The Hennepin County Attorney's office said today it is investigating whether a voter registration processing lapse at the Minnesota ACORN office falls within guidelines for criminal prosecution.

A malfunctioning scanner at ACORN's St. Paul offices in August created a backlog that caused a batch of cards to be submitted late to the Hennepin County Elections Board.

All of the registrations were processed in time to allow voters to participate in both the primary and general elections. None was discarded for fraud or ineligibility.

Despite the recent controversy over ACORN voter registration practices, the grass-roots community organization's policies appear to be in compliance with state law, Deputy Hennepin County Attorney Pat Diamond said this afternoon. If the county finds cause for prosecution, it likely would focus on individuals. Diamond declined to speculate what kinds of charges could be pursued, or what kind of penalty would be possible.

Organizations are given a 10-day filing period intended to prevent a last-minute backlog of registrations at county elections offices. ACORN officials declined to say exactly how many cards were affected, or how far outside the window they were submitted.

ACORN executive director Brandon Nesson estimated the batch as "less than 1,000," and the timing as "within a month."

In its voter registration drive, which began in January and ended Tuesday, Minnesota ACORN registered about 43,000 new voters, a figure it boasts is 75 percent of the state's new registrations.

Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409