October 27th, 2008
08:50 PM ET
14 years ago

Indiana official seeks criminal probe of ACORN

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/10/09/acorn.fraud.claims/art.acorn.jpg caption="Concerns about voter registration forms submitted by ACORN in Indiana have led Indiana's Secretary of State to ask for a criminal investigation of the group."]
(CNN) - Indiana's secretary of state has requested a criminal investigation into the embattled community organizing group ACORN, which is accused of submitting hundreds of bogus voter registration forms in northern Lake County.

Watch: Drew Griffin on ACORN in Indiana

The request is based on Secretary of State Todd Rokita's preliminary examination and analysis of 1,438 questionable voter registration applications ACORN submitted in the county, which includes the city of Gary. Rokita, a Republican, has concluded there is "significant, credible evidence" that ACORN violated Indiana and federal law.

Read: Rokita's request to prosecutors

"This is a fraud perpetrated on all of the people of Indiana, because fraudulent registrations are the first step in diluting the voice of honest voters and rendering an inaccurate tally on Election Day," Rokita wrote in his request to state and federal law enforcement officials.

In response, ACORN said, "We believe the law requires us to turn in every card."

The group, which is the target of intense GOP attacks, says it flagged questionable registration forms collected by its canvassers. The group has been criticized for submitting phony forms in several states - many of which are considered battlegrounds in next week's presidential election.

But Rokita said ACORN should have turned the documents over to law enforcement, not registrars.

"Complying with the law to submit legitimate applications does not allow ACORN officials to evade the law against knowingly submitting fraudulent applications," Rokita wrote.

ACORN said Rokita "appears to have changed his opinion on this question two weeks before the election."

The group said it detailed its quality control procedures and said that election officials in Lake County had refused the group's documentation flagging applications the group considered questionable and refused to meet with ACORN to discuss how to handle the applications ACORN had flagged. It also said it looked forward to cooperating with Indiana authorities in prosecuting employees "who have defrauded us" by filing faked forms.

ACORN's registration activities in Lake County hit the headlines amid a wave of press reports about questionable voter registration applications submitted by the group in several states.

CNN also recently reported that federal law enforcement officials are reviewing information provided from several state investigations into ACORN's registration activities to determine whether a federal criminal investigation of the group should be opened.

Related: Obama camp calls for special prosecutor in fraud inquiry

In early October, ACORN and Project Vote announced that their extensive voter registration drive in 21 states had yielded 1.3 million registrations. But The New York Times reported last week that ACORN had dramatically reduced its estimate of the number of new voters actually registered during the drive.

Of that 1.3 million, roughly 400,000 were new voters who were not previously registered; another 400,000 were previously registered voters who needed to re-register for various reasons; and another 400,000 involved applications that were unusable because of they are illegible or incomplete, were duplicate applications or were "knowingly bogus," in the words of ACORN spokesman Brian Kettenring.

"The Times piece got something very fundamental wrong," Kettenring said Monday. "We've never claimed that we put 1.3 million voters on the voter rolls. What we've said is we've registered 1.3 million people or when we are being more technically precise, that we have submitted 1.3 million voter registration applications."

Kettenring also said that a yield of 70 percent valid registrations is common for drives like ACORN's. He estimated that the roughly 30 percent of the 1.3 million applications that are not usable break down into 24 percent of the total pool that are duplicates, 5 percent of the total that are illegible or incomplete, and roughly 1.5 percent of the total pool that are "knowingly bogus," as in a registration for "Mickey Mouse."

Echoing prior statements by ACORN, Kettenring also said "what's clear is that there is a coordinated Republican effort to go after, to manufacture a crisis of voter fraud."

"Bogus voter registration applications are not fraud, period," Kettenring said, distinguishing between a fraudulent application and the later act of someone casting a ballot on the basis of a fraudulently procured registration that was submitted and resulted in a tainted registration being placed on the voter rolls. "And, so what you really have is a hysteria about a non-issue," Kettenring added.

