Group Answers Charges of Voter Registration Fraud

A prominent community organizing group and representatives of the McCain campaign held dueling news conferences in Washington on Tuesday to press their cases in a simmering controversy over allegations of fraudulent voter registrations.

Former Republican Senators John C. Danforth and Warren Rudman, who chair the McCain campaign's Honest and Open Elections Committee, warned of a repeat of the 2000 presidential election without vigilant monitoring of voting precincts in key battleground states.

"We believe that this is a potential nightmare," Mr. Danforth said at an event at the National Press Club.

The McCain and Obama campaigns have been trading barbs over the voter registration efforts of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or Acorn, which has come under fire after reports that employees of the group turned in large numbers of questionable voter registration forms.

At their own news conference, Acorn leaders acknowledged some instances where canvassers had submitted false or duplicate registrations, but said those cases represented only a tiny fraction of the 1.3 million new voters the group signed up during this election cycle.

"Out of 13,000 workers there were inevitably a few who decided they'd pad their hours by duplicating a card and filling out another one or making up a name," said Kevin Whalen, an Acorn spokesman.

"If we discovered this," Mr. Whalen said, "we not only turned that information over but turned the information we had about that former employee – because they'd been fired by that point – to elections officials and asked for their help in prosecuting that person."

The McCain campaign has been seeking to shine a spotlight on the connections between the group and Senator Barack Obama. Acorn's political arm has endorsed the Democratic presidential nominee. Boards of elections in more than a dozen states are investigating the reports of fraudulent registrations.

On Tuesday the McCain campaign accused Obama officials of failing to respond to invitations for the two sides to cooperate on preventing Election Day problems.

In a Sept. 15 letter Senators Danforth and Rudman had suggested the formation of bi-partisan observation teams to monitor polling sites where either campaign feared the "potential for voter intimidation, fraud, or mistrust of the tabulation process."

A spokesman for the Obama campaign, Bill Burton, produced a letter dated Sept. 23 in which campaign manager David Plouffe did not respond directly to the McCain campaign's proposal, but instead called the formation of the Honest and Open Elections Committee, "a starkly political maneuver to deflect attention from the reality of the suppression strategies pursued by national, state and Republican party committees."

In an interview on Fox News later in the day, Mr. Rudman was asked how serious he thought the potential was for voter fraud on Election Day.

"When you crowd the whole system with these bogus names it certainly clogs up the system," he said. "It also makes it very difficult in the case of absentee ballots, where voter I.D's are not provided for, to make sure that the people are who they claim to be so, yeah, I think that the potential is there."

Bog Edgar, the president of Common Cause, an ally of Acorn, acknowledged at the news conference the potential problems the suspect registrations create, but said there is "no evidence that these false registrations lead to false attempts to actually cast a ballot."

"And that's the important thing," Mr. Edgar said.

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