Amid national outcries over alleged voter-registration fraud, Delaware County officials announced the arrest yesterday of a 34-year-old Chester man for election-related offenses.

Delaware County District Attorney G. Michael Green said Jemar Barksdale, an ex-employee of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), turned in voter-registration cards for 18 already-registered voters, altering information and forging signatures.

Green said election officials contacted his office, which began an investigation in July and concluded that Barksdale also submitted 22 forms for fictitious people. An ACORN spokesperson said the group brought the case to the attention of county election officials in June.

Barksdale's charges include theft by deception, forgery, and unsworn falsification to authorities, Green said.

Representatives of ACORN, an advocacy group for low-income and minority citizens that says it put 1.3 million new voters on the rolls in the past 15 months, said they were not surprised. The group's mainly low-income work force is paid $8 an hour to solicit registrations.

"Workers are told that we will not tolerate fraud and that we will cooperate with authorities," said Krista Holab, political director of Pennsylvania ACORN. "We tell them a felony is not worth $8 an hour."

Holab said staffers immediately noticed problems when trying to verify information on the cards Barksdale submitted, and he was fired after eight days on the job.

"We called it to the attention of the Board of Elections in June," she said. "It's unfortunate that it has taken this many months for the D.A. to take action."

Holab said ACORN is required to submit the cards to election officials even if fraud is suspected.

"It's the job of the Bureau of Elections to make that determination," she said.

ACORN has come under fire nationally in recent weeks for what Republicans have called a pattern of voter fraud, sparking protest from Democrats and groups such as the ACLU, which has accused the GOP of over-reaching and fear-mongering.

Last Friday, Pennsylvania's Republican Party sued the state's top election official and ACORN, alleging that ACORN fostered voter-registration fraud. During the last presidential debate, presidential candidate John McCain said ACORN "is now on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history in this country, maybe destroying the fabric of democracy."

The Delaware County district attorney, a Republican, said the delay in arresting Barksdale stemmed from procedural, not political, issues, but he declined to elaborate. He said the alleged crimes probably would not affect anyone's right to vote.

According to court records, Barksdale has a history of drug convictions. Green said Barksdale faces decades in prison if convicted of all the charges.