Republican presidential candidate John McCain has said ACORN "is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy." And he has challenged Democratic nominee Barack Obama's to explain his ties to the group.

The Obama campaign maintains that it has never paid ACORN or any of its affiliates to register voters on the campaign's behalf and that the campaign has its own voter registration effort that is problem-free.

"We register our own voters under our own standards and we do so successfully," Obama campaign general counsel Bob Bauer said during a conference call with reporters in mid-October.

–CNN's Drew Griffin and Kathleen Johnston contributed to this report.

Filed under: ACORN • Indiana • Voter Problems
soundoff (101 Responses)
  1. Independent for Obama

    Another Republican trying to steal the election. Geez. when will this end.

    October 27, 2008 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
  2. Republican Woman For Obama, FL


    October 27, 2008 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  3. RET

    This should be looked into. Unfortunately for the republicans it has nothing to do with the vote count.

    October 27, 2008 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  4. Interested observer

    Fair, Fraud, if real, should be investigated. Equally, all genuine votes should counted. If they are, no doubt the result will be a landslide for Obama and Biden. .With less than a week to go until the election, John McCain is another day older and deeper in the polls and Sarah Palin is dressing down to reflect her diminished relevance to this campaign. Moreover they now have one more freak to add to their ghoulish house of horrors sideshow: Ted the guilty Republican crook. Happy Halloween!

    October 27, 2008 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  5. Cora

    Even if mulitiple voter registrations are submitted, all have to be verified at the time the voter actually walks into the polling area. A drivers license or something has to accompany the registration. These registrations are checked and balanced. Good grief, all this is, is a bunch of college students working to meet a quota. Nobody was trying to deceive the voters registration office. Let's all start using a little common sense. ...something that seems to be lacking in the United States these days.

    October 27, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  6. ugot2Bkiddinme

    The average american with an IQ greater than 50 understand the difference in fraudulent registration and fraudulent voting. If Mickey Mouse is allowed to vote in Indiana then so be it. The likelihood of this happening is slim to none. Next Subject!!!!

    October 27, 2008 10:42 pm at 10:42 pm |
  7. Bridg

    It must be cyrstal clear from their internal polls that the GOP is going down in a landslide. The fake outrage is just disgusting. The party of country first simply hates it when the people try to exercise their right to vote. The demons must be excised!

    October 27, 2008 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  8. Rogue Palin

    Hey CNN, how about asking the McCain/Palin about the robocalls we are getting here in PA??? And the voters who are getting purged in Colorado. And the fact that I keep getting calls regarding what my ethnicity is and my age and my religion from the GOP party here.

    October 27, 2008 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  9. Bill

    Forget ACORN. The ones I'm worried about are the Republicans working to have the voting machines malfunction. If they can't beat Obama, ..cheat.......it's worked in the past.

    October 27, 2008 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  10. hurriCAIN PALIN

    they should let mickey mouse, abraham lincoln, barney the purple

    dinosaur, vote for the false prophet messiah saviour

    October 27, 2008 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  11. HouseDiva

    there's an old saying when it comes to making claims before the results are ever made evident...

    who ever smelt it dealt it.

    the GOP stinks of corruption

    October 27, 2008 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  12. Robert

    this is nonsense because if there are fraudulent forms the elections board will gladly throw them out. ACRON is bound by law to turn them in and let the elections board determine if th forms are legit. NOT ACORN. ACORN hires a subcontractor to get people register and they got paid by the nuber of forms filled out so thats how you get this kind of thing, especially in the economic mess we are in right now. Both parties have their bad apples when it comes to registering people to vote. It happens every 4years!!!!

    October 27, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  13. Justin

    Verified instances of voter fraud in this country: 0.

    None of these fake registrations is a danger unless the fake people show up and vote (or someone votes twice with ID proving they're "Mickey Mouse").

