Chief Organizer for Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, ACORN.
attorney specializing in election law. She has represented several Republican legislators, the National Rifle Association and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. She serves on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union and the national Board of Governors for the Republican National Lawyers Association.
With Election Day approaching, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), finds itself in the cross hairs. Over the past year and a half, ACORN has helped 1.3 million mostly young, mostly poor people register to vote. Then, last week, ACORN was thrust into the national spotlight when the McCain campaign accused it of engaging in fraudulent voter registration on a massive scale. We host a debate between ACORN chief organizer Bertha Lewis and Cleta Mitchell, a Republican attorney specializing in election law. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: With Election Day less than three weeks away, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known as ACORN, finds itself in the cross hairs. Over the past year and a half, employees of ACORN, a longstanding community organizing group, have helped 1.3 million mostly young, mostly poor people register to vote. Then last week, ACORN was thrust into the national spotlight when the McCain campaign accused the group of engaging in fraudulent voter registration on a massive scale.
The GOP says the election is in danger of being compromised and has accused ACORN of submitting fraudulent voter registration forms numbering in the hundreds or thousands in battleground states including Ohio, Indiana, Nevada and Missouri.
Senator John McCain has called for an investigation and has sought to tie the group to Senator Barack Obama. At a town-hall meeting last Wednesday, he said ACORN “must be investigated immediately, and they must be stopped before November the 4th, so Americans will not be deprived of a fair process in this election.”
ACORN has defended itself against the accusations. The group has admitted there have been some problems registering new voters but said that in many of the cases where hundreds or thousands of problematic registration forms were found, ACORN was the first to identify them and flagged them before they were sent to election officials.
Bertha Lewis is the chief organizer for ACORN. She joins me here in the firehouse studio. Cleta Mitchell is an attorney specializing in election law. She has represented several Republican legislators, the National Rifle Association and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. She serves on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union and the national Board of Governors for the Republican National Lawyers Association. She joins us from Washington, D.C.
We welcome you to Democracy Now!
CLETA MITCHELL: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s begin with Bertha Lewis. Why don’t you start off by telling us what is ACORN?
BERTHA LEWIS: ACORN is the largest grassroots membership organization of lower- and moderate-income people in the country. We have over 400,000 member families in forty-two states. And our members fight for better jobs, better schools, better neighborhood, better government and the inclusion of previously disenfranchised Americans into the democratic process. We are thirty-eight years old, coming out of the welfare rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s and starting in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1970.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did you get involved with voter registration? And how is it done?
BERTHA LEWIS: Well, we became involved with voter registration in the late ’80s, early ’90s. As I said, we organize low- and moderate-income people, usually folks who are minorities — African Americans, Latinos, Asians and working-class white people. And most of these folks have always been disenfranchised out of the electoral process. And so, it is consistent with us organizing and empowering those folks to make sure that they participate in the most patriotic thing that any American can do, which is voting.
We’ve registered 1.3 million new voters across the country over an eighteen-month period of time. We had over 13,000 hard-working voter registration workers. And we may have had a few bad apples, but I don’t know any organization that didn’t.
AMY GOODMAN: And what does it mean to engage in voter registration drives? How does ACORN do it?
BERTHA LEWIS: Well, it’s very hard work. We go door to door, knock on doors, stand out on supermarkets, at bus stops, go to churches, other organizations, and in the cold in the winter and the heat in the summer. And so, we make a grassroots effort to walk up to someone and say, “Are you registered to vote? Would you like to be registered to vote?”
We are nonpartisan. We don’t tell people to be one party or another. We just want to make sure that they do vote and that they’re not disenfranchised. And so, once we collect cards — and I think your audience ought to know — any time you register someone to vote, you have to turn in every single card, by law, even if it says Mickey Mouse. And what we do is we flag, we tag problematic cards, because we try to confirm and verify that card by calling folks three times. And if we think something even remotely looks suspicious, we tag it, we flag it, we turn it over to election officials. And along with that, we also turn over to election officials the worker that collected those suspicious cards.
AMY GOODMAN: You pay these workers?
BERTHA LEWIS: We pay these workers by the hour.
AMY GOODMAN: To go out and get these cards.
BERTHA LEWIS: That’s right.
AMY GOODMAN: Cleta Mitchell, what is your problem with the ACORN voter registration drives?
