9/25/08

Expanding scope of union-backed voter fraud

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

ACORN-related group: New name, same fraud

Vote suppression and registration fraud are among the claims flying in El Paso County, where an intense, every-vote-counts battle is taking shape just weeks before the election.

Wednesday morning, both political parties held press events 30 minutes apart to publicize their claims - a reflection of the importance that swing state Colorado plays in national politics this year.

The state Republican Party said a "liberal" voter registration group submitted several questionable registration forms to the El Paso County clerk's office.

Meanwhile, Democrats accused El Paso County Clerk Bob Balink, a Republican, of attempting to suppress voter registration among students at Colorado College by disseminating false eligibility information on the liberal arts campus. Balink's office said it made an honest mistake.

Political observers say such accusations are common in important elections and will continue during the next six weeks.

"We're in this tit for tat . . . where it's assumed politically that you can't let any attacks stand. You've got to come back and counterattack right away," said John Straayer, political science professor at Colorado State University.

One accusation stems from information sent in March from El Paso County elections manager Liz Olson to the president's office at Colorado College.

Among other things, Olson's office said out-of-state students whose parents claim them as dependents on tax forms are not eligible to vote on campus, a view that turned out to be erroneous.

County clerk slammed

State Sen. John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, accused Balink of illegally trying to stop students from voting.

"For some reason, our county clerk is focused on making sure people can't vote," Morse said.

Balink, a delegate to the Republican National Convention, has voiced strong opinions about voter eligibility. In the past, he's supported a policy of asking voters to show proof of citizenship to vote, which isn't required by law.

He could not be reached Wednesday for comment but issued a press release that said in part, "It is my first duty as a Clerk and Recorder to facilitate the enfranchisement of every eligible elector in El Paso County. My staff and I are committed to ensure that this goal is attained."

Olson said her office found out Tuesday from lawyers that it had misinterpreted the law about out-of-state students. She called accusations of attempting to suppress student voters "ridiculous."

On the Republican side, allegations of voter fraud surfaced Monday. That's when Balink's office told the media about an investigation into what appear to be falsified voter registration forms.

Olson said her office discovered alleged irregularities on 16 forms.

The state GOP said the forms were submitted by the Community Voters Project. It said the group is connected to others that support Barack Obama.

Ayodele Carroo, national director of the project, said the group has registered more than 12,000 in the El Paso County area.

Carroo said her director in Colorado Springs discovered about a dozen questionable forms in July during routine reviews. She said the person who turned in the forms was fired and the group told the clerk's office about the problem.

She said her organization had not been informed of any other problem forms.

"We have a zero-tolerance policy for fraud and have implemented extensive measures to prevent and to catch falsified forms," she said.

"I just really hope that Colorado Springs residents are not deterred from registering to vote because of this," Carroo said.

kimm@RockyMountainNews.com or 303-954-2361 The Gazette contributed to this report.

Investigation sought

The El Paso County clerk's office has asked law enforcement to investigate 16 voter registration forms submitted by the Community Voters Project.

* The Community Voters Project is a national organization associated with the Progressive Future Education Fund and the Center for Public Interest Research.

* It seeks to register 365,000 minority voters in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin for this election.

* Employees: 168 full-time staff members and 1,340 canvassers

* In Colorado, the group opened an office in May at 125 N. Parkside St., No. 101, Colorado Springs, CO 80909. (719) 227-7167.

* So far, it has signed up 12,000 voters in the Colorado Springs area and 220,000 nationwide.

(rockymountainnews.com)

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