ACORN Nuts About Registration In Ohio

This story was written by Freddy Hunt, The BG News

As allegations of voter registration fraud surface in Ohio's Cuyahoga County and other key battleground states, crooked canvassers are not suspected in Wood County.

Terry Burton, director of Wood County Board of Elections, said the organization ACORN, whose Nevada were raided last week and are now under federal investigation, has not been present in Wood County.

"We have not been contacted nor have we had any discussion with anyone from the ACORN organization," Burton said. "If registrations are coming through other counties, typically they would winnow out any obvious voter fraud before they would come to our office."

The difference between Wood and Cuyahoga Counties is volume, Burton said.

"It is much easier in a county with 3 million voters to not pick up on a duplicate name," Burton said, comparing Cuyahoga County's population to Wood County's 101,400. "We have a much smaller office with people who are in much closer contact. So it is much easier for us to say 'hey come look at this.'"

But a duplicate name really doesn't mean a whole lot since each person is only able to vote once, Burton said. But in cases like Nevada, where the Dallas Cowboy's starting team roster turned up on voter registration forms, fraudulent identification documents would also be required for voting, he said.

"If an individual is registered under different names, it would take a much more orchestrated criminal act to produce the documentation to back up different identities," Burton said.

Bowling Green State University College Republican Chairman Quinten Wise believes ACORN was registering individuals multiple times and then persuading them to vote that same day at several polls for Obama.

"Basically it's an attempt to clog the system and hope things will just get pushed through," Wise said. "I think that's the idea."

He said ACORN has been employing similar voter registration tactics for years, but was even more vigilant this election since it's the first presidential election which Ohioans could cast early votes, creating a "perfect breeding ground" for groups like ACORN that support Obama.

"One of the issues you face [is] you can get them registered, but you still have to get them to vote," Wise said. "With this early voting, they can register, pick them up, take them to the polls and have them vote right there."

While Obama has been accused of funneling money and even teaching classes for ACORN during his time as a community organizer in Chicago, Kamyl Bazbaz, Northwest Ohio communications director for the Obama campaign said Obama has no association with ACORN.

"We don't give them any money, and we do not employ any of their staffers for voter registration, and we never have," Bazbaz said. "Because we care so much about the integrity of the process, we are running our own voter registration initiative. ... We are doing it without the help of other groups."

But Bazbaz said they did hire Citizen Services Inc., an ACORN-fronted organization, for get-out-and-vote initiatives during the preliminaries. Get-out-and-vote is not voter registration, he said.

"When you're getting people out to vote, they are already registered," he said. "It's a totally different operation, and they are totally unrelated."

In cases like Nevada, where the Dallas Cowboys supposedly registered, and counties like Cuyahoga, where one man admitted to registering 72 times to "help out" ACORN activists in exchange for cash and cigarettes, Wood County Democrat Mike Zickar believes the intentions of the canvassers were not to cheat the voting system, but their employers.

Zickar said if ACORN canvassers re compensated by the number of voter registration forms they complete, as they have been accused, then the canvassers probably made up names and registered individuals multiple times just so they could make more money.

But the ACORN group is only a small percentage compared to all of the legitimate efforts made to register voters, Zickar said.

"I saw a lot of good voter registration drives and efforts on campus," he said. "I mean the Obama campaign and the College Democrats, college fraternities and sororities doing a lot of work registering voters and getting them to vote in the county they live."

But voters registered in Wood County aren't just voting for the president. Wise believes the newly registered voters could take a toll on local politics.

Newly registered student voters will also vote for local officials. And if they vote for Obama, Wise said they will likely vote democrat right down the ticket.

"And most of them don't know anything about the local officials," he said. "They're just there to vote for the president."

The phoneline of Toledo's ACORN office was disconnected at press time.