This story was written by Joanna Pelletier, The Daily Vidette
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now has been charged with voter registration fraud in 12 states. The allegations for the charges include using names of the deceased on voter applications and registering living voters more than once, which has resulted in a number that exceeded the living voter population - as much as 105 percent - in Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Milwaukee and other cities.
"If somebody submits false information on their voter registration application, that is a felony regardless of intent," Steve Sturm, legal counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections, said. "And if you assist, that can be charged criminally."
Sturm explained that the charges for voter registration fraud are "dealt with in the local courts" where fraud can either be determined as a class 3 or a class 4 felony depending on the severity of the offense.
The ACORN members who are guilty of registration fraud may face a jail sentence of one to five years and a $250,000 fine as a maximum sentence depending on the state and county in which they reside.
"Every aspect of registration fraud is processed locally," Sturm said. "It would depend on the circuit judge who is overseeing the case."
ACORN's mission is to give underprivileged families a voice through the electoral vote and "inform the general public about the organization's efforts on issues like living wage jobs, affordable housing, health care and education," according to the organization's Web site.
The organization received national attention after it was determined that Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama was previously trained as an ACORN organizer.
The site also called the charges a "coordinated national effort run by the McCain presidential campaign, Republican officials and [conservative media] to create an atmosphere of fear, intimidation and chaos."
ACORN stated that the allegations are false despite the surplus in voter numbers and duplicate registration forms. Any documents that support the allegations are considered "problem documents," and have been submitted to state officials.
"There are statewide databases that can check for duplicates they can tell whether a group is registering people more than once," Dan White, director of the Illinois State Board of Elections, said. "The databases check against birth records, death records and names. If they see anything suspicious, the local authorities are notified."
ACORN claims to have the most advanced quality control system in the country, making it impossible for duplicates to pass through their systems.
"There is a tremendous amount of enthusiasm in this election ... groups like this are registering everyone they can," White said. "Our reaction to voter registration drives is that they are good things as long as they stay in line with the law."