WASHINGTON – Part of the voter mobilization in Florida, where early voting began last week, has been organized by a group accused of breaking state law dealing with voter registration and lying about its non-partisan political efforts.
ACORN — the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now – and its Florida chapter — Floridians for All — put together a campaign to pass an initiative to boost Florida's minimum wage. ACORN says it's non-partisan.
But the first page of its minimum wage plan says the campaign "will help defeat George W. Bush and other Republicans by increasing Democratic turnout in a close election."
Joe Johnson, a lifelong Democrat, helped lead ACORN's Florida campaign before quitting in August.
"There were efforts to try to inform people this was non-partisan when in fact it was not and I became uncomfortable with that," Johnson told FOX News. He said ACORN's push to register and mobilize voters went too far.
Late last week, Florida officials launched a statewide investigation into voter registration fraud and named ACORN as a prime target.
"ACORN is singled out and it's not necessarily because it's the only group we're involved with, but it seems to be the one that is the common thread of the investigation we've got going right now," said Tom Berlinger, spokesman for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (search).
Questions about fraudulent ACORN voter registration efforts are not limited to Florida. ACORN is also under scrutiny in the battleground states of Ohio, Missouri, Michigan, New Mexico, Colorado, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania.
ACORN (search) released this statement to FOX News on Monday: "ACORN is very proud of the work we have done to register 212,000 voters in Florida, and of the campaign we are waging to raise the minimum wage for low-income Floridians. We are disappointed that some are using these isolated incidents as an excuse to attack voter registration efforts, like ACORN's, that are working hard to safeguard the rights of every voter."
According to Florida campaign finance records, the biggest donors to ACORN's campaign, which has raised $1.2 million so far, are national Democratic organizations — $250,000 from National Education Association (search) and $100,000 from the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (search).
— FOX News' Major Garrett contributed this report.
AP Poll: Skeptical Public Ponders Election Day
Memories of Florida's contested 2000 presidential election and a growing number of pre-election lawsuits are making Americans skeptical about a voting process they once took for granted.
Six in 10 of those surveyed in an Associated Press poll say it's likely there will not be a clear winner in the presidential race by Nov. 3 — the day after the election. About half say they fear the results will be challenged in court, according to the poll conducted for the AP by Ipsos Public Affairs.
Both Democrats and Republicans worry about the possibility of an unresolved election — though Democrats express more worries. About seven in 10 Democratic voters, 69 percent, say they think it's likely there won't be a clear winner by Election Day, while almost six in 10 Republican voters, 56 percent, say they feel that way.
With both political parties putting thousands of lawyers on call for Election Day, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans — just over half of each — expect the election results will be challenged in court.
A majority says they are confident the vote count in their own state will be accurate. Fewer than half of Democrats say they are "very confident" their state's vote count will be accurate, while three-fourths of Republicans feel that way.
In the closing days of the campaign, the national parties are keeping especially close tabs on Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Iowa and New Mexico, all presidential battleground states where a challenge to a close race might be lodged Nov. 3.
In 2000, Florida turned into a political and legal ground zero over a Bush-Gore recount. After 36 days, the U.S. Supreme Court handed Bush a 537-vote victory in Florida and, thus, the presidency.
More than half in the poll — 54 percent — say they think the vote count in Florida was not fair and accurate, with Republicans overwhelmingly saying it was and Democrats overwhelmingly saying it was not. Independents say by a 2-to-1 margin that it was not fair.
Almost half in the poll say having armed police at the polls would make them more inclined to vote, while about one in six say it would make them less inclined. Minority voters were more likely than whites to say armed police would make them less inclined to vote.
The AP-Ipsos poll of 1,000 adults, including 856 registered voters and 670 likely voters, was taken Oct. 22-24 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full sample, slightly larger for subgroups like registered voters.
— The Associated Press contributed this report.
Scene in the States
Many states are facing legal challenges over possible voting problems Nov. 2. A look at some of the latest developments:
The Latest Reports
Boulder County officials defended their election system against a privacy lawsuit, saying serial numbers on ballots cannot be used to reveal how an individual voted. Six voters filed a lawsuit last week saying the ballot numbers and bar codes violate their privacy rights.
