WASHINGTON — Nevada's attorney general on Monday filed criminal charges accusing liberal community activist group ACORN and two of its employees of facilitating voter registration fraud in November's election by requiring canvassers to submit 20 applications each day or face termination.
Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, both Democrats, announced the charges, stressing that there's no evidence that the phony registrations led to the casting of votes using fake identities.
A spokesman for ACORN, a nationwide grassroots organization, assailed the action as "political grandstanding."
The group stressed that it instigated the inquiry by turning over to the Clark County, Nev., registrar the names of 44 workers who were fired for submitting bogus registration forms and that it ordered an employee to stop offering bonuses to workers who turned in more than the daily goal of 20 forms.
"There was no firm quota," spokesman Scott Levenson said.
Clark County Registrar Larry Lomax said that ACORN canvassers submitted 91,002 registration forms last year, resulting in 62,905 new registrations after the elimination of duplicates and questionable applications.
ACORN became a flashpoint last fall when Republican presidential candidate John McCain said during a debate with Barack Obama that the group "may be perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history."
The next day, the Associated Press reported that the FBI was investigating whether the group had systematically coordinated the submissions of voter registrations in several states — a report that later proved to be exaggerated. Law enforcement officials later said that the inquiry, which ended months ago, never rose to a formal investigation.
The Nevada complaint alleges 26 counts of "Compensation for Registration of Voters," which it called a felony under state law.
"By structuring employment and compensation around a quota system, ACORN facilitated voter registration fraud in this state," Attorney General Masto said. She alleged that the group's training manuals "clearly detail, condone and, indeed, require illegal acts."
The complaint accuses Christopher Edwards, former field director for ACORN's Las Vegas office, of creating a "Blackjack" or "21+" system that awarded a $5 bonus to low-paid canvassers who brought in 21 or more completed registration forms in a day. It alleges that Amy Busefink, ACORN's deputy regional director, approved the scheme.
Levenson took strong issue with the complaint.
"If somebody got 17 (applications) every day, their job was pretty secure," he said. "What we were obviously concerned about is making sure people actually worked. If a canvasser came in every day with two registration forms . . . that was a problem."
Michael Slater, executive director of Project Vote, a national registration group that's funded ACORN's canvassing, said he was "shocked" that ACORN now faces a criminal case while no charges were brought against the 44 ex-workers to whom the group alerted authorities.
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