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. Mauo

    Mccain will win!!!!

    October 28, 2008 12:46 am at 12:46 am |
  2. Charlie frm Georgia

    Republican really get pissed that so many new voters are for Democratic party. Let's face it – it is trend for young people. If GOP still keep moving toward extreme right, not only the younger voters won't join GOP, the moderate Republican will leave too.

    October 28, 2008 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  3. Richard Gozinya

    It seems the Democrats will do anything to steal this election. The democrats will destroy our rights as free Americans. Socialism knock on our door...

    October 28, 2008 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  4. Indiana for Obama!

    I find it interesting that the majority of these problems seem to be surfacing in the battleground states. Wouldn't you agree?

    October 28, 2008 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  5. st john

    Does CNN read any of these posts? Do you actually believe anything McCain/Palin have to say? The majority of the posts I see on most of these stories are contrary to the CNN line. CNN, I only come here to see what the latest lies are. I give you no credibility on any story published.

    st john

    October 28, 2008 12:52 am at 12:52 am |
  6. ulysses

    Everyone with even a cursory understanding of the issue knows for certain that this is not voter fraud. Obviously some people in the McCain campaign must know this, so to continue these attacks is horribly dishonest and anti-democratic. Whether McCain himself is knowingly spreading these lies, or gullibly repeating them, is an academic point. Either way, he's unfit for office.

    October 28, 2008 12:59 am at 12:59 am |
  7. tim baxter

    It seems everybody is saying Palin is not ready.And I want to make it clear im not a fan .Let me share a point. Biden or Obama is no more prepared to be vise President than Palin .Lets face some facts If Oboma was white Based on His experience and Knowledge He would have not ever had been in this race to start with.I am white without A (racial) bone in my body my best friend is black . Blackness can no more run our country than whiteness.(I am really worried) that we want a black President so bad that we are forgetting the facts. America is broke we can not aford Obomas new spending .Im worried that His election will come back and bite us.

    October 28, 2008 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  8. Kendra in Indianapolis, IN

    Okay this is getting silly now. It does not matter what you register as. I live in Indiana, you have to have state issued ID to vote, period. You can not vote without it. Indiana has one of the toughest vote id laws and it was upheld by the high court this past year. You can't commit voter fraud unless you show up to vote. I was signed up by Acorn outside the college I work at as I had just moved, (had never heard of them before) all they did was have me filled out the form and it asked how I verfiy my id to register in the first place. The county clerk then sent me a card in the mail to verify my address. On election day I have to show my id with my new address in order to vote which is issued in compliance with the new gov regs on state issued ID (dang near had to give blood to prove it was me to get that id). I'm an independent so if the Dems were wrong I'd call them on it but here is no way to effect the election out come unless one shows at the polls. Rokita is just doing what good republcans due, blame the other guy when he knows dang well state law requires Acorn to submitt all registrations it collects fake or not, it this case its a none issue with no outcome on the election just more voter supession tatics I see. Let the people vote no matter who they vote for LET THEM VOTE!

    October 28, 2008 01:13 am at 1:13 am |
  9. interested canadian

    You're kidding me right?

    Why do you even have to register to vote – we don't do that up here, and we also vote with good-old-fashioned paper ballots.

    And guess what – it works!!

    Don't tell me that the US has 10 times the number of people – just get 10 times the number of ballot counters and election scrutineers.

    Is all this 'registration' stuff an attempt to disenfranchise poor (black) voters?

    Elections should be transparent and not subject to partisan elected officials and their tampering.

    October 28, 2008 01:15 am at 1:15 am |
  10. Reagan

    Why is it o.k. with you people to allow people to get multiple voter registration cards so they can vote multiple times, or non-citizens to go out and vote?

    I really want to know why you think this is a political parties way of stealing an election?

    Why are you hoping this scam works to get O'Bama elected?

    Was your life so pathetic and miserable for the last eight years because of Bush that you will turn your heads away from the Constitution???? I don't like Bush, never voted for him, but my life was not affected in any way by him. I paid higher gas this last year but that was due to Congress.

    October 28, 2008 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  11. Kendra in Indianapolis, IN

    May I also say that Lake County referred to in the story is generally last to come in on election night which has a big minority group as it close to Chicago and in this case decides if Indiana swings for Obama or McCain as iwe alwasy here in Indiana have to wait for Lake County to tally it votes last on elelction night.

    October 28, 2008 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  12. Lando

    Thiefs hates thiefs as saying goes....

    October 28, 2008 01:21 am at 1:21 am |
  13. mary

    The mess will be cleaned up, when Obama becomes our 44th president.

