New Orleans There have been headlines all around the country based on our participation in a joint announcement at the Take Back America Conference in Washington the other day of a “loose coalition of liberal groups,” as one report called it, announcing that more than $150 million would be spent on voter registration in the upcoming election. ACORN was prominently there with a commitment to move $35 million in these efforts, surpassing our efforts four years ago significantly. The numbers actually could be more than that once the $53 million from the AFL-CIO and perhaps $100 million from the Change to Win unions are factored into the mix. It is all pretty exciting.
After our experiences being targeted by the Attorney-General at the time and Karl Rove, we are clear there is “a bulls-eye on our backs” as one activist was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Registering more than a million voters, it is hard to believe that we can ever find perfection, but we are certainly mindful that everyone will be looking over our shoulder. We have to get it right. Maybe we are in fact.
In a piece by Jo Mannies, St. Louis Post-Dispatch political reporter entitled, “ACORN launches new voter-registration drives, with tighter controls,” there was recognition that we had learned our lessons and were on top of our game this time. We even had some props from our old nemesis, Scott Leiendecker! To quote part of it gives a sense of hope.
But this time, new safeguards have been put in place, say officials with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.
"Things are lot tighter," said Jeff Ordower, ACORN’s chief organizer in Missouri.
For example: An ACORN staff member is verifying the identity of every new potential voter before the registration card is submitted to area election officials.
The St. Louis U.S. attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the indicted workers, said at the time of the indictments that safeguards in future registration drives were part of an agreement reached in talks with ACORN officials.
In any case, the St. Louis Election Board is impressed so far with the results.
"It’s been ‘night and day’ from what they did before," said Scott Leiendecker, the city’s Republican elections director.
But the real test, Leiendecker added, will be when ACORN gets into high gear in the weeks before Missouri’s Oct. 8 voter-registration deadline for the Nov. 4 general election.
The groups aims to register 35,000 in time for Missouri’s Aug. 5 primary for state, congressional and local offices.
For decades, ACORN has conducted some of the largest voter registration drives across the country. And some of those drives have led to controversy over some fraudulent registrations.
Just weeks before Missouri’s 2006 contest for the U.S. Senate, news broke of fraudulent voter-registration cards turned in by ACORN workers in St. Louis and Kansas City. Last December’s eight indictments were among the results.
But Ordower and other ACORN officials say that the group has been unfairly maligned. In the case of the Missouri workers, for example, ACORN officials say they discovered many of the bogus registration cards and alerted authorities to several of the workers believed responsible.
In a show of support, St. Louis Comptroller Darlene Green and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed were among the city officials who joined ACORN activists at Wednesday’s news conference announcing the drive.