State News

N.C. election officials investigate voter forms

Posted October 14, 2008 10:36 a.m. EDT
Updated October 14, 2008 6:05 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina State Board of Elections on Tuesday wrapped up an investigation of voter registration forms submitted by a group whose efforts have led to similar probes in other states.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now works to register low-income people as voters. ACORN claims to have registered 1.3 million people nationwide since 2007, including nearly 28,000 in North Carolina.

The group pays its field workers by the hour to sign up new voters, and some forms may have used fake or duplicated information, state officials said.

"They were lazy in that they did not go out an actually ask people to register to vote. They simply made up names and made up addresses," said Johnnie McLean, a member of the elections board.

In one case in Nevada, an ACORN worker submitted the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys football team, officials said.

Durham County's elections office last month gave about 120 suspect forms to the state for investigation, and Wake County's elections office sent in about 30 suspicious forms last week.

The investigation determined 104 Durham County forms and 30 Wake County forms were fake, along with one from Mecklenburg County.

State elections director Gary Bartlett said ACORN cooperated with the investigation. The problem was traced to one worker who was trying to fill out enough forms to get paid, he said, adding that the board would probably send the case to prosecutors.

An ACORN spokesman said Tuesday that a small number of the group's 13,000 workers took short cuts.

"If we discovered this through our calls or looking at the cards, we'd not only turn that information over but turn in the information that we had about that former employee, because they've been fired by that point, to election officials and ask for their help in prosecuting that person," spokesman Kevin Whelan said.

In North Carolina, ACORN had about 40 people a day working to register voters in Durham and Charlotte, said Pat McCoy, the group's state director. McCoy said the organization no longer imposes quotas on workers but does require them to show they are working steadily.

Durham elections director Mike Ashe said ACORN helped the county develop a system to trace problems.

"A lot of ACORN people just filled out the same name multiple times," so they would be paid, Ashe said. "One or two were getting information from the phone book."