LAS VEGAS (AP) - Nevada authorities seized documents and records
Tuesday in a raid on the Las Vegas headquarters of a community
organization that works to get low-income people to vote.
Secretary of State Ross Miller said the raid was part of a monthslong voter fraud investigation of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which he said submitted fraudulent registrations, including forms for the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys football team.
"Tony Romo is not registered to vote in the state of Nevada, and anybody trying to pose as Terrell Owens won't be able to cast a ballot on Nov. 4," Miller said.
Miller said other voter registration forms used false names or information, or had duplicated information on multiple forms. Some of the forms were obvious frauds, Miller said, but he did not give an estimate of how many fakes were submitted.
Bertha Lewis, interim chief organizer for ACORN, said the group has been working with election officials to weed out fraudulent forms from the canvassers it hires to register voters.
"Today's raid by the secretary of state's office is a stunt that serves no useful purpose other than to discredit our work registering Nevadans," Lewis said.
The group received a subpoena two weeks ago seeking information
on 15 employees who the ACORN group had previously flagged for
turning in suspicious voter applications, Lewis said in a statement.
"For the past 10 months, anytime ACORN has identified a potentially fraudulent application, we turn that application in to election officials separately and offer to provide election officials with the information they would need to pursue an investigation or prosecution of the individual," Lewis said.
Lewis said ACORN turned in 46 problem applications submitted by 33 former employees to election officials in the Las Vegas area, where it has registered 80,000 people.
According to its national Web site, the group has registered 1.3 million voters nationwide for the Nov. 4 election. It has encountered complaints of fraud stemming from voter registration efforts in Wisconsin, North Carolina, New Mexico, Michigan, Ohio and Missouri.
Canvassers are required to sign forms acknowledging proper practices for registering voters, which can be used as evidence in
fraud investigations, ACORN officials said.
"The fact is, this is hard work and there were some people that probably sat down on a couch and filled out names out of a phone
book," said Matthew Henderson, southwest regional director for ACORN. "When we talk about fraud, that's really what we're talking
about here - not an attempt to steal an election."
Miller said the Nevada investigation was not connected to activities in other states and that no one had been charged or arrested in Nevada.
Secretary of state spokesman Bob Walsh said that while ACORN submitted information on fraudulent registrations to county officials, the state's investigation went beyond that. He said state investigators were using information from other sources, including the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Nevada.
"You don't have to read too many cop novels to know that sometimes people will tell you a grain of truth to try to hide the rest of the truth," Walsh said. "I'm certainly not suggesting that ACORN is that nefarious, but at the same time just because they handed over 50 to you doesn't mean there aren't 150 others out there."
Clark County Registrar Larry Lomax said his office turned over roughly 200 suspicious applications to the secretary of state's office and that the county had received many more questionable forms from the group. He did not have a number.
State authorities descended on the ACORN headquarters about 9:30
a.m. with a search warrant and were allowed into the small strip mall office by a landlord, Walsh said. The offices were not staffed when authorities arrived.
The raid comes two months after state and federal authorities formed a task force to pursue election-fraud allegations in Nevada.
Several politicians reacted to news of the Tuesday raid by calling for stricter voting rules. U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., called on the Federal Housing Finance Agency to cut off funding for the nonprofit's affordable housing programs.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)