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. Igor

    It's sad that this election is coming down to pitiable tactics like this, but I believe that this case would be thrown out of court if ACORN is obligated to turn in every registration card.

    October 27, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |







    October 27, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  3. Cindy

    Hi Janice: You asked, "When are we ever going to get this mess cleaned up?"
    Simple answer: Don't allow politicians like Obama who has paid off ACORN to buy the race.

    October 27, 2008 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  4. UU

    CNN where is the News Report on YPM the Republican agent paid to swicth registered voters from DNC to GOP. He was arrested and is still under investigation. The GOP has admitted to paying this dude $50000 to register voters. Where is that report on CNN TV but you guys where quick to jump on the ACORN story. Drew Griffin investigate this information and report it on Lou Dubbs Tonight, Situation Room, Election Center, Larry King Live and AC360.

    October 28, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  5. Betty the maid

    not to worry folks...obama will be our next president...there is no way mccain can win the numbers simply are not there....as for you repubes...deal with it azz wipes!!!

    we love you president obama

    October 28, 2008 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  6. No Xmas for me in Michigan

    You can smell the desperation from the RNC. Anything to stay in power.

    October 28, 2008 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  7. L

    this is just another Griffin AXE JOB on the GOP

    October 28, 2008 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  8. Not Rock the vote it's Rob the Vote!

    I gotta tell you, this is insane, the methods used by the Americans to apparently get a democracy is hilarious!
    I'm canadian and we differ from you in three ways when it comes to voting, all of them superior.
    1) the government hires people by the hour NOT the amount of people they register and they come to your home and you have to show them all of your picture I.D etc. and they register you.You can also go to various gov offices to register.
    There is no Outside organizations that go out and get the vote registrations for a picticular party like ACORN and OBAMA.
    2) when you vote you must have your picture Id with you or you do not vote too bad for you if you lost it or whatever.
    3) The majority votes wins! Majority rules true democracy at it's finest!


    October 28, 2008 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  9. What in the world?

    I don't get it.
    With Obama's popularity and fund raising and ground network, why wasn't he able to EVER get ahead on this race? Why do the polls changed so much so late in the game? With all this Republican hate and all this early voting, why isn't Obama further ahead in the polls? Why can't he get past 9 points in left leaning polls?

    You know, so many people lie and say they will support Obama, but they aren't. I don't think he can win, because with the wind to his back and McCain's be destroyed because of Republican hate. It is so weird, don't you Democrats know any republicans? Do you hate them? This race is the worse. No one is right here.

    October 28, 2008 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  10. liam

    i dont understand even if someone registered as mickey mouse, how they will go and vote. dont they check the id at the voting booth ? I dont see how acorn has violated anything. it has been cheated by its employees. GOP is just making stuff up.

    October 28, 2008 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  11. inuk of the north

    ACORN is a useless, non-effective, money-sucking machine that serves only to organize paydays for its top executives.

    The newly registered voters will not show up in droves, so relax.

    Even the legitimate ones can't hardly be bothered to vote.

    And with the line-ups, it's not likely some one could vote twice let alone 3000 times.

    October 28, 2008 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  12. RealEyes

    Election 2004, anybody? We don't even need to mention 2000. I hope these Repubs choke on this foolishness.

    October 28, 2008 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  13. tyme4chaing

    You know the republicans pulled this stuff when Bush and Gore was running....and Bush won because this same voter fraud crap came up which the repubs stole the race.

    October 28, 2008 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  14. sandee in Portland

    I live in Oregon and we don't have any voter problems here. Perhaps one of the reasons is we have mail in voting. We receive our ballots in the mail about 2 weeks before the election. We can vote while sitting in our homes taking our time to look over each and every measure on the ballot and even re-read the voter pamphlet if we need to clarify something. We don't have long lines at polling places, we don't worry about hanging chads, we don't need to take time off from work to stand in line for hours, we don't have voting machines that break down or are inaccurate. If we don't get our ballots in the mail soon enough to make the deadline, we can just drop them off at a number of places throughout the state right up to November 4th. I just don't know what other states don't do their voting like we do. It's the best!

    October 28, 2008 12:18 am at 12:18 am |
  15. j

    The important thing is to resolve this quickly and allow legitimate voters the right to vote. NO LEGITIMATE VOTER should be disenfrancised because some people submitted fraudulent voter registrations. I always cringe when I hear about voters being purged from the voter rolls. This is America, we ought to be able to get this right.

    October 28, 2008 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  16. Mavwreck

    The GOP is the biggest perpetrator of voter suppression and fraud in this country by a wide margin. The worst of ACORN is a blip on the radar compared to the crap the Republicans pull.

    October 28, 2008 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  17. Cartwright

    Obama Hussein, The Redistributor, will win the election!!!

    October 28, 2008 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  18. mms

    The only fraud in this election is the republican party.If i hear one more time that this is voter fraud i will scream.These phoney people are not going to show up to vote.If anyone has been cheating anyone it is the people who were paid to do a job that they didn't do.Acorn did their job ,they turned in every registration form, they could have just tossed them.

    October 28, 2008 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  19. Iona

    Did anybody else find John McCain's rhetoric on ACORN in the 3rd debate just a bit over the top?

    October 28, 2008 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  20. Bill_ MA

    Republicans stole the 2000 election. Republicans become more disgusting every year. Bush has taken money from every working American to support his war, and make his friends rich. McCain/Palin can shove their "share the wealth" criticism of Obama. When have republicans cared about working men, and women?

    October 28, 2008 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  21. Brenda in Evansville, Indiana

    Saying that submitting a phony voter registration form is the first step to voter fraud is like saying buying a gun is the first step to shotting somebody.

    October 28, 2008 12:37 am at 12:37 am |
  22. Cartwright

    Obama ,the redistributor, is gonna win the election. Go Hussein!

    October 28, 2008 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  23. Indiana for Obama!

    Hmmmm! Is 'My Man Mitch' getting a little nervous?? LOL! I love it!

    October 28, 2008 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  24. MCD, San Francisco, CA

    We have learned... we see right thru all of this republican B.S. It is just so sad that they don't realize what fools they are making of themselves. What a bunch of sore loosers. Think the penny has dropped and they realize that it is going to be much more difficult to steal this election... and hopefully they won't be able to.

    October 28, 2008 12:41 am at 12:41 am |
  25. VETS4Obama

    Well said Thomas Todd! Its time we sent these clowns packing! I cannot wait until McBush's smart mouthed, power abusing light weight V.P. selection is sent back to her igloo. Maybe she can share a cell with Stevens? Nice pick McShame! Welcome back to the minority republicans...just where you belong!

    October 28, 2008 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
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