Las Vegas Sun

April 24, 2014

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Court upholds conviction in ACORN voter registration case

CARSON CITY — The Nevada Supreme Court has upheld the so-called “blackjack” law that makes it illegal to pay canvassers based on the number of people they get to register to vote.

The law does not a violate the constitutional right to free speech, the court ruled.

It upheld the conviction of Amy Adele Busefink, who was hired in 2008 in Las Vegas by the now defunct Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — ACORN — to help people register to vote.

ACORN originally paid voter canvassers an hourly wage with a goal of registering 20 people to vote. To increase productivity, it adopted a policy providing a $5 bonus for those submitting 21 or more voter registrations. It was nicknamed blackjack after the casino card game.

After receiving complaints of voter fraud, the Secretary of State’s Office conducted an eight-month investigation and filed complaints against ACORN, Busefink and Christopher Edwards, who was described as the “mastermind” of the bonus plan.

The state did not prosecute anybody for submitting fraudulent voter registration because it could not prove which canvassers were involved. But the court said the “evidence demonstrates that the possibility of fraud is real.”

Busefink, who received an extra $65, entered an Alford plea to two counts of conspiracy to violate the law. She was placed on informal probation and required to perform 100 hours of community service.

ACORN was found guilty and fined $5,000 but later filed bankruptcy with only $4,000 in assets.

Edwards pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor offenses and was placed on three years’ probation.

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