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Column: Cheap Attacks On ACORN, Voter Registration Efforts

This story was written by Indira Dammu, Indiana Daily Student

News coverage has been dominated by allegations of voter registration fraud in places as disparate as Ohio and Nevada. Indiana has seen its fair share of registration fraud, as well.

A recent CNN investigative report concluded that more than 2,000 voter registration forms filed in northern Indianas Lake County were bogus. At the center of this controversy is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, a community organizing group.

In the span of just a few months, ACORN has progressed from a little-known advocacy group to a nefarious, shadowy organization that is determined to pervert the foundation of democracy. In the last month alone, ACORN has been blamed for the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the financial meltdown, rising foreclosure rates and fraudulent voter registration.

Judging by the vehemence of the attacks, it may be easy to conclude that ACORN is a wacky communist cabal, not a group that advocates for low-income individuals and social justice. Of course, for some Republicans, there isnt really a difference between the two.

At issue here are allegations that a few ACORN volunteers falsified voter registration forms, a fact not disputed by group representatives. The problem arises from the fact that registration fraud and voter fraud are two different concepts and partisan attacks are confusing the two.

To be sure, a few ACORN volunteers are guilty of the former, but to date, there is no evidence that a fraudulent vote has been cast for either candidate.

Nevertheless, distorting the record of ACORN has become the cause de clbre of Republicans and this is significant for several reasons. For one, depicting the activities of ACORN and its subsidiaries as illegal leads to theories of a tainted victory for the Democrats in November.

Undoubtedly, conservatives are bracing themselves for a likely loss in the presidential elections and casting doubt on the legitimacy of the results allows them to deflect criticism of their party platform or candidate.

Moreover, ACORN represents the interests of those who lack a voice in our current political system. And, given the affinity of Republicans to corporate interests and their contempt for community organizing, the vicious attacks on ACORN are to be expected.

The delicious irony here is that Republicans dont exactly have a clean record on voter fraud. In 2004, party workers suppressed votes of Democratic-leaning individuals in swing states like Ohio, Florida, New Mexico, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Specifically, Republicans were accused of engaging in vote caging or suppressing minorities from voting by having their names purged from voter rolls when they failed to respond to registered mail.

Since 2007, more than 4 million individuals, a majority of them Democratic-leaning, have registered to vote. Organizations like ACORN have been responsible for introducing first-time voters to the electoral process.

This must be praised, not condemned.

Republican attacks on ACORN are a cheap ploy to distract us from their flailing campaign and dated policies. Heres hoping that the American public is smarter than that.