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Voter Group to Oust Some Felons

June 25, 2004|From Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A political group that paid felons to conduct door-to-door voter registration drives with the aim of ousting President Bush in November pledged Thursday to weed out anyone convicted of violent or serious offenses.

America Coming Together announced a new policy for background checks after it was reported that it had used people convicted of burglary, assault and sex offenses to canvass neighborhoods in at least three election swing states -- Missouri, Florida and Ohio. It declined to define what it considers violent or serious offenses under the new policy.

Since spring, "our policy has been that we're not going to employ violent felons," the group's Washington-based spokesman Mo Elliethee said Thursday. "We're going to conduct this background check to ensure we're not."

ACT is an independent group not affiliated with the campaign of Democratic candidate Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts. Although federal law forbids a campaign to coordinate activities with such groups, veteran Democratic political operatives work for the group.

The Kerry campaign said Wednesday it was unaware of ACT's hiring practices and had nothing to do with them. ACT plans to spend about $100 million on initiatives to get out the vote and boost Kerry's chances.

ACT employs about 1,000 canvassers in 17 swing states, paying them $8 to $12 an hour to ask residents which issues are important to them and, if they are not registered, sign them up as voters. Employees gather telephone numbers and other personal information -- birthdates, driver's license numbers or partial Social Security numbers, depending on each state's requirements for voter registration.

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