9/23/08

Young voters susceptible to ACORN fraud

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

Unrepentant union-backed voter fraud group soldiers on for Barack

Annie Wildfong was on a mission one football Saturday earlier this month. She grabbed her clipboard and headed into the driving rain.

The Michigan State University sophomore wants Democrat Barack Obama to become the next president. So she spends hours each day trolling the streets and dorms of East Lansing to find the next potential voter, still unregistered, who might push Obama over the top. The Obama campaign intern is among many supporters trying to help register 150,000 new voters by the state's Oct. 6 deadline.

By contrast, the Republican Party and the campaign for its nominee, John McCain, are putting more effort into identifying registered voters and making sure they get their message and vote, said Bill Nowling, a GOP spokesman.

Overwhelmingly, the Obama campaign is targeting young people, who historically don't vote in large percentages.

"I've been called a communist and told to go hug a tree," said Wildfong, 19, of Ferndale. "But it's worth it."

That Saturday, no one stopped. The rain was too punishing, the ink too prone to smudging.

More young adults voting

In the latest Gallup poll, taken last week, Obama holds a 15-percentage-point advantage among people ages 18-29. The campaign said they may hold the key to victory in Michigan. In 2004, 47% of registered 18- to 24-year-olds nationwide voted in the presidential election, compared with 64% for all voters. In Democratic primaries this year, the number of 18- to 29-year-olds sharply increased over primaries in 2004.

"Looking at the voting patterns in the primaries, we can see how many young people turned out to vote," said Elizabeth Wilkins, Obama's field director in Michigan. "And we've got a candidate who appeals to young people."

Michigan makes it relatively easy to register to vote, which is why state election officials said that more than 95% of the state's population 18 and older -- the 2007 census shows more than 7.6 million Michigan people in that age category -- already are registered.

By contrast, about 71% of eligible adults are registered nationwide, according to Fair Vote, a Maryland-based group that tracks voter registration.

Help comes from all sides

Despite Michigan's high registration, more than 100,000 new voters registered in the state between January and July, according to the Michigan Secretary of State's Web site.

"It takes some creative field efforts for us to find those people," Wilkins said. "We get into every nook and cranny."

The Obama campaign has brought in recording artists and actors to help on campuses and in neighborhoods where fewer adults are registered. Comedian and actor George Lopez, who is Hispanic, came to southwest Detroit, which has a high Latino population, on Saturday.

Other groups signing up new voters include the Council of Baptist Pastors of Detroit and Vicinity, which is working with the NAACP and unions in metro Detroit to get their members to register, said council spokesman Bertram Marks.

"The smartest way for us to do this is not to create a big hoopla," he said, "but on an ongoing basis, church by church."

At Welcome Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac on Sunday, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., exhorted the faithful to take action: "Those young people laying up in your house, you've get to get them registered to vote. And don't forget the shut-ins. Get them their absentee ballots."

ACORN -- the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- is a community outreach group that helps low-income residents in urban areas. With mixed results, the group is going into high schools and nightclubs.

At King High School in Detroit last week, Garrick Charles, national Project Youth Vote director for ACORN, encountered a distracted crowd that seemed more interested in free T-shirts than a voting lesson.

Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, a Republican, is continuing efforts to register young voters by dispatching a mobile branch office to 16 college campuses. One day last week, a steady line formed outside the mobile branch at Grand Valley State University in Allendale. By day's end, 188 students had registered.
What students need to know

Sara Stein, 20, who grew up in New Boston, had some insight into the best way to register, based on an experience she had trying to vote for governor in 2006 when she registered with an advocacy group.

"Nobody told me I had to use the same address as my driver's license," said Stein, a junior. She had tried to vote in Allendale. Michigan law requires voters to register with the same address on a driver's license.

So this year, she waited until the Secretary of State's mobile branch arrived on campus. That way, she could change the address on her driver's license to that of her new home in Grand Rapids.

The other advantage of making the change at a branch or a local clerk's office is that first-time voters can vote in person or by absentee ballot. Many students who register through a group will have to vote in person at the polls the first time.

Student leaders and Grand Valley State professors had been touting the mobile branch as the most effective way students have to vote.

Still, Obama campaign workers tried hard to register students outside the Secretary of State trailer, saying they'd have a better chance of making sure they vote Nov. 4.

Jason Puscas, a 21-year-old GVSU senior from Rochester Hills, doubts the efforts to register young people will make a difference.

"The stats show that young people don't turn out to vote," said Puscas, a McCain supporter. "I think we're kidding ourselves if we expect that to turn into a huge voter turnout."

(freep.com)

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