Monday: A judge ruled that Florida's touch-screen voting machines do not have to produce a paper record for use in case a recount becomes necessary. A Democratic congressman had filed the lawsuit, seeking a paper trail or a switch to paper ballots in 15 counties.
Monday: A judge in a separate case denied a request from a coalition of unions and black groups to add four early voting sites in Duval County, home to Jacksonville.
Monday: Officials denied a request to extend the counting period for absentee ballots that are postmarked before the election but not received until afterward. The decision does not affect military votes. Other ballots received after the close of polls on Election Day cannot be counted under Illinois election law.
Monday: Two Republican voters asked a Nevada judge to reject a Democrat's request to reopen voter registration based on his claim that his voter application form was destroyed by a GOP-funded group. The Republicans said one voter's complaint should not apply broadly to all voters. Nevada's voter registration deadline was Oct. 2.
Monday: Republicans withdrew thousands of challenges to new voter registrations because of errors in their filings apparently caused by a computer glitch. In filing the challenges, the GOP said mail sent to the newly registered voters was returned as undeliverable.
Thursday: The secretary of state issued strict guidelines for poll watchers across the state, limiting each party to one person per station and banning outside groups from sending out teams of lawyers to monitor the election. Parties use poll watchers to keep track of turnout and watch how balloting procedures are performed.
Wednesday: A company hired by Denver to print and mail absentee ballots failed to send out about 13,000 ballots, but election officials hoped to get them to voters by the end of the week.
Thursday: A federal judge said the state must reject provisional ballots if they are cast in the wrong precinct — another defeat to Democrats who wanted looser requirements. The ruling is in line with one handed down this week by the state Supreme Court in a similar case.
Thursday: Republicans accused Democrats of breaking political money laws in Florida. They said Democrats engaged in cozy arrangements among candidates, unions and outside fund-raising groups as part of an effort to turn out voters. Democrats said the allegation was absurd.
Thursday: Tens of thousands of Florida voters may be illegally registered to vote in two states, and more than 1,600 may have cast ballots in Florida and one of two other states in recent elections, the Orlando Sentinel reported in Friday's editions. The Sentinel examination of voting records from Florida, Georgia and North Carolina found more than 68,000 cases in which voters with the same names and dates of birth were registered in two states.
Wednesday: A group of international election observers said in a report that Georgia's electronic voting machines should create paper receipts and poll workers should get more training. The report is the result of a visit to Georgia in September by a 20-member team of civic leaders, professors and lawyers from 15 countries.
Thursday: Top elections officials said they were worried about the ramifications of a court ruling this week on how to handle provisional ballots. They are concerned about voter confusion and whether they will have enough time to provide local clerks with the proper Election Day instructions.
Wednesday: The state's top elections official insisted that exit pollers for media outlets must stay 100 feet from the polls to ensure "hassle-free, intimidation-free" voting sites. The law is intended to block partisan activity near the polls, but an attorney for news organizations including The Associated Press questioned why it should apply to the media.
Thursday: At least half of North Carolina's National Guard troops in Iraq didn't receive their absentee ballots in time for their votes to be counted, said Lt. Michelle Locke, who helped with voting at a base northeast of Baghdad. Locke, who didn't get her ballot, said troops who wanted to vote in the Nov. 2 general election received special all-write-in ballots that had been sent by the military in case something went wrong.
Thursday: County elections officials say a court battle over the votes of people who go to the wrong polling place has left them unsure how to train poll workers and what to tell voters about where they can cast ballots. Ohio is the site of an intense, back-and-forth legal battle over provisional ballots.
Wednesday: Workers taking part in a Republican-funded voter registration drive said they were told to avoid signing up Democrats or people who might vote for John Kerry. The Republican National Committee denied the accusations and suggested that Democrats were orchestrating the charges.
Wednesday: A health organization that promised flu shots on Election Day in six of South Carolina's poorest counties has drawn criticism from Republicans that the effort is politically motivated. The GOP says some of the targeted counties are Democratic-leaning. The organization denied the allegations and said the mailing was sent to areas with low vaccination rates based on federal data.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.