King County elections officials said Thursday that nearly 2,000 potentially fraudulent voter registration cards were submitted before the November election by a local branch of a group that's come under fire across the country.
The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now - or ACORN - submitted the 1,829 cards by mail, but they arrived after the Oct. 7 deadline for mailing registration forms and were not processed before the election, King County elections spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said.
Egan said that once the box was opened, election officials grew suspicious.
"Our staff quickly noticed where there were hundreds of forms where the signatures were similar," she said. "It appears they were fraudulently completed by a few individuals."
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A message left with the local organizer of ACORN seeking comment was not immediately returned.
Egan said they immediately contacted the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, which advised elections officials to do a random sample of the registrations.
Egan said an elections employee spent December calling 400 phone numbers that were provided on the cards.
Of the 400 phone numbers, all but two were not good numbers, and those two people denied filling out voter registration cards.
Egan said they were advised by the prosecuting attorneys office and the Secretary of State to flag the registrations, but to go ahead and process them and enter them into the statewide voter database.
"State law tells us how to handle any apparent information and that is to collect that information, enter it into the statewide database and send the information to the prosecuting attorneys office," she said. "At this point, statute doesn't allow election offices the discretion on whether to register an individual."
The database crosschecks the information with the Department of Licensing database, the Department of Health and the Social Security Master Death Index to verify identity.
Egan said that when information comes back as not a match, they have been sending the people letters stating that they need more information before the registration can be complete.
"A vast majority are coming back as undeliverable," she said. "We're collecting information on each one of these registrations and providing files over the next three weeks and sending batches to the prosecuting attorneys office. Ultimately they have the authority to challenge those registrations and pursue actions against them."