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Las Vegas office raided in voter fraud probe

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Leila Navidi

Bonnie Smith-Greathouse, right, the head organizer for Nevada’s Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, chants with staff members and volunteers outside their offices in Las Vegas on Tuesday. The Nevada Secretary of State’s office has accused the organization of voter fraud and seized documents from the office. They chanted, “Who are we? ACORN! What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!”

Updated Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2008 | 6:30 p.m.

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Statement from Gov. Jim Gibbons

  • "Our voting system is very simply the greatest in the world and is the basis of what makes this country great. The allegation that an organization that’s main purpose is to register new voters was doing so fraudulently is very troubling. I believe that requiring a photo ID to vote is a very reasonable protection for our voting system and should be enacted as law by the 2009 Legislature."

Related story: Fraud probe worries champions of black vote

Members of a new task force designed to prevent voter fraud raided the Las Vegas office of an organization that works with low-income people on everything from voting to neighborhood improvements.

State investigators, armed with a search warrant, sought evidence of voter fraud at the office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, known as ACORN, a Nevada Secretary of State's office spokesman said today.

"This is part of an ongoing investigation by the multijurisdictional task force that we announced this past July," Secretary of State Ross Miller said in a statement. "We said then that we would work aggressively to protect the process. We're going to do everything possible to ensure that Nevada's voter rolls are protected and to ensure that only those who are eligible can cast a ballot."

There are allegations that some registration applications were completed with false information, while other applications attempted to register the same person multiple times, Miller said.

"We've been told that some of the allegedly erroneous applications even included the names of players from the Dallas Cowboys football team," Miller said.

The Secretary of State's office provided 2,000 voter registration applications to ACORN for use anywhere in the state. The Clark County registrar's office has provided 122,600 registration applications to ACORN, all of which can be used only for registration in Clark County.

The Election Integrity Task Force, developed by Miller, state Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI, was announced on July 31 to investigate questionable voter registration, voter fraud and intimidation.

"Now we begin the task of sifting through the material that was seized to determine how widespread the fraud might be," Miller said. "We're giving this the highest priority with the election looming, but until we've had time to thoroughly analyze the material, it would be inappropriate and speculative to suggest how widespread it may be."

No one was in the ACORN office when state agents arrived and began hauling away records and documents, Secretary of State spokesman Bob Walsh said.

The warrant also authorized seizing computer equipment related to ACORN's "Project Vote!" voter registration drive, Walsh said. Eight computer hard drives and about 20 boxes of documents were seized, he said.

No one has been arrested.

ACORN's interim chief organizer Bertha Lewis released a statement calling the Secretary of State's office raid "a stunt that serves no useful purpose other than [to] discredit our work registering Nevadans and distracting us from the important work ahead of getting every eligible vote to the polls."

ACORN had received a subpoena dated Sept. 19 requesting information on 15 employees, all of whose names had been included in packages previously submitted to election officials, Lewis said. ACORN provided its personnel records on the 15 employees on Sept. 29, she said.

"For the past 10 months, any time 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. "Election officials routinely ignored this information and failed to act."

ACORN representatives met with election officials and a representative of the Secretary of State's office on July 17 and were asked to provide a second copy of documents previously provided, she said. She said ACORN gave officials copies of 46 application packages, which involved 33 former canvassers.

In a 19-page affidavit by criminal investigator Colin Hayes of the Secretary of State's office, Hayes said 59 inmates worked for ACORN between March 5 and July 31.

One ex-employee of ACORN, Jason Anderson, rose to the rank of a supervisor in the voter registration program although he was a convicted felon and an inmate at Casa Grande at the time, the affidavit said.

In addition to the records ACORN had given state officials, Clark County election workers discovered another 183 suspicious files, each with different voters' names, the affidavit said. In some cases, dozens of people had no records in Nevada, or addresses didn't exist, the affidavit said.

Nevada State Democratic Party officials addressed the raid on the ACORN office, noting that the state has strict laws designed to ensure only eligible voters can participate in elections.

"We commend the Secretary of State and Attorney General's offices in this investigation," said Travis Brock, executive director of the state Democratic party. "Elections must be fair and open to people who are eligible to vote, but we condemn any efforts to improperly register voters."

Task force members urged new voters and residents to register with the county registrar's office, then check their registration status at www.silverstate08.com.

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