The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release
Contact: Charles D. Jackson, Communications Director, at 504-994-4669, or communications(at)

ACORN Statement on New York Times Article Oct. 24


We are puzzled by today's New York Times article. It has always been our position that we collected over 1.3 million registration applications.

We have always said that we identified potentially problematic cards. The core responsibility of local boards of elections has been and continues to be to determine which registration cards are duplicates, which are new registrants, and which are people that changed their addresses. The Times article mistakenly assumes that much of the impact that voter registration drives are designed to have - enabling people to change their addresses so they are able to vote on Election Day - is of no value. In the end, after taking into account these change of address registration applications, nearly 1 million people we helped to register will be eligible to vote on Election Day because of our work.

While we would love it if the American system of voter registration were so simple and accessible that every voter registration application we collect translated to another voter successfully getting on the rolls, we all know that this is not the case in the United States. For all the talk this season about Project Vote and ACORN "registering" voters, it is important to note that nonprofits and community organizations do not have the final authority to register anyone. Only the government can register voters. What Project Vote and ACORN do is assist Americans in filling out registration applications and submitting them to election officials who make the final determination of their eligibility.

Project Vote and ACORN are proud that we collected 1.3 million applications in communities -- and among populations -- that have historically been left out of the process and neglected by other efforts. No one can dispute that America's electorate does not represent its eligible voting population. Nearly 50 after years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act, and 15 years after the passage of the National Voter Registration Act, we still have an electorate in which Americans of color and young Americans are under-represented by significant margins.

Our government, unlike most western democracies, has shirked its responsibility to ensure that all eligible Americans can cast a ballot without unfair barriers and bureaucratic burdens.

As the NY Times editorialized just one week ago:

The answer is for government to do a better job of registering people to vote. That way there would be less need to rely on private registration drives, largely being conducted by well-meaning private organizations that use low-paid workers. Federal and state governments should do their own large-scale registration drives staffed by experienced election officials. Even better, Congress and the states should adopt election-day registration, which would make such drives unnecessary.

We couldn't agree more. But until the government assumes this responsibility, voter registration drives like ours have proven to be, by far, the most effective means currently available to reach underrepresented voters. This is a burden and responsibility that ACORN, Project Vote, and scores of other beleaguered nonprofit organizations across the country have assumed in the vacuum of real leadership and reform on this issue. It is thankless work that is difficult and arduous at the best of times, and in election cycles like this one~full of partisan attacks and reckless rhetoric~it sometimes seems impossible.

We look forward to the day when our efforts to help register voters are unnecessary, when our voter registration programs are obsolete. Until that day comes, however, Project Vote and ACORN will continue to work together to ensure all eligible Americans have their voices heard on Election Day.

[Please feel free to contact us if you would like our additional, more detailed analysis of the results of our voter registration drive.]

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities. Since 1970, ACORN has grown to more than 350,000 member families, organized in 850 neighborhood chapters in over 100 cities across the U.S. and in cities in Argentina, Peru, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Canada.