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GOP in Pa. sues ACORN

October 18, 2008

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania's Republican Party sued the state's top election official and the community activist group ACORN, accusing the group of fostering voter registration fraud and asserting that the election system lacks adequate safeguards to stop it.

"The stakes in this action are enormously high: Unless this court acts quickly and decisively, the right to Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes may be determined by illegal ballots," said the lawsuit filed Friday in Commonwealth Court.

Key Democrats dismissed the suit as a GOP ploy to unnecessarily alarm voters at a time when polls in this battleground state show Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama with a double-digit lead over Republican John McCain. The Nov. 4 election is less than three weeks away.

"The Republicans' frivolous lawsuit is not about voter protection," said Democratic State Chairman T.J. Rooney. "It's about the Republicans' realization that Pennsylvanians have had enough of the failed economic policies of George Bush and John McCain."

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The lawsuit asks the court to order ACORN and its affiliates to provide lists identifying all the voters it registered and to finance public-service announcements to remind first-time voters that they must present identification at the polls.

The suit also asks the court to order Secretary of State Pedro Cortes to be sure local polling places have extra provisional ballots for prospective voters whose registrations are not processed by Election Day. And it suggests - but does not ask the court to order - that Cortes halt processing of registration applications collected by ACORN and require those people to cast provisional ballots.

Provisional ballots are paper ballots that are cast by voters whose eligibility cannot immediately be verified. They are set aside, reviewed after the election and, if the voters' credentials are confirmed, added to the totals.

The lawsuit says problems with the computerized statewide voter registry have interfered with local officials' ability to process the record number of registrations that Pennsylvania has seen this year.

The court scheduled an initial hearing, on a procedural motion, for Thursday.

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