By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
A district judge who held another ACORN worker for trial Monday on election law violations urged prosecutors to go after the real culprit, the organization that employed him.
"Somebody has to go after ACORN," Senior District Judge Richard H. Zoller said about the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now.
"It's happening all over the country. All you have to do is turn on the television," he said, referring to voter registration fraud charges brought recently against ACORN and its workers in Nevada.
"We will," Allegheny County Detective Robert F. Keenan promised as he wrapped up his testimony.
A spokesman for District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. said following the hearing that the county's investigation into members of ACORN and their activities during the 2008 campaign "remains open and active."
"(T)here is quite a bit of activity aimed at determining if anyone else should be charged," Zappala's spokesman Mike Manko said.
Eric E. Jordan, 20, of North Braddock became the sixth person ordered to face trial in Allegheny County. He is charged with soliciting a voter registration and interfering with county voter registration officials by submitted applications for himself in order to meet his quota for registrations. A seventh defendant faces a preliminary hearing next month.
Zappala claims the ACORN canvassers engaged in voter registration fraud and a quota system for registrations, which is barred by state law.
Olga Salvatori, Jordan's attorney, told the judge her client did not know a quota system was illegal. She said Jordan was told he had to bring in a set number of registrations each day or he would be fired.
"ACORN should be charged, not my client," Salvatori said.
But, argued Assistant District Attorney Matthew Robinowitz: "By accepting a job with a quota, he violated the law."
Salvatori argued that Jordan didn't "interfere" with anyone because all he did was resubmit his own voter registration three times, changing his address or party affiliation.
ACORN officials repeatedly have denied the organization imposed a quota system on workers, although they have acknowledged they had "standards" canvassers were expected to maintain. They did not respond yesterday to requests for comment.
Salvatori said after the hearing it was unfair that her client and other workers were charged for such technical violations.
"I didn't even know a quota was illegal until I looked it up," she said. "They go into poor neighborhoods and sign these people up. They tell them they have to meet minimum standards. How would (the workers) know what the law is?"
Keenan testified that he questioned Jordan last spring about suspect voter registrations he filed. He said Jordan, who was in custody on unrelated charges, acknowledged during the interview that he had to get 10 to 12 registrations per day or he would be fired.
Jordan attended the hearing but did not testify.
County Elections Division Director Mark Wolosik testified that every time a voter registration application was submitted or resubmitted, county workers had to process the application and generate a voter card and other paperwork.