    October 28, 2008 01:22 am at 1:22 am |
  14. WE ARE ALL AMERICANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Is it possible to vote without the ID?

    October 28, 2008 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  15. Ross in MD

    Another pathetic Republican whining about ACORN? This isn't news, it's a Monday.

    October 28, 2008 01:25 am at 1:25 am |
  16. Rethugs Strike Again

    Throw some water on the RNC and watch them melt. They are evil in deed and intent. They have been systematically purging voters for this election and past elections. That's why we want them OUT of power.

    ACORN did what was supposed to do, i.e., turn in all registrations and flag those that were questionable. They will go after the few employees or contractors that filled out forms with bogus names just to get paid. Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised to find that the RNC is behind some of the bogus registration forms.

    October 28, 2008 01:27 am at 1:27 am |
  17. R. Davis

    ACORN should be investigated. A crime is a crime. If it happened to you, you would want justice. When people in a company does a crime, everything that company has done with those people should be investigated. This is a very important changing time in the US, things need to be legally done. People say that it is unfair or the RNC can't take it, then when were they there to see what happened? If there was no fraud then what's the big deal about looking into ACORN?

    October 28, 2008 01:30 am at 1:30 am |
  18. SHELLI1313

    You know that this was just registration forms; the people have to come in to the polling office to vote and show I.D. This is so tired and stupid. I could see if they allowed all of these people to acctually vote and or cast their votes then that is something to talk about. Sounds like the Republicans are grasping at straws and anything that they can to try to trash the Democrats and Senator/President Obama. McCain and Palin and the Republicans need to stop telling lies and tell the Public what they are truly going to do about this Economy and the state of America and What they are going to do about Katrina/Rita

    October 28, 2008 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  19. Colin

    I'm from Indiana, Porter County the county next to Lake County where this is all happening, and no one cares about this, well except the Republicans of course. This isn't "Voter Fraud" and the fake voters can't vote!!!! It will not affect the out come of the election or help out either candidate. Enough of this off track attacks to attempt to steer away from the real issues. Indiana's biggest issue is that we have Republican Mitch Daniels as Gov!! He sold our toll road, among other things, which now increased its tolls by .75 cents. That's exactly what people from Indiana need in a time of economic crisis...a more expensive commute to work.

    Please CNN and Republicans let this story die it will in no way affect the outcome of the election or affect who can vote. Barack Obama and his campaign have nothing to do with this Voter Registration Fraud, it's people not wanting to do their jobs but still wanting to collect the money for it.

    Obama/Biden '08 the only real hope for change in America. Everyone get out and vote. Lets turn Indiana, and the rest of this nation, blue!!!!

    October 28, 2008 01:40 am at 1:40 am |
  20. Robert Anthony

    I think the Democrats should go to the Supreme Court once again as there are laws about trying to influence elections with such false claims like the Republicans are doing every chance that they get.
    By law, all registrations received must be turned in. Acorn has also been reported to be the one informing State Registrars that they believe some registrations that they are turning in might be problematic.
    All the crap that the Republicans have been spewing out over the past years is now coming homeā€”and we will be telling to leave The White House, The Senate, and The House of Representatives with our votes.
    Do not be complacent. Stand in line and vote!

    October 28, 2008 01:46 am at 1:46 am |
  21. Doug

    Everytime the word Acorn ends up on the ticker, the most commented defense by Dems usually reads along the lines that "just because people are registered 10 times, doesn't mean they are going to vote 10 times"? I guess that makes it okay then. I guess we should trust that someone registered 10 times only has bad integrity when it comes to registering but not voting.

    October 28, 2008 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
  22. Karen

    You say RNC wants to stay in Power?
    The Dems want to be worshipped as a god!

    October 28, 2008 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  23. Essay

    Registering fake voters is one thing. But deliberately destroying someone's registration is another. I can't imagine Donald Duck showing up at the polls, but I can imagine John Smith showing up only to be told their registration was never received and therefore, John can't vote. Shame on the McCain campaign. Oh yes, the McCain campaign is duplicitous in this action. Google Marc Jacoby and see for yourself. I hope he's still in jail come election day.

    October 28, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  24. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    How come it wasn't important to investigate Volusia County in Florida after the 2000 presidential election whent they reported -16,003 votes Al Gore?! Or the doznes of precincts in Ohio in 2004 where Bush polled thousands of more votes than there were people in the precincts?!

    October 28, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  25. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    ACORN hired and paid people to egister voters. The fault lies in the people submitting the registrations and the ones responsible to check them, not Obama's campaign!

    October 28, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
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