National Press Club

Newsmaker Speakers Raise Concerns about Fake Voter Registration

October 20, 2008 | By Mark Schoeff Jr.

Fraudulent voter registration threatens to create problems in this year’s presidential campaign that will dwarf the “hanging chad” controversy in 2000 over the Florida vote, according to the leaders of
an organization created by Republican nominee John McCain to prepare for the voting.

“The issue could be whether the election is fair at all,” former Sen. John Danforth, R-Mo., said at an Oct. 14 Newsmaker. “This is a potential nightmare.”

Danforth and former Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H., head McCain’s Honest and Open Election Committee. They highlighted their concerns by citing several examples of recent registration irregularities.

In New Mexico, 1400 registrations are under FBI investigation. In Philadelphia, 57,000 registrations have been rejected. In Ohio, a single voter tried to register 73 times. In one case, an attempt was made to register a restaurant name as an eligible voter.

Danforth and Rudman laid the blame on the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), an activist group that says it has added 1.3 million new voters to the rolls. They placed the onus on Democratic nominee Barack Obama to address what they called the organization’s improprieties.

“Sen. Obama has a special responsibility to rein in ACORN,” Danforth said. Obama was involved with the group early in his political career.

In a press conference at the Club held 30 minutes after Danforth and Rudman spoke, ACORN supporters defended its work, which focuses on signing up low-income, minority and young first-time voters.

Kevin Whelan, an ACORN spokesman, said that a “small percentage” of the registrations the group has garnered are fraudulent. He said that all registration applications must be turned in to election authorities. ACORN separates them into groups based on completeness and credibility.

Advocates for the group dismissed Danforth and Rudman’s criticism as politically motivated to suppress turnout.

“A serious disservice is being done to the election process itself,” said Miles Rappoport, president of Demos and former Connecticut secretary of state.

Danforth and Rudman said they hope to quell fears about election mechanics by working with the Obama campaign to establish joint poll monitoring teams in areas where either side fears that fraud or voter intimidation may emerge. The former senators said that their outreach to Obama officials over the last month has been ignored.

“The effort to do this together would bring credibility to this election,” Danforth said. “If they’ve got problems, tell us your problems. Let’s try to resolve them. What we can’t do is blow this off.”