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Former justice slams ACORN's role in electoral process

HARRISBURG -- Former state Supreme Court Justice Sandra Newman said today she has no confidence in the integrity of the electoral process in Pennsylvania, as a result of the massive voter registration effort by a community group with ties to Barack Obama.

She and other Republicans allege the Association of Community Organizers for Reforn Now, known as ACORN, might be involved in widespread fraud. Pennsylvania and eight other states are investigating suspicious or incomplete voter registrations obtained by canvassers working for ACORN.

"I am not confident we can get a fair election," said Newman, a Republican from Montgomery County.

Newman appeared at a news conference today with state Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason, and Dauphin County District Attorney Ed Marsico.

Gleason cited "the potential of massive voter fraud throughout the U.S."

Abe Amoros, spokesman for the state Democratic Party, said Newman's complaint of an unfair election is a "bogus allegation." He called it "part of a bigger effort to smear when you're down" by using "scare tactics."

Charles Jackson, a spokesman for ACORN, said the organization has "aggressive procedures in place" to identify questionable forms and brings them to the attention of authorities when they find them.

Gleason said ACORN, a nonprofit, submitted 252,595 voter registrations in Philadelphia. There were 57,435 registrations rejected -- most of them submitted by ACORN, Gleason said.

The forms had faulty Social Security numbers, incorrect dates of birth, "clearly fraudulent" signatures, addresses that did not exist and duplicate registrations, Gleason said. A man was registered to vote 15 times since the primary, according to Gleason, and some people listed vacant lots as their addresses.

Other counties, from Delaware County in the Philadelphia suburbs, to Allegheny County have had similar problems, Newman said.

The Republicans said Obama worked for ACORN's voter registration arm in 1992, trained ACORN staff, represented ACORN as a lawyer, and his campaign paid the organization $800,000 to register voters.

"The fact that Obama may have had some tangential tie to ACORN ... certainly is a long way from saying he may have been involved in anything untoward," said Chuck Ardo, a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, who is backing Obama.

"We've been registering (people) to vote for 18 months," ACORN's Jackson said. "We've been flagging (forms) for months. It's odd and potentially political that they are raising issues less than 30 days before an election."

Ardo termed it "classic pre-election nonsense," and said "fraudulent registrations being weeded out are a sign the system is working."

Marsico said he recently filed charges against a former ACORN employee for identity theft, tampering with records, false swearing and forgery and the man was apprehended as a fugitive in York last weekend.

Some people circulating voter registration forms for ACORN have prior criminal records and one circulator is a convicted sex offender featured on the Megan's Law Web site, the Republicans said.

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