In defense of ACORN

By Ricky Baldwin

National media coverage hit rock bottom with Sen. McCain’s attacks on ACORN, the community organization that has been doing such excellent work together with Project Vote registering over a million low-income Americans in 21 states, who might not otherwise have been able to vote next month. An estimated 60-70 percent of these new voters are people of color, half of them under 30.

Less than 1 percent of these registrations are being challenged, some almost certainly unfairly – similar accusations in the past turned out to be groundless, a partisan effort at outright vote suppression related to ‘US Attorneygate.’ But even the few fake registrations, e.g. Mr. Mickey Mouse, don’t equal fake votes. (Mickey has to show ID.)

State laws usually require that ACORN turn in all the registration forms it collects, even if organizers suspect the forms are incorrect. ACORN routinely flags forms it finds suspicious, but officials often ignore this. ACORN has fired employees caught faking forms, cooperated with authorities investigating voter registration fraud (not mythical ‘voter fraud’), and ACORN has never been charged with anything. The alleged ‘widespread voter fraud’ simply does not exist. Vote suppression does.

The Daily Illini in particular – apparently content to report that the presidential campaigns are getting ‘personal’ – has done nothing to clear up these distortions, which are far more serious than ‘negative campaigning’. And Sen. Obama’s campaign hasn’t done much better, washing his hands of this commendable community organization. ACORN deserves our support and money much more than Obama (or McCain).

Ricky Baldwin

Urbana