Fearing a potentially devastating Democratic loss, the highly controversial Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) group and its affiliated organizations are gearing up to tip the scales and re-elect the beleaguered incumbent in the hard-fought New Jersey gubernatorial race, sources tell Newsmax.
"ACORN is heavily involved in Gov. Jon Corzine's get-out-the-vote operation, but is maintaining a low profile at the insistence of the Corzine campaign," Matthew Vadum, senior editor of the conservative Capital Research Center think tank, tells Newsmax. "If Corzine manages to win reelection, he doesn't want the victory tainted by his close association with ACORN."
Wall Street Journal columnist and author John Fund wrote Tuesday that "Plenty of reasons exist for suspecting absentee fraud may play a significant role in tomorrow's Garden State contests."
ACORN-linked groups from neighboring Pennsylvania and New York "appear to have moved into the state," Fund wrote.
Fund also reported that the state's Democratic Party is pressuring county clerks around the Garden State to downplay signature checks on absentee ballots. Without such checking, it is very difficult to detect absentee vote fraud.
Although bruised and battered by the recent undercover videos depicting workers at various ACORN offices giving advice on tax evasion to a reputed child-prostitution ring, ACORN remains a potent political force in many regions. It has been the focus of voter-registration fraud investigations in more than a dozen states.
A search of the Acorn.org Web site shows that the organization has a heavy presence in New Jersey. It maintains offices in Jersey City, Trenton, Paterson, and Newark.
The group could play an important role in voter turnout, which many pundits predict will determine whether Corzine or his Republican challenger, Chris Christie, emerges victorious.
The latest Quinnipiac poll shows Christie clinging to a narrow 42 percent to 40 percent lead over Corzine, with independent Christopher Daggett garnering 12 percent. Among those Daggett voters who say they may change their minds, Christie is preferred 39 percent to 29 percent.
Although those trends would appear to favor Christie, Republicans haven't forgotten the prolonged Minnesota recount battle that ended with Democrat Al Franken being awarded the victory over GOP incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman. The bitter lesson drawn by many Republicans: Once officials in a heavily Democratic state declare a race close enough for a recount, all bets are off.
"If there is a recount," Fund writes, "you can bet disputes about absentee ballots will loom large. Moreover, if serious allegations of fraud emerge, you can also expect less-than-vigorous investigation by the Obama Justice Department — which showed just how seriously it takes such allegations when it walked away from an open-and-shut voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia earlier this year."
Absentee ballots become critical in every recount, and New Jersey officials are reporting a marked increase in requests for absentee ballots.
"There has been a reported surge in absentee balloting, which might be suspicious but isn't necessarily proof of anything," Vadum tells Newsmax.
Fund reports that state officials received "a flood" of more than 180,000 requests for absentee ballots.
"On some 3,000 forms the signature doesn't match the one on file with county clerks," Fund adds. "Yet citing concerns that voters would be disenfranchised, Democratic Party lawyer Paul Josephson wrote New Jersey's secretary of state asking her 'to instruct county clerks not to deny applications on the basis of signature comparison alone.'"
Voter-fraud allegations have marred several New Jersey elections in recent years, Fund reports.
In September, New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram announced the indictments of Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small and 13 campaign workers, charging that they solicited absentee ballots on behalf of individuals not qualified to receive them, then opened the sealed ballots, and destroyed any that were not cast for Small.
In this election, supporters of Roberto Feliz, an Independent candidate for mayor of Camden, are sounding alarms over suspicious ballot activity, Fund reports. One Feliz backer says absentee ballots, which are thought to be more vulnerable to voter fraud, have increased by a factor of 15 compared with previous elections.
"In the 2005, when the city's voters voted for both governor and mayor on the same day, only 200 absentee ballots were cast," Fund writes. "This year, some 3,700 have already been received."
Fund adds that the Feliz campaign has received complaints from voters regarding absentee irregularities.
Fund writes: "I spoke with Uremia Rojas who reports that 'a man with a clipboard knocked on my door and had me sign something so I could vote by mail. I was skeptical but signed and got a ballot. I never really wanted one.'"
According to Fund, SEIU Local 32BJ, which is headquartered in Philadelphia but maintains an office in Newark, is "heavily involved" in the New Jersey gubernatorial election. The local's political director, Peter Colavito, is a former political chief for ACORN, Fund says.
New York's Working Families Party also has "moved into" New Jersey, he reports. The Working Families Party has very close ties to Acorn, an organization notorious for its labyrinthine network of affiliates.
In October, The New York Times reported that, before becoming White House political director, Patrick Gaspard "worked with ACORN in New York to set up the Working Families political party and sat on the party's board," along with ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis.
Fanning Republican fears is the fact that, despite New Jersey's recent run-ins with vote-fraud allegations, Corzine signed a new "Vote by Mail" law in June that some believe may make it harder to detect fraudulent ballots.
That law allows voters to opt to receive mail-in ballots automatically for all state elections, which eliminates the need ever to show up at a polling place and submit identification.
"There are also new opportunities for voting shenanigans in New Jersey," Vadum says. "Voting by mail is even easier now, thanks to the law Corzine signed."
There was no immediate response from the Corzine campaign or ACORN Monday afternoon to a Newsmax request for comment regarding ACORN's reported involvement in the election.
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