Thursday, October 28, 2004

Oregon: More Problems With GOP Funded Voter Registration Drive Surface

October 28, 2004

Salem college students say their registrations were switched

SALEM, Ore. - Dozens of Salem-area college students say they unknowingly registered to vote as Republicans this month after signing what they thought were petitions to bring down car insurance rates.

Western Oregon University student Kati Bennett told the Statesman Journal in Salem that she was walking to class when she was asked to sign a petition to lower car insurance rates, and told she had to fill in a little card asking for her party affiliation.

The 18-year-old Bennett said she checked "nonpartisan", but the canvasser crossed that out.

Bennett is planning to vote for President Bush, but said she was upset that her party registration was changed against her will.

Polk County elections manager Val Unger said she has heard of five stories similar to Bennett's, all involving a fake petition to reduce car insurance rates.

Unger got suspicious when she received a stack of more than 400 voter registration cards submitted at the Oct. 12 deadline, all marked Republican.

She said more than half of the registration cards turned out to be for people who had previously registered, many as Democrats or independents. Two or three cards had the party affiliation crossed out and "Republican" was checked in its place, Unger said.

Similar complaints about switched voter registrations are emerging from around the state; some of them have been traced to canvassers paid by the Republican Party for each GOP registration card they collect.

"I think there were various goofy things that happened in a lot of places," said John Lindback, state Elections Division director. "How widespread it was, I don't know."

Changing political party affiliations without consent is unethical, but it's a waste of time as a political tactic, said Andi Miller, executive director of Common Cause of Oregon, a campaign watchdog group.

That's because voters still will get ballots and cast them the way they want, she said.

Both Democrat-leaning groups and the Republicans paid canvassers to collect voter registration cards in Oregon this year. However, Democratic groups were paid by the hour while the group hired by the Republican National Committee, Arizona-based Sproul & Associates, paid for each GOP card collected.

Sproul & Associates officials have denied any wrongdoing.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


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