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GOP Continues Voter Suppression Campaign While Accusing ACORN of Irregularity

by Eric T. Campbell

DETROIT - With only days to go before the presidential election, Senator Barack Obama has increased his lead over Sen. McCain, according to most polls and pundits. Subsequently, the GOP has again turned to suppressing the minority vote.

By questioning the registration practices of community organizations, like the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), much of the national debate has focused, critically, on voter registration applications accepted in Black and Latino neighborhoods across America.

Gross mischaracterizations and factual omissions characterize the assault, pushing ACORN into overtime to set the record straight about the registration process and its historic effort to increase voter participation.

Over the past year, ACORN has registered over 1.3 million voters whom are mostly Black and from urban regions.

"Not every application will be valid. In almost every case, ACORN has already identified those cards as suspicious," David Lagstein, head organizer for Michigan ACORN, told the Michigan Citizen. "We actually flag and tag any card that is incomplete or suspicious."

The major media has spent ample air time describing the fraudulent applications received by ACORN representatives without mentioning critical information regarding those few cases. At the same time, the Republicans have launched a national campaign to purge registration records in battleground states such as Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The now infamous Mickey Mouse, Jimmy Johns and Tony Romo registration examples being flaunted on the airwaves were all actually first brought to light by ACORN workers themselves.

Also, ACORN, like any third party voter registration drive, cannot legally throw away any voter registration cards. It flags suspicious cards and submits them to the appropriate state election authorities who make the final judgment.

Charles D. Jackson, national communications director for ACORN, explained to the Michigan Citizen that ACORN personnel call all voter registration applicants to confirm information and if persons can't be reached, separate stacks are labeled questionable or incomplete.

"We do due diligence - we turn in cards and they have a process to verify individuals," Jackson says. "The possibility of Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck being able to vote is nil."

"This has been a coordinated strategy to attack ACORN as a way to discredit and rid of new and minority voters from the campaign," Lagstein continues. "Anyone who looks at the facts will see that it doesn't make sense.

But the tide is slowly turning as ACORN and voting rights advocates attempt to squeeze into the debate.

Former New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, a Republican who was appointed by President George W. Bush, has spoken recently about the directions he received from the U.S. Justice Department during the legislative elections of 2006 - to go after ACORN for voter registration fraud. He and other U.S Attorneys were summarily dismissed after finding no evidence of fraud and refusing to prosecute trumped up charges.

In addition, strong statements supporting ACORN by members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the AFL-CIO, and national voting rights advocates like Robert Kennedy, Jr., have brought some balance to the debate.

A delegation of U.S. Congressmen and women, including Rep. John Conyers, have sponsored a written plea, dated Oct. 20, to Attorney General Michael Mukasky and F.B.I. Director Robert M. Mueller reprimanding the, "escalation of attacks on ACORN and others seeking to register and turn out voters."

The letter details recent evidence of intimidation against ACORN staffers that may amount to "possible federal crimes such as criminal civil rights crimes including conspiracy to deprive the victims (and others) of federally protected constitutional rights, mail and wire offenses, and other more basic offenses such as assault and battery."

"Our message is getting out there and is resounding," says Jackson.

Here in Michigan, Attorney Mike Cox has levied six forgery charges against a former ACORN employee, Antonio Johnson of Jackson, Michigan, who is currently incarcerated on an unrelated parole violation.

David Lagstein says the Attorney General's action may be appropriate and that ACORN has attempted to cooperate with the Attorney General's office. But Lagstein adds that the timing is what is troubling. The forged cards in question were submitted to the City of Jackson Clerk's Office in May and June. Cox requested the forgery information in September, according to a press release. But the Attorney General's announcement describing the charges occurred in October, on the same day Sen. John McCain held a press conference admonishing ACORN.

Unclear is if those forged applications were already flagged by ACORN and if City of Jackson Clerk, Lynn Fessel, has requested the assistance of the Jackson Police Department on any other investigations involving registration applications. Johnson, 23, has been charged with six counts of forgery and faces up to 14 years for each count.

Attorney General media contact, John Sellek, was unavailable for comment.

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