Completed voter-registration forms stolen from group

Posted 6/24/2008 05:43:00 PM

Ninety completed voter-registration applications that included Social Security numbers and dates of birth were stolen over the weekend from the Las Cruces office of an independent voter-registration group.

As a result, ACORN plans to send letters to those whose applications were stolen to inform them of the situation. The letters will include blank applications that can be filled out and mailed directly to the county clerk’s office.

The group has the ability to send such letters because it keeps track of the information of those it registers “in order to ensure they get placed successfully on the voter rolls,” according to a news release from the group.

“We don’t want anything to stand in the way of new voters participating in the upcoming election,” ACORN Board Member Mark Gerring said in the news release, “so while we are outraged that someone would take new voters’ applications, we can at least be sure that all of these future voters can have another opportunity to complete an application and mail it directly to the county clerk.”

The burglary was discovered about 8 p.m. Friday. Matthew Henderson, the head of ACORN in New Mexico, said the incident was immediately reported to police. He said ACORN rents space in the Las Cruces office of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the only item stolen from either office was the locked box containing the 90 voter-registration applications.

Henderson said the group assumes the burglary was random and that the thief stole the box because he or she believed it contained money. He said police are investigating.

County spokesman Jess Williams said the burglary reveals a problem in state law, which doesn’t regulate groups that conduct independent voter-registration drives or the security measures they use to protect personal information.

“The problem is that the statute is wide open. You could drive a truck through it. And bureaus of elections and the secretary of state have no control over who conducts voter-registration drives,” Williams said. “We’ve got to get the statute changed if we’re going to protect people’s identities.”

Henderson said there were two layers of security protecting the applications: They were stored in a locked box in a locked office. In addition, he said completed applications aren’t kept at the ACORN office for more than 48 hours before they’re submitted to the county clerk. He said ACORN has never had voter-registration applications stolen from an office in New Mexico, though another independent group had applications stolen during the 2004 election cycle.

James Flores, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said his office had not been informed about the burglary. He said he hopes those whose applications were stolen will fill out and submit the second applications ACORN is mailing to them.

“Burglaries happen, but it’s a shame that this happened,” he said. “… I hope it doesn’t deter them from wanting to get involved in the process.”

Earlier this month, Doña Ana County’s Bureau of Elections warned that it had received complaints about misleading voter-registration activities by ACORN employees, a charge ACORN denied.

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At 1:29 PM, June 25, 2008, Blogger Thinker said...

Just a guess here, but I would be looking at the fly-by-night street employees ACORN hires by the job, some of whom might have an idea of just how helpful all that information in the box was for identity theft purposes.


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