Monday, October 20, 2008

State says vote fraud charges by GOP overblown
As Election Day nears, parties step up their attacks
Saturday, October 18, 2008
By Tom Barnes and Tracie Mauriello, Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG -- As the Nov. 4 presidential election nears, Republicans and Democrats are racheting up their attacks.

Yesterday, the state Republican Party filed a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of State and a nationwide group of community organizers called ACORN, claiming ACORN intentionally "collected and submitted to local election authorities ... fraudulent, incomplete and/or illegitimate voter registration applications."

State GOP Chairman Bob Gleason and former Republican state Supreme Court Justice Sandra Schultz Newman questioned the legitimacy of many of the 140,000 new voters registered by ACORN, which they said has ties to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama from his days as a community organizer in Chicago.

In the debate Wednesday night with Republican John McCain, Mr. Obama denied any significant ties to ACORN. Earlier this week, he said ACORN was not advising his campaign and that registration problems shouldn't be used as an excuse to keep people from voting.

Secretary of the Commonwealth Pedro A. Cortes said Pennsylvania has laws and safeguards to deter fraud and protect the integrity and accuracy of the election, and said the GOP allegations were designed to scare the public.

"The fact that apparently fraudulent registrations have been identified is a testament to the safeguards we have in place to prevent ineligible voters from casting a ballot," Mr. Cortes said.

"These claims ... are simply not substantiated and appear to be a frivolous suit aimed at doing nothing other than undermining voters' confidence just 18 days before the election."

The GOP officials said fraudulent voter registrations are a special problem in four counties: Allegheny, Philadelphia, Delaware and Dauphin. They want ACORN to pay for public service announcements before the election telling first-time voters they must bring proof of identification with them to the polls Nov. 4. State elections officials said proof is required, but the GOP officials said the identification rule isn't always enforced.

ACORN officials said they are proud to have registered the new Pennsylvania voters, part of 1.3 million new voters nationwide. Many are lower-income people and people of color, including African-Americans and Latinos. ACORN accused the GOP of trying to "suppress" the new voters.

Mr. Cortes said when a county receives a new voter registration, it checks the registration using the Statewide Uniform Registry of Electors, a centralized voter registration and election management system; verifies information on the application using a driver's license number or the last four digits of the applicant's Social Security number; and reviews the application forms, including a check for questionably similar handwriting.

State law requires county staff to send a voter identification card to the voter at the voter's home by first-class, nonforwardable mail. If the voter card is returned undeliverable, the county is required to investigate.

On Election Day, a first-time voter must present an approved form of ID before voting. Additionally, a person must match his or her signature to the signature in the poll book when they go to vote.

"In Pennsylvania, it is virtually impossible to register and vote if you are not a legal Pennsylvania resident," Mr. Cortes said.

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