By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org
A staff person working on the president’s re-election campaign helped an undercover journalist register to vote for Barack Obama in Florida despite the reporter’s expressed intention to vote twice in the hotly contested presidential race, video reviewed by Watchdog.org shows.
Casting more than one ballot in the same election is a violation of federal and state statutes. Experts said helping someone violate election law is also a crime.
The video, produced by independent journalist James O’Keefe, also shows Democratic activists helping register in New York an undercover reporter who says he’s going to vote twice — in Minnesota and in New York.
But the most arresting footage shows an Organizing for America staffer in the group’s Houston office providing a video journalist with an application to request a Florida mail-in ballot, even though the journalist has made it clear she intends also to vote in Texas.
O’Keefe, whose Project Veritas organization produced the video, identified the OFA staffer as Stephanie Caballero. Documents reviewed by Watchdog.org, and included in the video, indicate that Caballero is on the payroll of the Democratic National Committee.
When the undercover reporter declares that she intends to vote twice in the general election, Caballero laughs. She asks the reporter, “Are you going to do what I think you’re going to do?”
“Well,” the reporter replies, “I mean, if no one’s going to know . . . .”
Caballero laughs and replies, “You’re so hilarious.”
“I have several friends who have done that and they said that it’s no problem so I figure . . . no one knows,” the undercover reporter says.
In response, the campaign worker seems to suggest that the legal problem of voting in two states is less important than the practical problem of what to say if you’re caught voting twice: “Come up with like, if anyone checks, say, ‘I don’t know.’”
“You can’t vote twice in a federal election,” said J. Christian Adams, a former Justice Department elections lawyer and author of “Injustice,” a best-selling novel about voter fraud. “Obviously, this Stephanie Caballero doesn’t find it as offensive as I do that someone may be planning to vote twice.”
Specifically, Adams said, voting twice violates 42 U.S.C.1973i (e).
“It’s absolutely illegal to help someone double vote,” said Hans von Spakovsky, senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. He cited 42 U.S.C.1973gg-10.
“A lot of people don’t realize that, in addition to everything that everyone knows about the National Voter Registration Act — that it allowed mail-in ballots and registration through vehicle licensing departments — the last part of the statute put in criminal penalties for fraudulent registration,” said von Spakovsky, who had not yet seen the video.
Chief among the crimes outlined in the code, said von Spakovsky, is the requirement that “you can only register someplace where your claim to be a permanent resident. Obviously, you can’t be a resident of two states.”
Von Spakovsky said helping a voter cast two ballots “would be a violation because you’re submitting fraudulent information in a registration form.”
He said prosecutors might also charge voter-registration workers in similar situations with more general violations — conspiracy, for instance, and aiding and abetting a criminal act.
But New Jersey Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth, cautioned, “It’s not a violation until the (second) vote is cast.”
“The worker should have said, ‘That’s illegal, you can only vote in one place. Which is it going to be?’” O’Scanlon said. New Jersey was one of the states where O’Keefe filmed his investigation.
Phillip Griffin, a consultant to political campaigns outside Virginia, said, “There are tens of thousands of people who are arguably residents of more than one state.”
But, to be legal, Griffin said people vote where they pay their taxes and have their cars registered.
Griffin believes there is a “concerted effort” to recruit dual voters — particularly among snowbird seniors and college students.
Until recently, Griffin said most of that registration effort was waged by Democrats.
Then, two weeks ago, the Republican Party of Florida fired Strategic Allied Consulting amid allegations the firm filed questionable voter registrations in Palm Beach County.
The Republican parties in Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina and Virginia also fired Virginia-based SAC as those states neared their voter-registration deadlines.
Griffin said tracking down multiple registrations is nearly impossible in the frenetic weeks before a general election. But he applauded the state of Maine for culling new voter lists to identify any residents who were signed up in other states as well.
“They found more than 200 cases,” Griffin related. “The attorney general was proactive, sending letters saying if you don’t fix this, your registration will be considered illegal.”
The cases portrayed in the O’Keefe video are open to both federal and local prosecution, von Spakovsky said.
“The key is, and this is what you’ll see in the statute, if you double vote with a federal candidate on the ballot, you’ve violated federal law,” von Spakovsky said. “If the same ballot includes local candidates, that’s a violation of state law.”
Von Spakovsky pointed to a fraud case prosecuted locally after the 2008 election. In that incident, he said, “a number of Obama campaign workers were charged in Ohio after it was discovered they were residents of other states sent to Ohio to work on the campaign. They took advantage of easy registration laws there to vote in Ohio, even thoughthey were not residents of state.”
In their book “Who’s counting? How fraudsters and bureaucrats put your vote at risk,” von Spakovsky and co-author John Fund say the Ohio prosecution ended in admissions of guilt by the campaign workers.
Election observers say the problem of double-voting is greater in states like Florida, winter home to visitors with permanent residences in colder parts of the country.
One group found cross-referenced voter registration lists between Ohio and Florida to identify voters with matching full names, birth dates, addresses and voting histories.
Catherine Engelbrecht, president of True the Vote, a nonpartisan election-integrity organization, said her group found more than 19,000 Ohio voters claiming Florida mailing addresses. More than 6,390 people held voter registrations in both states.
True the Vote reportedly found 534 individuals casting ballots in federal elections in both Ohio and Florida. Engelbrecht said 34 cases were turned over to federal and state authorities for investigation last week. Another 32 cases involving dually registered New York and Florida voters also were submitted by TTV.
A recent Pew Center study estimated that 2.75 million Americans are registered in at least two jurisdictions. Some of that can be traced to individuals who have moved. The study did not give a party breakdown.
Richard Mroz, an election law attorney and a member of the New Jersey Republican National Lawyers Association, said local and state registrars have the technology to ensure the integrity of voting rolls.
“If there’s a pattern (of dual registrations), this is very troubling,” he said. “It’s ironic that we send people to be election observers in emerging democracies, but some officials here — particularly at the local level — just don’t take their job seriously.”
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