Ex-canvasser: FieldWorks boss 'didn't really care how we got our quota'

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A paid FieldWorks LLC worker canvasses for registered voters. State police raided the Norwood office of FieldWorks, a national organization that often does street work for Democrats, looking for signs of voter fraud.

When Ruthann Alexander got a political canvassing job this summer with a Democratic political organizing group, she was told to register 18 new voters a day.

But she said she usually returned to FieldWorks' Norwood office in Delaware County with just three to five new registrations after a six hour shift.

After several weeks, she was fired for not hitting the target numbers.

Pennsylvania State Police have served search warrants at FieldWorks' offices in Norwood and Philadelphia in the last week, looking for evidence of voter-registration fraud.

To Alexander, news of the investigation was not surprising. The pressure from managers to reach goals was intense, she said.

"They called it 'a daily goal,'" she said. "They didn't use the word quota, but it was a quota."

Goals were stressed at trainings and meetings, Alexander said.

"The manager told me and she told the room full of people that she didn't really care how we got our quota," she said. "I'm guessing she meant within reason, but she did say to me, especially when she was telling me that I needed to make my numbers, she told me she was under a lot of pressure."

Alexander, 25, of West Philadelphia, said usually she was sent to canvass in front of City Hall or along Broad Street.

"They were telling us when we canvassed on the street they were telling us it's okay to say, 'oh we have a quota and to kind of guilt people into signing,'" she said.

Alexander, who provided the Inquirer with one of her pay stubs so verify that she worked at FieldWorks for a wage of $13 per hour, said she had trouble finding more than five people to register as new voters in a day. The most she got in was 10, which was still short of her daily target.

Alexander recalled one woman who often returned to the office with 30 or 35 registration forms -- after standing at the same locations as Alexander for six hours.

"It makes you wonder about her methods, if maybe there was some fraud involved," she said.

Under Pennsylvania law, paying people to get voter registrations based on quotas is illegal.

"A person may not 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," the law states.

FieldWorks did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. Earlier this week, a spokesman said this week that the company has "zero tolerance for fraud" and would work with law enforcement officials "to seek the prosecution of anyone involved in wrongdoing."

In 2009, the community organizing group ACORN filed a federal lawsuit seeking to overturn the Pennsylvania statue prohibiting workers from being paid to collect a certain number of registrations, after that statute was used to prosecute ACORN employees for filling out fraudulent voter registration applications.

At FieldWorks' Norwood office, Alexander said her managers were kind, but appeared to be under a great deal of pressure to meet certain goals. When she struggled to meet goals, she was given extra training -- and warnings.

"The week before I was fired (a manager) said to me, 'You know, if you don't make the 18 the next time you come in ... then that's it,'" she said.

When she was let go a week later, the manager took her outside behind the building.

"She was nice about it," Alexander said. "Then she gave me a letter of termination."