Editor's note: Tara Wall, deputy editorial page editor and columnist for The Washington Times, is a political contributor to CNN. Before joining the newspaper, she was a senior adviser for the Republican National Committee and was appointed a public affairs director in the Department of Health and Human Services by President Bush. Read her columns here.
Tara Wall says the accusations against ACORN aren't simply partisan nitpicking.
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Under FBI investigation, with about a dozen active and open state investigations for accusations of voter registration fraud, ACORN has got some explaining to do. And now even The New York Times has chastised the organization for "vastly overstating" its voter registration numbers.
ACORN, or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, had set up in 800 poor neighborhoods across the country, targeting minorities, mostly blacks, to register to vote.
It is a noble enough goal to combat past efforts to suppress the black vote and prevent voter "disenfranchisement." But just as the road to hell is paved with good intentions -- the good intentions of some is leading to an all-out path to destruction of the soul of our electoral process.
One Cleveland, Ohio, woman -- black, 20-something, first-time voter, being interviewed on television -- reported that she was "harassed" and "preyed upon" by ACORN workers each time she got off the bus. Each time she told them she had registered already and each time, they told her it was OK to do it again.
Eventually, she had registered six times and didn't realize she had done anything wrong until an election official noticed the discrepancy and called to notify the woman that her ability to vote could now be in jeopardy because she had registered so many times. What a travesty! Talk about disenfranchisement.
Not only are these acts egregious -- but could be considered racist. Re-registering minority voters not only puts the vote they cast in jeopardy, but works against the very system set up to prevent disenfranchisement, and signals that it is OK to cheat to win.
It's the same liberal elitist notion that one can't expect black students to learn at the same level as white students -- thus the cries for lowering the bar of standards for blacks (what former Education Secretary Rod Paige called the bigotry of low expectations).
Hey, what's a little cheating, the system isn't fair so black folks shouldn't be expected to play fair. Is ACORN suggesting that blacks have to cheat to get what they want or that Sen. Barack Obama (whom ACORN endorsed) can't win without cheating?
The accusations against ACORN aren't simply partisan nitpicking. In Ohio, the Democratic secretary of state has launched an investigation into multiple complaints. Elsewhere, accusations have come from former ACORN employees.
As Newsmax reported: "One of the most serious cases involving ACORN came out of Seattle, where prosecutors indicted seven ACORN workers in July 2007. They were accused of submitting phony registration forms in what Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed has called 'the worst case of voter-registration fraud' in the state's history."
In an effort to defend itself, the organization claims it can't be expected to get every single registration right; after all, it has signed up at least 1 million new voters.
It was just a week or so ago, the group insisted, that we stay focused on all the "correct" signatures it had accumulated over the years. All 1.3 million of them. Now it turns out, according to a New York Times report, the number is closer to 450,000. Wow -- talk about self-inflation.
It stands to reason, if the group can't seem to keep track of its legitimate new registrants, it's likely not doing much to discourage bogus ones. I mean Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck -- really? The point is not how many signatures ACORN is getting right, but what has it done to ensure it wasn't getting any wrong?
That Obama and Democrats haven't done more to denounce ACORN's acts as fervently as they have "voter intimidation and suppression" complaints against Republicans is beyond puzzling. It smacks of a double standard.
Voter fraud is just as egregious as suppression, as it is an assault that undermines the integrity of our voting system. Obama should be held to a higher standard.
He is running for the highest office in our country -- and not only has he performed legal work for this group, but his campaign paid an ACORN affiliate more than $800,000 for "get-out-the-vote-efforts," and has received the endorsement of ACORN's political action committee.
There are some leaders who are paying attention, and likely will be called racist for doing so. House Minority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, has strongly denounced ACORN's actions and asked the Bush administration and the campaigns (particularly Obama's) to pull all public funding from the organization.
Boehner claims the group has received $31 million "in direct funding from the federal government since 1998."
And in a letter to President Bush last week, he called for a Justice Department investigation in light of the group's apparent role in the financial meltdown. "ACORN, which for years has been closely connected with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also appears to have played a key role in the irresponsible schemes that led to the current financial meltdown," Boehner said. If true, that is beyond troubling.
The results of ACORN's registration misdeeds and alleged fraud could prove catastrophic, if not lead to widespread corruption of the election system. Author and columnist John Fund, who predicts rampant voter fraud this election and fears an "election train wreck," wrote "Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy."
Fund makes some pertinent points comparing the 2000 election recount controversy to what's occurring this time around. He's also -- rightly -- concerned with the collision course future elections are on if we continue this litigious cycle of fraud that ends up requiring courts, not people, to decide our elected leaders.
ACORN's actions should at the very least raise suspicion. The ramifications we won't learn until after the election, but suffice it to say that the bar of voter integrity should be much higher. The right to a fair, unadulterated vote is every American's right no matter the party affiliation, color, creed or religion.
With registrations having ended and investigations continuing, the focus has now turned to blatant voter fraud -- which is much harder to prove. No matter what happens and who wins on November 4, rest assured, it is the beginning of what's to come for ACORN.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Tara Wall.
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