HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania's Republican Party yesterday sued the state's top election official and the community-activist group ACORN, accusing the group of fostering voter registration fraud and asserting that the election system lacks adequate safeguards to stop it.

The lawsuit asks the state Commonwealth Court to order the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and its affiliates to provide lists identifying all the voters it registered and to finance public-service announcements to remind first-time voters that they must present identification at the polls.

"The stakes in this action are enormously high: Unless this court acts quickly and decisively, the right to Pennsylvania's 21 electoral votes may be determined by illegal ballots," the lawsuit said.

The GOP lawsuit also asks the court to order Secretary of State Pedro Cortes to ensure that local polling places have extra provisional ballots for prospective voters whose registrations are not processed by the Nov. 4 election.

Provisional ballots are paper ballots that are cast by voters whose eligibility cannot immediately be verified.

GOP officials handed out copies of the lawsuit at a Harrisburg news conference, but it was not filed in state Commonwealth Court until more than three hours later - a fact that a spokesman for Democratic Gov. Rendell said showed that it was politically motivated.

"It certainly tells me that this is far more of an effort to influence public opinion than it is to protect the integrity of the electoral process, which they know to be secure," spokesman Chuck Ardo said.

ACORN is required by law to turn in any voter-registration application that it receives. *