GOP files lawsuit against ACORN
HARRISBURG -- State Republican officials Friday sued a group they claim has fostered voter registration fraud and is linked to Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.
The lawsuit filed in Commonwealth Court seeks an injunction against the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, and to ensure the Nov. 4 election is "fair, open and honest."
"The stakes in this action are enormously high: Unless this court acts quickly and decisively, the right to Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes may be determined by illegal ballots," the lawsuit claims.
It alleges voter fraud in Allegheny, Philadelphia, Delaware and Dauphin counties, and claims the Department of State hasn't provided counties timely access to, or the ability to search, the state's computer system to look for fraudulent voter registrations.
The FBI is examining whether thousands of fraudulent voter registration applications were submitted by some ACORN workers.
T.J. Rooney, chairman of the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee, dismissed the suit as a GOP ploy to unnecessarily alarm voters. Rooney called the suit "frivolous" and a misuse of the legal system, saying it alleges "unfounded specious charges" against ACORN.
The suit asks the court to order Secretary of State Pedro Cortes to ensure that polling places have extra provisional ballots for prospective voters whose registrations are not processed by Election Day.
"ACORN's fraudulent activities threaten to dilute the votes of millions of Pennsylvania voters by allowing unqualified individuals to cast ballots and again undermine the voters' confidence in the electoral process," said former state Supreme Court Justice Sandra Newman, who joined state GOP Chairman Robert Gleason to announce the lawsuit.
ACORN officials called the Republican effort "voter suppression" aimed at keeping blacks, Latinos and low-income people from voting. The New Orleans-based nonprofit has helped 1.3 million people register to vote nationwide -- 144,000 in Pennsylvania. About 60 percent to 70 percent are "people of color," officials and workers said.
The group screens voter registrations, and flags questionable forms so that county election officials can scrutinize them, Pennsylvania ACORN leader Ali Kronley said.
"We believe we can have a fair election in this state," said Krista Houlb of ACORN.
ACORN must deal with internal strife when its board of directors meets in New Orleans this weekend.
Leaders of the group are locked in a legal dispute stemming from allegations that the brother of the group's founder misappropriated nearly $1 million of the nonprofit's money several years ago.
Republicans, including presidential candidate John McCain, have accused ACORN of widespread voter fraud and raised questions about Obama's ties to the organization.
"You deserve to know," Republican vice presdidential nominee Sarah Palin told supporters in West Chester, Ohio. "This group needs to learn that you here in Ohio won't let them turn the Buckeye State into the Acorn State."
The Tribune-Review, citing Federal Election Commission records, reported Aug. 22 that the Obama campaign paid $832,598 from Feb. 25 to May 17 to ACORN subsidiary Citizens Services for polling, advance work and staging events during the primaries. After the Trib's inquiry, an Obama campaign spokesman said the group's work mistakenly was misrepresented in the FEC reports and all work done by Citizens Services would be amended as "get-out-the-vote" projects.
Obama campaign spokesman Sean Smith said Obama represented ACORN along with other groups to force state compliance in Illinois with the 1993 Motor Voter law.
Other Obama ties to the group were sharply disputed.
Republicans say Obama worked for ACORN's voter registration arm (Project Vote) in 1992 and trained ACORN staff.
But Obama campaign spokeswoman Allison Price has said the candidate never was employed by ACORN. "This organization never hired him to be an organizer or to train people."
Pennsylvania Republicans want the court to order that ACORN be required to discourage people registered falsely or with duplicate registrations from voting. It requests lists of the voters registered by ACORN and an order directing the group to run public service announcements to educate first-time voters.
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