been tied to ACORN, and we submitted almost two million registrations in 2004 and 2006.

North Carolina requires ALL groups registering voters to submit ALL applications, even ones they can plainly see have problems. This year ACORN has submitted about 27,000 voter registration applications in North Carolina, and 1.3 million nationwide. A very small percentage of applications we have submitted had problems – and we dealt with the few employees who deliberately submitted problem cards, as well as identified almost all of those problems ourselves to election boards as we turned cards in.

Because we believe in clean, fair, well-run elections, ACORN is cooperating fully with the local and state officials who are looking at these problems. We, and they, want to do everything possible to protect voter confidence in our electoral system.

So why would anyone spread untrue allegations about ACORN's voter registration drives?

Untruth attacks

Why have untruthful attacks against ACORN come out of the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee? The answer should be clear – to win votes, both by gaining undecideds for themselves, and by discouraging those leaning the other way from bothering to turn out. There is little reason to believe that calling ACORN a “threat to the fabric of our democracy,” as Senator McCain did during the last presidential debate, was anything other than a cynical ploy to motivate some voters and discourage others.

After all, even the general counsel of the Republican National Committee, which has led the charge against us, admitted last week that he is not aware of a single improper vote cast as the result of any voter registration drive.

Americans should not put up with misrepresentations and outright lies about their own electoral system. The registration system has built-in safeguards, so the public can rest assured that no illegal voter will cast a ballot. ACORN will keep working to improve our already high rates of correct registration cards, and we are proud to have been one among a number of groups that helped register a record number of new voters this year.

Failure to register

That's exciting, and all of us should keep working hard to correct what truly is the greatest ongoing threat to the integrity of our electoral system – the failure of almost one-third of our citizens to register at all, never mind to vote. Getting all eligible voters to register and cast a ballot is change that ACORN hopes that everyone – Democrat, Republican or Independent – can believe in.

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