CLETA MITCHELL: Well, the ACORN voter registration drives just described is so — sounds perfect, doesn’t it? It’s just that that isn’t the system that actually is in place. I testified before the House Judiciary Committee in July of this year about ACORN and, at that time, went through all the various — just — not all, but just a few of the problems that ACORN has created — created — in the past cycles, not even counting what they’re doing right now. I was talking about what they had done in previous cycles.
ACORN has paid people by the registration. The idea that they’re now paying by the hour, that would be new. They have been paying by the registration.
And ACORN has a pattern and practice of illegal activities across state lines, and I have said, for many years, I do not understand why the Justice Department doesn’t prosecute ACORN. Let me give you one example. In 2007, ACORN, as an organization, was forced to enter into a civil settlement with the King County, Washington — that’s Seattle — with the prosecutor’s office, in which they had to agree to not engage in certain kinds of behavior which is common to ACORN, which I’ll talk about in a moment, and they had to pay a $25,000 fine. And that was to avoid prosecution. The individual ACORN workers that had engaged in the voter registration fraud two years earlier were prosecuted. And that is a pattern that’s gone on in many states.
Let me give you an example of the kinds of things ACORN does. And I was on a conference call yesterday about problems in Virginia, that ACORN workers — a particular ACORN worker has said that she was not allowed — and we’re trying to get affidavits involved and get this to come forward — that she was not allowed to turn in registrations of people unless they met a certain profile. They don’t even have party registration in Virginia. So, she was not allowed to turn in registrations unless those met a certain profile. I know of many instances in — across state lines, many states, where ACORN workers have not turned in registrations if those voters register as Republicans.
But one of the ACORN’s famous — is famous for turning in — dumping thousands of new voter registrations on the last day before the books close, as a means of overwhelming local election workers and keeping them from being able to verify that these people are indeed real people at real addresses. So, I mean, the ACORN turns in registrations of not only nonexistent people, but people who don’t live at any address where — I know of workers, activists, who have gone and looked at, taken photographs of vacant lots or empty buildings that are supposedly, purportedly the addresses of new registrants turned in by ACORN. And this has been going on for years. It has been going on for years.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, then we’ll have Bertha Lewis respond. A lot of accusations there. Cleta Mitchell, lawyer specializing in election law, served on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union, national Board of Governors for the Republican National Lawyers Association. And Bertha Lewis with us, she is the chief organizer for ACORN, the Association for Community — the community organization that is being accused by the McCain campaign of voter registration fraud. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: Our guests are Cleta Mitchell — she is a Republican attorney on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union, on the national Board of Governors for the Republican National Lawyers Association — and Bertha Mitchell [sic.], chief organizer for — Bertha Lewis —-
BERTHA LEWIS: Bertha Lewis. Miss Mitchell and I are not related.
AMY GOODMAN: —- chief organizer for ACORN, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. A lot of accusations here, Bertha Lewis.
BERTHA LEWIS: Oh, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don’t you take them on one by one?
BERTHA LEWIS: And that’s exactly what they are: allegations and accusations. And just because Miss Mitchell and her organization says it’s true doesn’t make it true. She should deal with facts and not lies and allegations. And she is right, we — ACORN has been attacked over and over and over again, in 2004, 2006, Mac Stuart v. ACORN in Florida, again, where we were accused of paying people by the card and encouraging illegal registrations. That case was actually shown that ACORN was totally exonerated from all of the allegations. And again, Miss Mitchell and her —- her compatriots, Republicans, took this man’s case on.
Let me just say once again, we are proud that we registered 1.3 million new voters, and we assist election officials in flagging and tagging problematic cards. We assist election officials in prosecuting anyone that would turn in false registrations. This accusation of dumping is just that. Once again, people need to check with those local election boards and see. We’ve been doing this for eighteen months. We constantly, every two weeks, check with them. So, again -—
AMY GOODMAN: This is the issue of profiling a voter. If you think they’re Republican — this is the accusation of Cleta Mitchell —-
BERTHA LEWIS: I understand.
AMY GOODMAN: —- you throw out their card.
BERTHA LEWIS: And again, let us consider the source of this accusation, and let us also consider the time at which this is coming. If Miss Mitchell has someone that confesses to throwing out cards, I will join —-
AMY GOODMAN: That’s a federal crime.
BERTHA LEWIS: I will join Miss Mitchell in helping to prosecute that person.
CLETA MITCHELL: Good. Good.
