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PA ACLU Files Suit Over Constitutionality of State Voter Registration Law

July 24, 2009

Pittsburgh, PA - Pennsylvania's voter registration law is being targeted in a lawsuit claiming it's unconstitutional and is handcuffing groups trying to enroll more residents to vote. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, conducts voter registration drives in the state by paying workers to get low- and moderate-income residents to sign up. The suit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), challenges the state law that does not allow ACORN or any other group to pay voter registration-drive workers from being paid on the number of applications they collect.

Vic Walczak, legal director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, says ACORN doesn't pay per application, but does consider the number of applications significant.

"The other way to read that law is that you cannot consider the number of registrations that somebody collects in evaluating their performance, which is something that ACORN does."

ACORN's goal, he says, is to get people involved in the political process, who may not get involved otherwise.

"Studies have shown that these voter registration drives are the most-effective way to get more people to register in low- to moderate-income communities."

Propnents say the law is intended to eliminate fraud by discouraging workers from trying to increase their pay by including fake or inaccurate registrations. ACORN takes steps to control such fraud, Walczak says.

"If there's fraud committed by the employees, that's actually a fraud that affects ACORN more than anybody else because they're paying somebody to not do the work they were hired to do."

The suit asks U.S. District Court to declare the law unconstitutional because it's vague and unfair. In May, charges were filed in Allegheny County against several ex-ACORN members for violating the law.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA