A private voter-registration organization with offices in several key battleground states has been accused of misrepresentation, tearing up registration forms filled out by Democrats, and misleading potential voters to register as Republicans.
Voters Outreach of America — an organization reportedly run by Nathan Sproul, the former head of the Arizona Republican Party — has run registration drives in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Florida and Nevada. These registration drives are often run under the name "America Votes," which is a problem, since America Votes is an actual nonpartisan political organization.
"Voters Outreach is not in any way, shape or form associated with us. They called themselves America Votes when they were registering voters," said Carrie Sandstedt, the Nevada director of America Votes. "We've actually sent out a letter to Sproul & Associates [Sproul's Arizona-based political consulting firm] asking them to stop calling themselves America Votes."
The letter, written by America Votes President Cecile Richards, accuses Sproul & Associates of running a registration drive in Nevada under the name "Voters Outreach for America (a.k.a. 'America Votes')" and of "destroying registration forms completed by Democrats." In Nevada, Sproul & Associates employed as many as 300 part-time workers to register voters outside of malls, grocery stores and government buildings. One employee said he witnessed a supervisor rip up and throw away registration forms filled out by Democrats.
"We caught her taking Democrats out of my pile, she handed them to her assistant, and he ripped them up right in front of us," former Voters Outreach of America employee Eric Russell told Las Vegas CBS affiliate KLAS-TV. "I grabbed some of them out of the garbage and she tells her assistant to get those from me."
In West Virginia, Lisa Bragg, a temporary worker hired by Sproul & Associates through a personnel service, told The Charleston Gazette that she felt her employers were "misleading the public."
She explained that she was hired to approach customers at One Stop convenience stores and ask them if they favored George W. Bush or John Kerry for president. If the answer was Bush, she was told to inquire if the person was registered to vote and to offer them a voter registration card. If the answer was Kerry, then she was told to thank the person for their time and not to offer a registration card unless asked specifically.
"Is that the way it has to be?" Bragg said. "People have to be sneaky for $9 an hour?"
Nathan Sproul did not return phone calls by press time. However, when a reporter for The Mail Tribune in Jackson County, Oregon, was investigating a claim by a librarian that Sproul & Associates had contacted her claiming they were working for Vote America and wanted to set up a registration booth in the library, Sproul denied that his organization meant any harm when it chose the name Vote America.
"You telling me that they even exist was really the first time I'd heard it," Sproul said. "If they even just pick up the phone and call ... we would change it in a heartbeat."
Sproul went on to say he was just trying to get more people registered to vote, and was not promoting any issue, candidate or party.Posted by MK Magazine at October 16, 2004 01:26 PM