BERTHA LEWIS: And Miss Mitchell knows that she needs to stop making allegations. If, in fact, we were famous, as she says, and so notorious, then I think election officials ought to beef up their operations and assist us in stopping any potential fraud.
AMY GOODMAN: Cleta Mitchell, I have a question for you. I was listening to the Missouri governor, Blunt, and the McCain campaign manager, Rick Davis, on a conference call talking about ACORN and talking about the fact that if there are false names, voter registration fraud clearly means voter fraud. But when you have, for example, Mickey Mouse written, Mickey Mouse is not going to show up at the polls, and you have ACORN flagging the Mickey Mouse card -— they’re not allowed to throw it out; they have to hand it in — how — although that is wrong on the voter registration card, how is that voter fraud?
CLETA MITCHELL: Well, you know, this is just the beginning. I mean, there’s a whole continuum that we aren’t even talking about, because the very same people who are bringing us these fraudulent registrations are the very identical people who object vociferously to voters having to produce an identification at the polls to demonstrate that they are indeed a real person living at a real address. These are the same people who oppose that. So what you have is a process that starts with fraudulent voter registrations, and then you have all of these same people, these activists on the left, your audience primarily, I’m sure, who object to the idea that a person should have to show identification of some kind when they show up to vote.
And let me tell you another huge issue, is once you get these fraudulent system — these fraudulent names into the system, they’re not all as blatant as Mickey Mouse, so I would also say that in — that one of the things election officials have done and one of the things that the King County, Washington settlement required was that ACORN had to turn in its names, its voter registrations, every seven days; they were not allowed to continue to pay people by the registration; and that every ACORN registration had to be denoted as an ACORN registration, so that the election officials could know that that would be subjected to additional scrutiny. But one of the things that is a huge problem is that once you get these new fraudulent registrations, then people are voting by mail. And how are —- how are election officials supposed to ascertain if that’s a fictitious or a real person?
AMY GOODMAN: Bertha Lewis?
CLETA MITCHELL: Because they could create multiple names.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s have her respond.
BERTHA LEWIS: First of all, she’s absolutely right: people do have to present identification. And again, historically, the folks that we’ve registered are low— and moderate-income people, majority people of color, and over half of them are under thirty. Historically, these voters have been blocked. Rolls have been purged, which we are very concerned about. And so, we want to make sure that people that are registered actually are allowed to vote. So, again, let me just say —-
AMY GOODMAN: What about that issue of voter ID, which has become a big issue around the country?
BERTHA LEWIS: Well, it is -— it is a big issue.
AMY GOODMAN: And why groups feel that people shouldn’t have to present, for example, a driver’s license?
BERTHA LEWIS: Because one of the things that has happened, historically, from right after the Civil War, when blacks were thrust into the electorate, it used to be the Democrats that put up all kinds of barriers to people voting when they got to the polls. Now it seems to be the modus operandi of Republicans, who want to challenge immigrants, who want to challenge brand new voters.
CLETA MITCHELL: Illegals. Illegals. Illegals.
BERTHA LEWIS: But again, what we want to be able to do is to make sure that citizens that are eligible to vote and are registered are allowed to vote, not purged from the rolls and not subjected to extreme measures in order to participate in democracy. And right now, in many states, and especially in these battleground states that we’re talking about, people must present identification.
AMY GOODMAN: Cleta Mitchell, how many of these false voter registration cards have you counted? And how many of them were not flagged by ACORN?
CLETA MITCHELL: Well, that is an impossible question to answer. I don’t count voter registrations. That’s not what I do. What I do is I work with organizations who believe very strongly that everyone who is eligible to vote should be registered and should vote, and their vote should be counted and not diluted by people who are fictitious, non-eligible. There is this whole effort — yes, I mean, you heard just a little piece of it from Miss Lewis just a second ago. The problem is, these voter registration rolls are filled with fictitious names and erroneous addresses and people who don’t exist. And then, Ms. Lewis and ACORN do not want to have those people have to present identification at the polls to show I really am a real person. They don’t want the polls to be — the rolls to be cleaned up, to make certain that people who are on the rolls really are eligible to vote. I mean, it is an overwhelming burden on local election administration officials.
