WASHINGTON – There are more troubles in Florida Thursday for the left-wing Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (search). Another former employee accused the group of mishandling voter registration forms, meaning many Floridians who thought they would be able to vote this year won't be on the rolls and won't have their votes counted.
Former ACORN employee Mac Stuart was in charge of collecting petitions to put an initiative on the ballot to boost the minimum wage. In the process of collecting signatures, petitioners were asked to fill out voter registration forms.
Stuart said ACORN stored hundreds — if not thousands — of voter registration forms for weeks so they could be photocopied.
"Let's say you bumped into a person who wasn't a registered voter. Technically, in order to fill out the petition, they had to become a registered voter, and they would fill out the voter registration card, and right after that, they would just have us have them sign the bottom of the minimum wage petition and we'd tell them we'd fill in the rest later," Stuart told FOX News.
Stuart said ACORN advised workers to backdate petitions, a violation of state law. These sloppy — and in some cases illegal — procedures mean many who assume they are registered to vote won't be able to cast a ballot on Tuesday.
"Those people are probably not registered. It is really outrageous behavior. It's criminal behavior. People ought to be punished for it, but unfortunately for the voter, there's really no remedy," said David Boies (search), an attorney for Al Gore during the 2000 presidential recount.
ACORN is already the target of a state investigation into voter registration fraud. The group denies any widespread wrongdoing.
"Whenever you have a voter registration effort that is as huge as ACORN's has been, there's going to be allegations," said ACORN spokeswoman Allison Conyers.
Conyers said Stuart was fired for failing to follow proper procedures.
"Mr. Stuart was fired for a reason from ACORN. We found that he wasn't doing things according to our protocol, to make sure that the voter registration process had the highest integrity," she said.
— FOX News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.
Challenges on 35,000 New Voter Registrations Halted in Ohio
A federal judge has temporarily halted challenges by the Ohio Republican Party (search) against 35,000 voter registrations that were returned undelivered because the addresses may or may not be real.
U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott agreed with Democrats, who filed to stop the challenges because, they say, the GOP is trying to keep poor and minority voters, who move more often, from casting ballots. The challenges were against registrations collected by political groups supporting Sen. John Kerry. Six county elections boards must now stop hearings on the challenges.
In southwest Ohio, Republicans challenged the registration of Surjo Banerjee, a fact his brother found unusual. Banerjee, 40, is an Army sergeant who is now in Fallujah in Iraq.
Banerjee, also a veteran of the first Gulf War, uses his brother's house in Centerville as a permanent address even though he has lived around the world, said his brother, Dr. Partha Banerjee.
"He would laugh it off," Banerjee said. "He would say, 'I never get picked for anything nice — why can't they give me a car or something?"'
Republicans withdrew all 2,319 challenges in Montgomery County, including the one against Banerjee, after acknowledging several mistakes in its mailing.
Raven Shaffer's registration was challenged because he goes to the post office to pick up his mail, according to the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday by Democrats. The "family's mailbox has been repeatedly hit by delivery trucks," the lawsuit said.
Also in Franklin County, 291 homeless people are being questioned out of the 2,370 total challenges, according to an analysis of the challenges by the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (search). In Cuyahoga County, 757 people of the 17,717 total being challenged are homeless.
Mary Sullivan, 57, had her registration challenged because she had been living with a 77-year-old widow after losing her job in August 2003. She moved from her apartment into a shelter in June before getting the caretaker job.
"My vote has to be counted," Sullivan said. "Just because you're homeless doesn't mean you're stupid."
Sullivan is a Kerry supporter, but Roy Bottiggi, a 31-year-old registered Republican who plans to vote for President Bush, also had his registration challenged. He has been a registered voter for 13 years, has lived in the same house for five years and voted in every election, general and primary, during that time.
"I was a little bothered by it," Bottiggi, a resident of Willoughby in northeast Ohio, said Wednesday. "I never really had a problem until now."
The Republican Party withdrew its challenge after the Lake County Board of Elections documented his registration.
Dlott, appointed by former President Clinton in 1995, scheduled a hearing in her Cincinnati court for Friday morning to hear further arguments.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Florida Mailing Out Replacement Absentee Ballots
Broward County elections officials were mailing thousands of replacement ballots on Thursday after it was uncovered that more than 58,000 ballots mailed on Oct. 7-8 never reached their intended recipients.
"This isn't a blame game," Broward elections supervisor Brenda Snipes (search) told The Miami Herald. "What we're concentrating on is getting the ballots to the voter."
More than 127,000 ballots were sent out in that weekend, and 76,000 have not yet been returned. Snipes estimated she would resend not more than 20,000 ballots. Elections officials were using overnight mail to ship ballots to voters temporarily outside the county.
The lost ballots have led to more concerns that Florida's results could again be contested. Snipes was named to the job by Gov. Jeb Bush (search) after the 2000 elections supervisor quit during the bitter presidential vote recount and her replacement was suspended for bungling.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement found no criminal violations after an investigation about the missing ballots. South Florida's U.S. Postal Service (search) spokeswoman Enola C. Rice said USPS prioritizes absentee ballots and immediately mails them out when they are received.
Because of the volume of calls, Broward County commissioners assigned 40 new workers to phone duty at the election office and early voting sites, where voters have been routinely waiting in line for up to two hours to reach touch-screen voting machines.
People who requested absentee ballots can always vote early or on Election Day, officials said. If a voter who asked for a ballot shows up at the polls, the absentee form is flagged so only one vote counts.
In another nearby part of the state — Palm Beach County — Democratic lawmakers Wednesday called on elections supervisor Theresa LePore to take out newspaper ads informing voters of their options if they do not receive an absentee ballot. U.S. Reps. Robert Wexler and Alcee Hastings, along with state Sen. Ron Klein and Mayor Lois Frankel, said the ads should tell voters that they can vote early at polling places across the county.
LePore's office has received a record number of requests for absentee ballots and had mailed more than 128,000 ballots by early this week. She said an additional 7,000 go out each day.
"I have no control over the post office," LePore said.
Thief Caught on Tape Stealing Political Signs
Edward Shook, 59, a registered Democrat, was arrested Wednesday for allegedly stealing political signs supporting Bush-Cheney out of his neighbors' yards in Raleigh, N.C. Three times, William G. Moore put signs out in his yard only to find them missing the next morning. So he decided to find out who the culprit was.
"I thought this is just ridiculous," Moore said. "When it got to be almost comical, I just decided to see if this person continues to do this."
Staking out his property with a video camera on Wednesday night, Moore, 46, taped a Ford Ranger stopped 200 yards away from which a silver-haired man walked into his yard, swiped two signs and left.
A Wake County sheriff's deputy arrested Shook, who lives a few blocks away, and charged him with misdemeanor larceny. Shook posted $800 bond and was released.
"It's important that if people want to express their opinions — no matter which party — that they be able to do that," Moore said.
—The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Other states are facing legal challenges over possible voting problems Nov. 2. Here are the latest developments:
Wednesday: As many as 3,700 people have registered to vote in more than one Colorado county this year, nearly two-thirds of them college-age voters, the Denver Post reported. Election officials said they are working to catch double registrations but concede double voting might occur.
Wednesday: Five voters who sued the secretary of state over a provisional ballots decision did not exhaust administrative remedies, the state argued in court. The plaintiffs, who argue ballots cast in the wrong polling place may dilute properly cast votes, present their arguments later Wednesday.