    McCain and Republicans are getting hysterical about a non-issue. That's because they've left all the real issues behind.


    October 27, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  14. JILL

    I can't believe it! Palin said she would vote to re-elect Stevens.
    After he has been found guilty...I guess we all know how this chick works!!

    October 27, 2008 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  15. Bama4Obama

    Rokita is a Republican, I'll bet!

    October 27, 2008 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  16. Mike in Texas

    A Republican smokescreen. Let's talk about YPM who intentionally deceived voters to sign petitions and then re register them as republicans. This is called slamming. Mark Jacoby the head of YPM was arrested nine days ago in California. YPM was paid $5 for every new Republican registered....only Republicans....Who paid them???
    Steve Poisner...who is he?? The California co-chairman of the McCain campaign.. Now that is fraud.

    October 27, 2008 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  17. KJL

    On Wednesday, Oct. 15, ACORN National President Maude Hurd issued the following statement in response to Senator John McCain’s attack:

    "We appreciate Senator McCain's effort to stir up the Republican base by attacking a community organization working to increase public participation in our democratic process. However, these attacks reflect an increasingly panicked candidate. Unfortunately, the Senator McCain we saw tonight is very different than the Senator McCain who stood shoulder to shoulder with ACORN at a February 20, 2006 immigration reform event.

    It is clear for us to see that John McCain was for ACORN before he was against ACORN; he was for reform before he was against reform; and he was a maverick before he became erratic. What is really going on here is that Senator McCain and his allies are part of a coordinated effort to engage in what appears to be an unprecedented effort to suppress voter turnout. Repeating a lie doesn't make it true, and the McCain campaign has resorted to the worst type of deceptions in regards to ACORN."

    October 27, 2008 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  18. Eugene

    All Republicans, you are witnessing the last days of your reign of error. Now get over it with the ACORN idiocy. The election and voter fraud you have perpetrated on the American people will be tolerated no more, and all the attempts to shift the blame to ACORN will be fruitless. Happy long term minority status...until you can see the light!

    October 27, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  19. Mark in Colorado

    I guess the Republicans will stop at nothing. They have really shown the American people what they are truly capable of.
    The Republican party has lost alot of my respect. I voted straight Democratic today.

    October 27, 2008 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  20. Leah


    October 27, 2008 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  21. Mike in Texas

    Here is another one for you tunnel vision Repubs:

    According to campaign finance records, a joint committee of the McCain-Palin campaign, the RNC and the the California Republican Party, made a $175,000 payment to the group Lincoln Strategy in June for purposes of "registering voters." The managing partner of that firm is Nathan Sproul, a renowned GOP operative who has been investigated on multiple occasions for suppressing Democratic voter turnout, throwing away registration forms and even spearheading efforts to get Ralph Nader on ballots to hinder the Democratic ticket.

    You notice that McCain doesn't bring up ACORN anymore??? I wonder why....When you say someone else's laundry stinks, you are trying to hide the fact that your own smells worse.

    October 27, 2008 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  22. Bill Charlotte,NC

    The Pubs are at this knind of crap in every battleground state; and they accuse Obama of trying to disenfranchise the voters.

    October 27, 2008 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  23. Larry

    This is what the GOP is talking about,the media should be going crazy talking about blatant voter fraud ,which was reported by both the Democrats and Republicans where and when they were turned in.

    If this election is going to be fraudulent like Kennedy's,at least let everybody know now by making a big deal out of this story ,please CNN.

    October 27, 2008 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  24. sophia nyc

    November 5 can't get here soon enough.

    October 27, 2008 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  25. John

    The same bunch of Vote fixing Republicans calling for a probe of vote fixing,

    Please don't worry Mr.Secretary, your friends at Diebold have already fixed this election for John McCain as they did for Bush in 2000 and 2004.

    All you have to do is call the Diebold number to ask and I am sure Diebold will confirm McCain's victory on November 4th

    October 27, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
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