And understand, we still have a system in this country where elections are administered by local units of government, and we have to do certain things to make sure the administrative process works properly. The civil rights groups, ACORN, the ACLU, they object to every — every single safeguard that has been put in place over the past decades to try and ensure the integrity of our election process. And it starts with faulty, fraudulent voter registrations, and it goes on a continuum from there. And they oppose everything to try to make sure that the election process is open, fair and honest.
AMY GOODMAN: Bertha Lewis?
BERTHA LEWIS: Again, Miss Mitchell can say what she wants; it doesn’t make it fact. We do agree that we want it open.
CLETA MITCHELL: It is factual. We can support the facts.
BERTHA LEWIS: She has not presented any facts. We do want it open. We do want people to be able to participate. And I hope that Ms. Mitchell —-
CLETA MITCHELL: So do we.
BERTHA LEWIS: —- and her Republican colleagues —-
CLETA MITCHELL: So do I.
BERTHA LEWIS: —- would join ACORN and other civil rights organizations in making sure that the local elected officials have the resources and the manpower —-
CLETA MITCHELL: Mm-hmm.
BERTHA LEWIS: —- and their regulations to be able to assist organizations and individuals, like ACORN, to actually register votes. We want those rolls clean. We want those rolls to be accurate.
CLETA MITCHELL: So do we.
BERTHA LEWIS: And we don’t want people thrown off —-
CLETA MITCHELL: So do we.
BERTHA LEWIS: —- or purged. So, join us in making sure that every person that’s eligible to register is registered, and if they’re registered, that they vote.
CLETA MITCHELL: We agree with that. But what we don’t believe in is allowing these rolls to be swelled, so that you have in some jurisdictions more people on the voter rolls than there are eligible citizens in that jurisdiction to vote. That’s a big problem.
BERTHA LEWIS: Let’s make sure that the local governments take care of that, because they’re getting taxpayer dollars.
CLETA MITCHELL: That’s right.
BERTHA LEWIS: I think that that’s their job. And I think we should assist them to make sure that they are able to maintain the right records. Don’t you agree, Ms. Mitchell?
CLETA MITCHELL: I agree. And I think they need to get rid of fictitious names that are on voter registration cards turned in by ACORN workers over the past several decades.
BERTHA LEWIS: I do, too. I agree.
CLETA MITCHELL: So, purging is a good thing. It cleans — clean my closet, get rid of things you don’t need, clean the voter rolls, get rid of names of people who don’t exist, who have moved away, who have not voted. That is not a violation of civil rights; that is a protection of the integrity of every American’s right to vote.
BERTHA LEWIS: And we want to protect those who are eligible.
CLETA MITCHELL: If we could work together to do that, that’s important. I agree.
BERTHA LEWIS: Those who are eligible to vote —-
CLETA MITCHELL: I agree.
BERTHA LEWIS: —- and those who have registered, we want to make sure that they are protected and that they are not purged off the rolls. As Miss Mitchell knows —-
CLETA MITCHELL: If they don’t -— if they don’t vote after —-
BERTHA LEWIS: —- in Florida and across the country, that has happened, and that is a fact.
CLETA MITCHELL: That’s not true.
AMY GOODMAN: Cleta Mitchell, let me ask you a question about the former US Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. Ultimately, he was forced to quit over the scandal around the firing of US attorneys. Now, that scandal —-
CLETA MITCHELL: A media-created scandal, I would say.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, that, in the firing of these attorneys, came down to these attorneys, Republican US attorneys around the country, saying that they were being pressured to investigate these -— what they, you know, called voter fraud cases that turned out not to be voter fraud cases, like the US attorney of New Mexico, the Republican US attorney, David Iglesias, who said he was wrongfully fired because he failed to indict ACORN members for voter fraud. So this really has been going on for quite a long time. And ultimately, the casualty of this was the US Attorney General, because his own US attorneys around the country said that the voter fraud evidence was not there, that they couldn’t prosecute the cases that the Bush administration was pushing them to prosecute.
CLETA MITCHELL: Let me tell you a little-known fact that I think is all tied up in this, and frankly, I have — this is another thing I’ve testified to Congress about. I believe very strongly that this was a media-created frenzy of this whole idea of these US attorneys. I’ll be interested to see if a President Obama keeps all the Republican US attorneys and whether the media makes a big deal when he fires them all, as Janet Reno and Bill Clinton did when President Clinton took over and fired all the Bush US attorneys in 1992.
