Lake County, Indiana is a county snuggled up to bright blue Chicago on the map. It includes cities like East Chicago, Gary, Crown Point and Hammond. Voter registration in Lake County is at an all-time high. Given those facts, it's also no surprise that Lake County, Indiana has been targeted for voter suppression by Republicans.
With Indiana being a battleground state this year, ACORN has been active in the state, including in Lake County, where it submitted 5,000 voter applications it received from its workers. It was required by law to turn in every single application, no matter how facially bogus it appeared. Indeed, failure to turn in all applications would be a crime (a Class A misdemeanor, to be exact, "punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and up to one year in prison.")
So not wanting to be fined or imprisoned, ACORN followed the law, submitting all of its Lake County applications. Around the close of the registration deadline, it submitted 2,500 applications. But when it did so, it separated those applications into three stacks, separating off those it believed to be problematic:
ACORN said it took steps to ensure officials knew some of the registrations it turned in were potentially bad.
"We ID'd those applications as questionable," Charles D. Jackson, spokesman for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, said of the Lake County applications.
"We turned them in three separate stacks: ones we had been able to verify, ones that were incomplete and ones that were questionable or suspicious."
Not only did ACORN flag suspicious applications--like the infamous "Jimmy John's" application--it also fired
82 workers 5 of 82 workers in Lake County (correction: 5 of the 82 workers were fired, not 82 as originally drafted).
Election officials say about half of the last-minute applications have some problem. Most of those, I'd wager, were already pre-sorted by ACORN.
Ah, but the GOP smelled a faux scandal, so they jumped on the Lake County registration as a prime example of the "fraud" being perpetrated by ACORN. They made lots of noise locally, and the called for an investigation by Lake County officials and Indiana's Attorney General. Richard Bramer, the Deputy Attorney General, pointed out that it was really a federal matter.
So the federal cavalry came marching in to investigate. And we get this preview from Indiana Secretary of State spokesman Jim Gavin:
Gavin said he couldn't go into specifics of what the probe found, but said "what's become even more clear is a blatant disregard for Indiana law -- crimes have been committed against Indiana voters and taxpayers."
He said those allegations could include obtaining or submitting "voter registration applications known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent." The charge is a Class D felony
That voter registration fraud occurred is a given. It is a crime and the violators should be held accountable. But the key question will be exactly how the investigation report reads. Will it acknowledge that this was a fraud perpetrated on both the state and ACORN? Or will it just feed the flames of this faux controversy?
The report is expected sometime this week.