ACORN and its “affiliate”, Project Vote, claimed that they have registered over 1.3 million new voters in this election cycle.  Even when counting Mickey Mouse and the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys, the New York Times found that ACORN lied about its efforts.  Instead, the number comes to a third of their claims, at best:

On Oct. 6, the community organizing group Acorn and an affiliated charity called Project Vote announced with jubilation that they had registered 1.3 million new voters. But it turns out the claim was a wild exaggeration, and the real number of newly registered voters nationwide is closer to 450,000, Project Vote’s executive director, Michael Slater, said in an interview.

The remainder are registered voters who were changing their address and roughly 400,000 that were rejected by election officials for a variety of reasons, including duplicate registrations, incomplete forms and fraudulent submissions from low-paid field workers trying to please their supervisors, Mr. Slater acknowledged.

In registration drives, it is common for a percentage of newly registered voters to be disqualified for various reasons, although experts say the percentage is higher when groups pay workers to gather registrations. But the disclosure on Thursday that 30 percent of Acorn’s registrations were faulty was described by Republicans as further proof of what they said was Acorn’s effort to tilt the election unfairly.

“We were wondering how many were Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse,” said Danny Diaz, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee. “The group is really tainted, and any work they do is suspect.”

That 30% figure is what ACORN admits.  The various county boards that have had to investigate ACORN’s work would probably have a higher estimate.  ACORN’s work in more than a dozen states, with tens of thousands of registrations in some individual instances, has prompted criminal investigations into fraud and forgery.

On one hand, this should calm some fears about ACORN’s impact on the election.  If they spent a year and only got 450,000 legitimate registrations, that’s a relatively low figure.  Considering their goals, it’s a massive failure.

However, it still leaves some questions unanswered.  People scoff at the notion that voter registration fraud leads to actual voter fraud, but voter fraud starts at the registration process.  Who funded this massive effort through ACORN, and why?  And do they have a Plan B?

Looking long-term, the fraud rate for ACORN and other third-party “community organizers” should prompt counties and states to put an end to their activities.  Third-party registration efforts threaten the credibility of our elections.  The registrars should have sole responsibility for registering voters, just the same way the DMV has the sole responsibility for licensing drivers.  They can conduct outreach efforts themselves and supervise registrations a lot more effectively than partisan organizations do now.  If we value the legitimacy of citizen-elected government, we need to put tighter controls on participation to ensure that only citizens vote, and only vote once.