JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A Democratic group crucial to Sen. John F. Kerry's presidential campaign has paid felons -- some convicted of sex offenses, assault and burglary -- to conduct door-to-door voter registration drives in at least three election swing states.
America Coming Together, contending that convicted criminals deserve a second chance in society, employs felons as voter canvassers in major metropolitan areas in Missouri, Florida, Ohio and perhaps in other states among the 17 it is targeting in its drive. Some of the felons lived in halfway houses, and at least four returned to prison.
Canvassers ask residents which issues are important to them and, if residents are not registered, they can sign them up as voters. They gather telephone numbers and other personal information, such as driver's license numbers or partial Social Security numbers, depending on what a state requires for voter registration.
Felons on probation or parole are ineligible to vote in many states. Doug Lewis, executive director of the Election Center, which represents election officials, said he was unaware of any laws against felons registering other people to vote.
A review of federal campaign finance and state criminal records revealed that the names and hometowns of dozens of ACT employees in Missouri, Florida and Ohio matched those of people convicted of crimes such as burglary, forgery, drug dealing, assault and sex offenses.
Although it works against the reelection of President Bush, ACT is not affiliated with the Kerry campaign. Yet ACT is stocked with Democratic political operatives, many with past ties to Kerry and his advisors.
Allison Dobson, a spokeswoman for the Kerry campaign, said there was no coordination with ACT. "We're unaware of it and have nothing to do with it," she said.