24 October 2008

Project Vote Says NY Times Report on ACORN Erred

Project Vote - October 24, 2008.

Project Vote responds to a New York Times report suggesting ACORN's voter registration errors were much bigger than anyone believed.

An article appeared in the October 24 New York Times that misrepresents comments made by Project Vote about the total number of registrations gathered through the organization’s joint voter registration drive with the community organization ACORN. Project Vote issued the following statement in response:

"We are puzzled by today’s New York Times article. It has always been Project Vote’s position that we collected over 1.3 million registration applications, and we have always said that we identified potentially problematic cards. The core responsibility of local boards of elections has been and continues to be to determine which registration cards are duplicates, which are new registrants, and which are people that changed their addresses. The Times article mistakenly assumes that much of the impact that voter registration drives are designed to have — enabling people to update their addresses so they are able to vote on Election Day — is of no value. In the end, after taking into account these change of address registration applications, nearly one million people we helped to register will be eligible to vote on Election Day because of our work.

"In our interview with the Times we explained that roughly 35 percent of our registrants are expected to be brand-new voters, and another 35 percent will be Americans who needed to update their registrations. Perhaps another 30 percent will be incomplete, will fail to match in government systems, or will be from people who did not realize they were already registered. Less than 1-2 percent will turn out to be deliberately falsified by canvassers.

"The Times article’s characterization is particularly disappointing since Project Vote has been open and forthcoming about these numbers throughout our drive, and in fact explained the same realities about voter registration drives to New York Times reporter Shaila Dewan for a story that appeared on June 15th of this year. "Michael Slater, the deputy director of Project Vote, said high numbers of incomplete applications were not unusual in such drives. He said as a rule of thumb, 35 percent of voter drive applications were new voters, 35 percent were change of address, and 30 percent were duplicates or incomplete."

"For all the talk this season about Project Vote and ACORN "registering" voters, it is important to note again that nonprofits and community organizations do not have the final authority to register anyone. Only the government can register voters. What Project Vote and ACORN do is assist Americans in filling out registration applications and submitting them to election officials who make the final determination of their eligibility.

"Project Vote is proud that we helped collect 1.3 million applications in communities -- and among populations -- that have historically been left out of the process and neglected by other efforts. No one can dispute that America’s electorate does not represent its eligible voting population. Nearly 50 after years after the signing of the Voting Rights Act, and 15 years after the passage of the National Voter Registration Act, we still have an electorate in which Americans of color and young Americans are under-represented by significant margins.

"Our government, unlike most western democracies, has shirked its responsibility to make sure that every eligible American is on the voter rolls. As the New York Times editorialized just one week ago:

The answer is for government to do a better job of registering people to vote. That way there would be less need to rely on private registration drives, largely being conducted by well-meaning private organizations that use low-paid workers. Federal and state governments should do their own large-scale registration drives staffed by experienced election officials. Even better, Congress and the states should adopt election-day registration, which would make such drives unnecessary.

"We couldn't agree more. But until the government assumes this responsibility, voter registration drives like ours have proven to be, by far, the most effective means currently available to reach underrepresented voters. This is a burden and responsibility that Project Vote, ACORN and scores of other beleaguered nonprofit organizations across the country have assumed in the vacuum of real leadership and reform on this issue.

"We look forward to the day when our efforts to help register voters are unnecessary, when our voter registration programs are obsolete. Until that day comes, however, Project Vote will continue to work together to ensure all eligible Americans have their voices heard on Election Day."


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