By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
ST. PETERSBURG— A Barack Obama campaign worker helped an undercover journalist register to vote for the president in Florida despite her expressed intention to vote in another state, 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 and could be prosecuted under conspiracy laws.
The video, produced by independent journalist James O’Keefe, also shows Democratic activists in New York helping register an undercover reporter who says he wants 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 absentee ballot, even though the journalist has made it clear she also intends 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.’”
“This is a problem that’s happened in Florida before,” said Clifford Jones, law lecturer at University of Florida’s Levin College of Law in Gainesville. “Usually, it’s organizations hired by or led by Democrat-leaning groups — this year we seem to have it with Republican groups too.
“The ultimate harm happens when some of those registrations are used by someone to vote,” said Jones. “We think it’s relatively rare, but it’s difficult to know for sure.”
In recent weeks, the president’s re-election campaign in Florida has been making major pushes for absentee voting, starting the “Vote Now!” effort aimed at getting as many people as possible to vote by mail ballot.
Jones said that that problem is especially troublesome in Florida, which boasts a high population of winter vacationers from across the country.
“We have a lot of so-called ‘snowbirds’ here, who spend their winter here and have an address. We’ve seen cases of them registering to vote in Florida while still registered in their home state,” said Jones. “They may cast an absentee ballot in their state of origin and also vote, either in person or by absentee, in Florida.”
A notable example is Democratic U.S. House candidate Wendy Rosen, who was forced to drop out of the congressional race last month after allegations that she voted twice in the 2008 elections — in Maryland where she was running for public office and in Florida — drawing the attention of state prosecutors.
“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, a free-market think tank 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.
“The key is, and this is what you’ll see in the statue, 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.”
One group found cross-referenced voter registration lists between New York, 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 based in Houston, said her group found more than 36,000 voters in Ohio and New York claiming Florida mailing addresses.
Last week, TTV notified federal and state officials of 32 cases of possible interstate fraud between New York and Florida and are prepared to reveal more.
“We have a whole project going on the New York-Florida connection, and we haven’t even gotten into New York City yet,” said Logan Churchwell, the group’s spokesman. “It is a real tragedy that a third party is able to find potential cases that are felonies, just by examining the voter rolls.”
Additional reporting by Kenric Ward and Will Swaim.
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