ACORN scandal figures into Secretary of State race
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ACORN scandal figures into Secretary of State race

Date: October 10, 2008
By: Emily Coleman
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - A group trying to increase voter registration has hit the national spotlight as questions of fraudulent registration forms surface in multiple states.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now or ACORN has been accused of filing falsified registration forms by the Jackson County Election Board.

In Kansas City, the Jackson County Election Board is reporting 100 duplicate applications and 280 with fake information, according Charlene Davis, Co-Director of the board in an interview with the Associated Press on October 10.

"They hire people; they pay them; they give them quotas and the end result is that they complete forms with fictious names," Davis said in an interview with MDN.

Democrat Secretary of State Robin Carnahan, who serves as the state's top election official, has been unavailable for comment but a statement has been released.

"Due to the diligent efforts of the staff in Jackson County, these applications were identified before they were placed on the voter rolls," Carnahan stated in the news release.

The process of verifying the information on applications takes place in the county in which they're filed.

Spokesman for the Secretary of State's office Ryan Hobart said, the office has been in contact with the Jackson County Election Board and has told the board to send those that should be referred to the U.S. attorney or a local prosecutor for them to determine if any laws may have been violated.

While the Secretary of State's office said the verification process is working, Republican candidate for Secretary of State Mitch Hubbard said, "The system is not working."

ACORN has been criticized for using paid employees instead of volunteers.

"It's in the very nature of ACORN," Hubbard said. "They pay people per registration form so it makes sense people are going to turn in fake applications."

Hubbard said if he were elected Secretary of State, he would work with the legislature to prohibit organizations from paying workers to register voters.

Some officials are blaming ACORN.

"The policy decision was wrong on ACORN's part," Boone County Clerk Wendy Noren said. "These particular ACORN people (that have been turning in fraudulent applications) do it for money."

This problem also occurs with organizations who pay individuals to gather signatures for petitions.

Noren found her father's name on one of the petitions, even though her father has been dead for six years.

ACORN has not been as active in Boone County as they were for the 2004 election.

"They (ACORN) are not associated with the state," said Ryan Hobart, the deputy communications director for the Secretary of State office. "They're an independent, non-profit group. They have no association to our office or the state of Missouri."