With all the smoke in the air over ACORN, it’s hard to know how big of a fire we’re dealing with right now.
Too many people focused on the theatrics of the videotaped pimp and prostitute story which distracted from the troubling allegations surrounding the organization including voter registration fraud, embezzlement, and illegal use of taxpayer funds.
Locally, my colleagues on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of legislation co-docketed by Supervisor Bill Horn and myself to assist state and local investigators to conduct an inquiry into the voter registration practices of ACORN, or Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. The legislation also requested that an investigation conducted last year be revisited.
NCT: Supervisors back ACORN probe [http://bit.ly/Xvvi5]
In 2008, Registrar of Voters Deborah Seiler said her office received more than 26,000 voter registrations from ACORN. Of those, 4,800 were rejected out of hand and another 76 appeared fraudulent.
The suspected fraudulent registrations were sent to California Secretary of State Debra Bowen for investigation. At the time, no action was taken by the state. However, in light of recent developments, the governor has now ordered the state attorney general to open an investigation into ACORN’s practices. We hope the Registrar’s concerns can finally be examined.
But as the local media dissected the board’s action last week, the recurring questions to me seemed: Is looking into ACORN a good use of tax money? Or is this just a partisan issue?
The short answers are “yes” and “no” respectively.
In news stories, Mr. David Lagstein, local ACORN spokesman, said he will be fully cooperative in any investigations. On Friday, Mr. Lagstein had this to say on KPBS’ “San Diego Week” as he directly addressed our board actions:
“The County Board of Supervisors, they’re jumping on the bandwagon. It’s a partisan fishing expedition. We have a great quality control program for our voter registration program. Every single application that was filled out we were to verify to make sure that the information was accurate. And I think the important thing is we’re proud of the work that we did. Last year was a record turnout in the 2008 election and we helped to turn out more people than ever before, and helped to boost the voter participation rate and underrepresented African American and Latino communities.”
* FULL EPISODE [http://bit.ly/Ka8ET]
First, we do agree that ACORN ran an aggressive and successful voter registration effort. Nearly two-thirds of ACORN’s 40,000 voter registrations across the state came from San Diego County.
However, if “every single application” was closely inspected, as he claims, how were some 4,800 registrations rejected outright? What of the other 76 registrations sent to the Secretary of State’s office? In what way was our investigation last year politically motivated? The numbers being examined today are the same as last year.
Obviously, some bad registrations are bound to turn up and we understand that. However, the numbers are significant. Asking questions neither qualifies as jumping on the bandwagon or misuse of tax money.
I understand the heated debate surrounding ACORN, but to excuse the demand for oversight of an organization that received millions of tax dollars and deals directly with registering voters as a “political fishing expedition” seems rather dismissive. I refuse to back away from getting to the bottom of this matter.
My fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers requires that I make sure a government-funded system works properly. Rooting out any potential systemic problems now will likely reduce the staff hours it takes Registrar staff to inspect thousands of future documents.
No doubt, it’s a divisive topic. But asking important questions will protect the integrity of our voting system. Period.