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. Ohio 4 Obama

    The Republicans are trying to create a pretext for challenging an Obama victory. The irony, of course, is rich: the GOP stole the general election for Dubya twice - by tampering with the FL vote in 2000 and the Ohio vote in 2004.

    October 27, 2008 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  2. Victor from MI

    Your pathetic attempts won't help you GOP. You are going down, and going down HARD.

    October 27, 2008 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  3. barbara miller

    Why doesn't CNN report about how Acorn is now suing in other states.

    October 27, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  4. Jack Jodell, Minneapolis, MN

    I think we ought to start a criminal probe into how Jeb Bush disqualified thousands of Democratic voters and shut down roads to polling places in Democratic districts in Florida in 2000, and how voting machines were transferred out of poorer Democratic districts in Cleveland creating long, long lines and were shipped out to suburban Republican districts in Ohio in 2004. Enough of this ACORN nonsense! The Republican Party: Champions of democracy so long as only THEIR members can cast votes!

    October 27, 2008 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  5. Janice

    When are we ever going to get this mess cleaned up, Did you know that other foreign countries have a system that they claim are fool proof and they are such a poor country. The richest country in the world, can put a man on the moon?, but can't get this right? I don't think so. Until we go back to a pencil and a box , and a copy we will continue to be cheated by the powers that be.

    October 27, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  6. Camden from mt

    All this crap about voter fraud, problems, etc, make me wonder if my vote will be counted. Its a pretty sad day in 2008 when you can't COUNT.

    Shame on America

    October 27, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  7. Amy

    Rokita is playing partisan politics. There should not be fraud as long as election officials are well-trained and do their jobs.

    October 27, 2008 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  8. Vote

    Don't let death stop you, you can still register!
    Barack the vote!

    October 27, 2008 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  9. Matt

    disasterand if it gets tried

    the flagged cards show they were being forthright and honest

    October 27, 2008 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  10. Tiff of lithia springs

    WOW! RNC politics at it's best. My advice is for sit back and take a ride on the Democratic love train.

    It will be alot better of a ride then that Hell of a Republican campaign rollercoaster that we have been on for the last 8 years.

    October 27, 2008 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  11. Matt

    disaster if it gets tried

    the flagged cards show they were being forthright and honest

    October 27, 2008 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  12. Belle1

    Unlike FOX, CNN does not bother reporting ACTUAL VOTER FRAUD in Ohio. It took a duo of college journalists to expose, document, and show proof. The 13 Obama campaigners apologized, but another 150 in one county, Franklin of OBAMA campaigners have been sent letters by the Prosecuting attorney.

    Ignore it and it will go away? How about some real journalism most trusted name in news????

    October 27, 2008 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  13. Desmond Sequeira

    The only way FAILIN McSAME can steal this election is by suppressing voter registration

    October 27, 2008 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  14. Texas Teacher

    Of course, the GOP is going to cry voter fraud when it is actually NOT voter fraud until these REGISTERED voters TRY to VOTE!!!

    This is purely the Pot TRYING to call the Kettle BLACK! Pardon the old fashioned saying. BUT old fashioned sayings are still relevant because THEY are STILL RELEVANT! The Republican Party seems to think that if they tell us something long enough, we will, of course, believe them! After all they got away with this before.... Voter Fraud, I mean! Don't be surprised when they try it again with just another tact!

    October 27, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  15. Thomas Todd

    You retards had ALL YEAR to do this and you're trying to ramp it up now in the final 10 days of the election? Typical Republican tactic – accuse individuals of "voter fraud" meanwhile they try to suppress 100's of 1000's of voters in all states with fear-mongering.

    John McCain spoke at an ACORN event only 2 years ago, and ACORN in fact led the prosecution of the false canvasers, so this is clearly, absolutely B.S. distraction from fear-mongering right wing zealots who make it seem like this 'just happened' but within the final weeks of the election.

    But it won't fly. You've waited too long and McCain only looks more and more McDesparate by the moment. I can hardly believe I previously thought if either Obama or McCain won, it wouldn't be so bad...he's shown the absolute worst judgement, shakiness, erratic behavior, and now desparate tactics to win an election for an office he's clearly shown he's too small and close-minded for.

    October 27, 2008 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  16. Amber

    Writhe, cry, scream, flail, chase windmills all you want.

    But the people will decide this election. Not Republican voter suppression.

    October 27, 2008 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  17. Geo Joe in ABQ

    I am a registered agent for voter registration in New Mexico. During our training we were instructed by a representative of the County Clerk to turn in ALL registration forms and to note or flag any suspicious ones. To not turn in a competed registration is a felony offense. Is the rule different in Indiana?

    October 27, 2008 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  18. Meg

    Republicans are at it again. Always trying to suppress voters. Funny how all the people asking for investigations are Republicans. How come CNN doesn't do an investigation into that! CNN, you are just as complicit as the Republicans trying to steal this election. Some legitimate news organization you are!

    October 27, 2008 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  19. dennis from AKRON


    October 27, 2008 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  20. Trying to keep up, Is a small town in California Pro or Anti American?

    This argument is just stupid. Over and over again it is explained that it is not voter fraud because no one has voted. This is just the republican party trying to supress the vote of the poor in our country. How dare they vote! How dare they stand up for their civil rights and find a voice in our society!
    Sheesh get over it already as it was stated, this is a non issue and acorn did what they were told to do. What a pathetic election this party has put on, just pathetic.

    October 27, 2008 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  21. Keith

    If this election is to be stolen, it will not be through voter registration fraud...and it will not be at the hands of the Democrats. There is a shady, nasty history of vote manipulation historically by both parties, but it is the GOP that benefitted by the Diebold black box voting machines and that legacy is still at work in swing states with Republican governors. No amount of money can change that, it will have to wait until there is a Democratic majority and a Democratic administration and the will to change it. Hopefully, the margin of victory will be large enough that a 10 percent change due to voting irregularities won't play a decisive role.

    October 27, 2008 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  22. Lisa

    I'm not interested in the political spin on this story. I't seems too obvious that ACORN is NOT run by Obama and any Republicans trying to infer misconduct by the Obama campaign with regard to ACORN will fall on deaf ears from me.

    I am interested in what the law is regarding voter registration forms. Is it possible that ACORN is required by law to submit ALL registration forms, regardless of their questionability, but be condemned criminally for following the law?

    October 27, 2008 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  23. givemeabreak

    If Mickey Mouse doesn't show up to vote, then no vote fraud has occurred and this jerk knows it. This is faux outrage from a republican party hack representing a party that is in the throes of defeat.

    Let me tell you about the time a friend of mine's son worked for minimum wage in Nevada for the Sproul group, pals of Bush, and they directed the low wage lackeys to tear up the voter registrations they collected that were Democrats. Did that get investigated? Barely.

    And Mr. Sproul showed up at the Bush ranch to celebrate the holidays after the 2004 election was over.

    So, yeah, give me a break.

    October 27, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  24. Cut off ACORN Funding NOW

    ACORN is a fraud-working under the Obama campaign which gave them $ 800,000 this year to register drug addicts who would vote for Obama.

    Congress must cut off all funding to ACORN and all of it's subsidiaries TODAY not tomorrow.

    October 27, 2008 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  25. This Whole Election is a Fraud

    The big surprise is going to be that although there are only 13 million blacks in the country, that 35 million voted. And that although there are 94 million whites eligible to vote, only 20 million voted. Duh?

    October 27, 2008 11:47 pm at 11:47 pm |
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