But let me just say this. The Justice Department has had apparently a longstanding policy of not investigating individual instances of voter fraud. That policy was changed in the last — at some point in the last two to three years to say, like any other criminal offense, if you don’t investigate individual instances, you may not uncover a scheme or a concerted pattern and practice of an intent to violate the law. And so, they changed the policy. ACORN, other civil rights groups have been furious at the Justice Department for changing that policy to say, we will investigate these individual instances of voter fraud, because that’s the only way we’re ever going to uncover any criminal scheme of voter fraud.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me just — let me just —-
CLETA MITCHELL: And that policy has changed, and I believe very strongly that part of this effort to pressure was -— had been a part of the effort to say there is no voter fraud, therefore anyone who investigates it must be a racist; that’s the only reason you could possibly be investigating it.
AMY GOODMAN: Just a clarification on the point you made whether — if Barack Obama became president, he would fire US attorneys.
CLETA MITCHELL: Mm-hmm.
AMY GOODMAN: You were correct on Clinton firing the attorneys, as Bush did when he came in.
CLETA MITCHELL: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: The issue wasn’t when a new administration —-
CLETA MITCHELL: Because they served -—
AMY GOODMAN: No, no, no. The issue wasn’t when a new administration comes in, whether they’re entitled to fire the attorneys; it’s all of these attorneys were fired mid-term, not when Bush first came in. These were all the Bush appointments that they fired in the next — after the next election, and they alleged it was because of their refusing to, though they investigated for years, prosecute these voter registration cases.
But let me go to a victory for the Republican Party: a federal appeals court yesterday —-
CLETA MITCHELL: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —- ordering Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner setting up a system by Friday to verify the eligibility of new voters and make the information available to the state’s eighty-eight county election boards. The 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling that Brunner must use other government records to check new voters for fraud.
We interviewed the Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, last week and asked her to respond to allegations of ACORN’s involvement in fraudulent voter registration in Ohio.
JENNIFER BRUNNER: We have things built into our law so that anytime someone registers, even if they register and vote on the same day, a notification card is sent to them at their address. If that card comes back, that certainly puts that registration into question. The poll book is marked, and if that person were to show up at the polling place, Ohio law now requires that Ohioans show ID, although our ID law is much more liberal than, for instance, Indiana’s.
So — and then also our boards of elections do enter those voter registration applications into a database that automatically is sent to the Secretary of State’s database. We’re connected with T1 lines. We run that, of course, through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, who sends it on to the Social Security Administration if it can’t get a match on driver’s license.
So, we think there are some excellent safeguards built into the law, but our own experience with ACORN in Ohio is there have been some problems in the past, but the person who we work with when there are questions from ACORN is Katy Gall, who is a very experienced and conscientious, and we’ve had nothing but good experiences working with her.
AMY GOODMAN: We also have a sound bite of the vice-presidential candidate, Republican Party, Sarah Palin, on the Rush Limbaugh show. She’s making accusations about ACORN and Obama financing ACORN.
GOV. SARAH PALIN: ...talk quickly about ACORN and the unconscionable situation that we’re facing right now with voter fraud. And given the ties between Obama and ACORN and the money that his campaign has sent them and the job that he had with them in the past, Obama has a responsibility to rein in ACORN and prove that he’s willing to fight voter fraud. We called him on it —
RUSH LIMBAUGH: He’s not going to do it. He’s not going to do that. He has been paying for them. He’s not going to rein them in. This is why you guys have to have the responsibility. Obama is not going to do anything to harm himself.
AMY GOODMAN: And now let’s turn to Senator Obama himself. He responded on Tuesday to a reporter’s questions about his relationship with ACORN and charges of voter fraud.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA: First of all, my relationship to ACORN is pretty straightforward. It’s probably thirteen years ago, when I was still practicing law, I represented ACORN, and my partner in that representation was the US Justice Department, in having Illinois implement what was called the “Motor Voter” law, to make sure that people could go to DMVs and driver’s license facilities to get registered. It wasn’t being implemented. That was my relationship and is my relationship to ACORN.
There is an ACORN organization in Chicago. They have been active. As an elected official, I’ve had interactions with them. But they’re not advising our campaign. We’ve got the best voter registration and turnout and volunteer operation in politics right now, and we don’t need ACORN’s help.
My understanding, by the way, in terms of the voter fraud, because having run a voter registration drive, I know how problems arise, this is typically a situation where ACORN probably paid people to get registrations, and these folks, not wanting to actually register people, because that’s actually hard work, just went into a phone book or made up names and submitted false registrations to get paid. So there’s been fraud perpetrated on probably ACORN, if they paid these individuals and they actually didn’t do registrations. But this isn’t a situation where there’s actually people who are going to try to vote, because these are phony names. And, you know, it’s doubtful that Tony Roma is going to show up in Ohio to vote. So, you know, this is another one of these distractions that gets stirred up during the course of a campaign.
But what I want to make sure of, though, is that this is not used as an excuse for the kind of voter suppression strategies and tactics that we’ve seen in the past. Let’s just make sure everybody is voting, everybody is registered. Let’s make sure that everybody’s doing it in a lawful way.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Senator Barack Obama. Cleta Mitchell?
CLETA MITCHELL: Well, you know, he can say that he’s — ACORN isn’t advising his campaign. Then, pray tell, why did his campaign pay an ACORN organization over $800,000 and misidentify it so as to attempt to conceal it and was only forced by a media report to then go back and amend the FEC report to disclose the payment? So, I mean, that’s a flat lie. That’s a flat lie.
AMY GOODMAN: Bertha Lewis, let’s put that question to you.
BERTHA LEWIS: First of all, once again, Ms. Mitchell and the Republicans can claim whatever they want, because they don’t want facts to get into the way. ACORN was never paid by the Obama campaign. The Obama campaign hired an organization called Citizens Services to do get-out-the-vote efforts right during the primaries. And ACORN might have gotten maybe $80,000 from that organization, who also worked with a host of other organizations to do get-out-the-vote work. So, again, these are allegations, and we are being used to beat up on Mr. Obama, which I think is really scurrilous, and I think the Republicans really should be ashamed of themselves for making that kind of allegation.
AMY GOODMAN: Before we end this discussion, Cleta Mitchell, I want to ask you about the issue of voter suppression and the effect that this has when people become afraid to go to the polls. A federal judge says Michigan officials have to restore close to 1,500 newly registered state residents who were purged from the voting rolls. The residents’ names had been removed from the rolls because the US post office had returned their registration cards as undeliverable. This from a piece in the Detroit Free Press. US District Judge Stephen Murphy telling Michigan officials to immediately halt the practice. And this issue around the country, Cleta Mitchell?
CLETA MITCHELL: Well, you just interviewed the Ohio Secretary of State, who contends that — and she opposed, she fought and argued against what the federal appeals court did yesterday, because she said, well, we have these safeguards when ACORN and other groups turn in these new registrations; we send a piece of mail to see if it’s returned, and if it’s returned, we flag that as a problem, so that if that person shows up at the polls to vote, we have — we ask about that, we ask for identification.
Now, you’re just saying exactly — she’s saying, well, we have these safeguards. You’re raising a question about the safeguards. And it’s a continuum, it’s a process, it’s a system. And the left opposes every single safeguard. There is a federal — there’s a bill that’s been introduced by Senator Whitehouse from Rhode Island, Democrat from Rhode Island, to prohibit local election officials from doing what they call "caging," which is sending postcards to new registrants to make sure they’re real. Every safeguard is considered against some mythical view — it constitutes suppression. No, it constitutes making sure we have safeguards against voter fraud —-
AMY GOODMAN: Bertha Lewis, final comment?
CLETA MITCHELL: —- that begins with voter registration fraud.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have thirty seconds.
BERTHA LEWIS: Over a million new voters will vote in this most exciting and historic election. There are some people in this country who see a changing electoral demographic. We should be excited by this. The allegations of fraud are just that: they’re allegations. It’s manufactured. It’s being done by the Republicans in a very aggressive manner.
But you know what? We’re proud that 1.3 million new voters will be coming out. We’re proud that the majority of our 13,000 workers did very great work. We are proud that we are going to be able to have citizens that have formerly been disenfranchised to be enfranchised. And we want to tell everyone, if you’re not registered, register. And if you are, vote.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to leave it there. Very much appreciate both of you being a part of this discussion. Bertha Lewis, chief organizer for ACORN, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now; and Cleta Mitchell, lawyer specializing in election law, served on the board of directors of the American Conservative Union —-
CLETA MITCHELL: I currently serve.
AMY GOODMAN: —- and the national Board of Governors for the Republican National Lawyers Association — currently serves on the Conservative Union board.
CLETA MITCHELL: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you both.