(CNN) – In the midst of a fusillade of attacks from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from the McCain-Palin campaign, the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, often called “ACORN,” is not backing down and is, instead, defending its voter registration activities as attention turns to the integrity of the election system on the eve of an historic presidential election.
Citing a long history of voter suppression in the country, ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring said recent charges against the organization are just partisan attacks intended to undermine the group’s voter registration efforts. “The current strategy seems to be, from the right, to create, to manufacture a so-called crisis of voter fraud . . . and then to solve that crisis through measures that are about constricting the electorate, narrowing the electorate, keeping people from being able to vote,” he said.
Listen: ACORN, Project Vote explain their voter registration drive
On a conference call with reporters, ACORN and Project Vote, its partner in voter registration programs, explained their process for training and overseeing individuals who canvass for new registrations in the field.
Listen: ACORN, Project Vote answer reporters' questions
Canvassers are paid on an hourly basis and not, as some critics have charged, per registration submitted, Project Vote’s Executive Director Michael Slater said Friday. He also said there are no incentives for meeting or exceeding any quota, and that each application is reviewed and if potentially fraudulent or otherwise problematic registration cards are identified, they are flagged and turned into election officials. “In many states we are obligated to turn in all applications by law, regardless of whether we believe that there are problems are not,” Slater added. Asked for more details about which states have such a requirement, Brian Mellor, an attorney for ACORN, pointed to Ohio, New Mexico, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and California.
ACORN was subject to an out-all attack Friday from the McCain campaign, the Republican National Committee, and some Republicans in Congress. The McCain camp held a conference call where it sought to highlight ties between ACORN and Sen. Barack Obama and released a web video that sought to dramatize those ties. At virtually the same time, the RNC launched a new Web site about Obama’s ties to ACORN.
Six Republicans in the House of Representatives who have all previously been Secretaries of States also wrote a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey Friday asking that the Department of Justice investigate whether ACORN is engaged in voter fraud. The Department of Justice does not comment on its investigations, and refused to confirm whether it has opened an investigation into ACORN’s activities. The request echoed Sen. John McCain’s suggestion at a campaign event Thursday that an investigation into ACORN should take place.
Also on Thursday, several Republicans in Congress called for an end to any federal funding to ACORN. Friday, Kettenring and Slater said neither ACORN nor Project Vote seeks or accepts federal funding and that no federal money was used in the voter registration drive the groups just wrapped up roughly a week ago. Kettenring said, however, that some groups affiliated with ACORN may receive federal funding.
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