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March 5, 2015

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ACORN, ACLU suit could have Nevada implications

Pennsylvania case also involved alleged quota system

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit today in Pennsylvania that could affect a criminal case in Nevada.

The two groups are seeking to strike down a Pennsylvania law used to prosecute voter-registration workers who allegedly used a quota system in the Pittsburgh area. The suit names Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett and Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala Jr. as defendants.

The Nevada Attorney General’s Office has charged ACORN and two former employees for allegedly employing a similar quota system in the Las Vegas area during the 2008 presidential campaign.

In May, Nevada Chief Deputy Attorney General Conrad Hafen filed 13 felony charges each against the organization and former employees, Christopher Edwards and Amy Busefink, for allegedly paying bonuses to canvassers for exceeding a daily quota of 20 registrations and for firing employees who failed to meet the target.

ACORN officials have said 20 registrations was a benchmark and not a hard quota that determined employment or compensation.

Each charge carries a maximum $5,000 fine and mandatory probation.

Hafen declined to comment on the lawsuit saying he wasn’t sure how it might impact his case at this time.

Voter registration quotas and incentives are illegal in Nevada. They are in Pennsylvania, too, but Witold “Vic” Walczak, the ACLU’s legal director in Pennsylvania, released a statement saying the law barring those practices places an unconstitutional burden on collecting voter registrations.

“This law, which prevents ACORN from using commonplace management tools like performance standards and productivity goals to manage paid employees, does nothing to prevent election problems but does impose a major burden on constitutionally protected political activity,” he said.

Allegheny County’s Zappala charged five fired ACORN workers and two others with collecting or submitting bogus forms so workers could meet the alleged daily quota. All seven defendants are awaiting trial.

ACORN and other groups sued officials in Indiana and New Mexico earlier this month alleging those states violated federal laws by denying residents the ability to register to vote when they applied for public assistance or driver’s licenses.

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