Heather S. Heidelbaugh

On July 22, 2009, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) filed a lawsuit in Federal Court in Pittsburgh against the Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett (R), and the District Attorney for Allegheny County, Stephen A. Zappala, Jr. (D) to enjoin these officials from applying a law that makes it a crime for an organization or individual to “give, solicit, or accept payment or financial incentive to obtain a voter registration if the payment or incentive is based upon the number of registrations or applications obtained.” ACORN argues that the law and its enforcement precludes ACORN “from hiring and paying employees to advance the organization’s goal of registering eligible voters, thereby imposing a severe burden on ACORN’s First and Fourteenth Amendment Rights.”

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ACORN has been accused nationally of paying its employees based on the number of voter registrations each employee turns in at the end of the day. If the daily ‘quota’ is not reached, the employee eventually is fired. The Attorney General of Nevada found this practice to be in violation of that state’s anti-quota law and is currently prosecuting ACORN the organization as well as its employees. In Pittsburgh, the District Attorney, Stephen Zappala was investigating whether to charge ACORN, the organization with a violation of the same type of anti-quota law when ACORN filed this lawsuit in federal court.

First, let’s dispense with a couple of technicalities in order to reach the real issue. ACORN asserts that these voter registration drives are non-partisan, but it is clear that ACORN’s registration drives occur in battleground states and target congressional races that are in play. These voter registration drives are driven by partisan politics.

Second, ACORN was able to convince the ACLU to bring this action on their behalf, on what is likely a pro bono basis. I’m sure it’s a coincidence that ACORN and the ACLU sought to declare this statute, on the books for seven years, unconstitutional just at the same time when District Attorney Zappala was investigating ACORN for violation of the statute along with several ACORN employees.


Heather S. Heidelbaugh

Heather Heidelbaugh is a shareholder in the Litigation Services Group of Babst, Calland, Clements and Zomnir, P.C. Her practice primarily focuses on complex litigation, products liability, intellectual property and election law.