Strategic Allied Consulting officials say that with 2,000 contractors registering voters in Florida, there are bound to be some bad apples.
That defense was also used by ACORN, which disbanded in 2010, six months after video footage emerged showing some of its workers giving tax tips to conservative activists posing as a pimp and prostitute.
ACORN, founded in 1970, was an advocate for left-leaning causes, but was not affiliated with the Democratic Party.
Its successes made it a target for conservatives. During the 2008 election, ACORN claimed it signed up 1.3 million voters, but it was later revealed that 30 percent were rejected.
In Washington state, prosecutors got ACORN to pay $25,000 for costs of an investigation that led to felony charges against seven people for submitting phony applications for celebrities like actress Katie Holmes and New York Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera.
The prosecutor concluded it was no grand conspiracy, just a case of workers cheating ACORN to get paid for work they didn’t do. ACORN workers in Nevada filed forms for bogus applicants, such as the Dallas Cowboys football team, which led to a $5,000 fine.
Reports of ACORN problems were widespread in Florida. Orange County officials said they got a form that registered “Mickey Mouse” to vote. ACORN officials told the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) in 2008 that the form did not come from them. Linda Tanko, who oversaw the voter-registration forms in Orange County, remembers that ACORN’s applications were in disarray.
“We found lots and lots of the forms having street issues, their addresses weren’t matching the valid range of house numbers on a street,” Tanko said. “One person had a dozen or so applications. There were some that were grossly incomplete.”
Tanko could not recall, however, whether anyone was found guilty of fraudulent registration. In Broward County, 8 percent of ACORN’s 16,000 voter registration forms could not be verified, but elections officials there did not suspect fraud.
In the Miami-Dade case prosecuted by Centorino, 11 ACORN workers were charged with falsifying information on hundreds of forms, with penalties ranging from probation to 125 days in jail.
“It strikes me as a very similar scenario as to what’s happening now,” Centorino said. “These people are getting paid minimal salaries and don’t necessarily come with a background where you can trust they will do what they’re supposed to do. . . . But they were low-level. Was this a bigger conspiracy? We didn’t find that.”