In an epic rant on Friday's BradCast, Brad Friedman eviscerated the hypocrisy revealed, once again, by the apparent voter registration fraud of Donald Trump's newly appointed top campaign boss.
Following the show, and the The Guardian's initial revelations of Stephen Bannon's improprieties, the former chairman of the Alt-right Breitbart "News" site has seemingly doubled-down by re-registering at a different residence in the Sunshine State, one at which he also does not seem to actually reside, according to the paper.
Stephen Bannon, recently appointed as chief executive of the Donald Trump 2016 Presidential campaign, has become the latest addition to a significant and seemingly ever-growing list of high level Republicans who appear to have committed false residency voter registration fraud, as initially reported by The Guardian's on Friday. It is a form of voter fraud that cannot be prevented by polling place photo ID restrictions long sought by Republicans claiming to be concerned with fraud at the polls.
The Guardian first reported that, during two separate periods, Bannon, who currently resides in California, works primarily in Washington DC and New York and also stays at the "'Breitbart embassy,' a luxurious $2.4 million townhouse beside the Supreme Court in Washington DC ", registered to vote in Miami-Dade County, Florida by falsely claiming that he resided in homes he'd rented for his ex-wife, Diane Clohesy. The second home where Bannon was registered from 2014 until two weeks ago was "vacant and due to be demolished to make way for a new development."
Under Florida law, an individual must actually live in the county where he or she is registered to vote. "Willfully submitting false information on a Florida voter registration, is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison," The Guardian noted, citing Sunshine State elections code.
Those pesky laws --- even amidst wholly disingenuous and easily-disproven GOP claims of a "voter fraud epidemic" amongst Democratic voters --- haven't kept either Bannon or a host of other well-known Republicans from flaunting them...at least until getting caught...
In a second article, published less than eight hours after its initial revelation about Bannon's use of the vacant Miami-Dade home as his residence for purposes of voter registration, The Guardian reported that Bannon had changed his registration that day to vote in Sarasota County, Florida. Bannon now lists the address of Andy Badolato, a Breitbart "News" reporter, as his own residence. "Bannon, his ex-wife Diane Clohesy, and the Trump campaign," according to The Guardian, "have not disputed that Bannon did not live in the Miami houses with Clohesy when given eight separate opportunities to do so before and after publication."
The revelations from the British news outlet are especially poignant because Trump has become the latest in a long line of powerful Republicans who have erected the utterly bogus charge that the electorate, especially minorities, are committing in-person voter impersonation --- the only type of voter fraud that can possibly be prevented by polling place photo ID restrictions. Breitbart "News," according to The Guardian, "has for years aggressively claimed that voter fraud is rife among minorities and in Democratic-leaning areas."
As explained by Judge Richard A. Posner, the highly-regarded Reagan-appointed 7th Circuit jurist, GOP voter impersonation fraud claims are "a mere fig leaf" intended to mask the reality that GOP polling place photo ID laws are deliberately designed to disenfranchise minorities and other demographic groups that are inclined to vote Democratic.
Cases of impersonation voter fraud are nearly as scarce as hen's teeth. In August 2014, then Loyola Law Professor Justin Levitt (now serving in the Voting Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice) reported on the results of a comprehensive study. Researchers were only able to identify 31 credible incidents of voter impersonation fraud out of more than one billion votes cast nationwide during the preceding 14 years.
This contrasts sharply with the expanding list of hypocritical, high-level Republicans who, while having the chutzpah to complain about non-existent voter impersonation at the polls, stand accused of the elite form of voter fraud known as false residency fraud. Brad detailed some of those GOP superstars during his program on Friday, but in addition to Bannon, there are many more well-known GOPers accused of false residency voter fraud. Here are a few that we've covered within recent years...
• MITT ROMNEY: In 2011, long-shot GOP candidate Fred Karger filed a complaint with Massachusetts officials charging that the GOP nominee for President of the United was illegally registered to vote in his son's unfinished basement in Belmont, MA, despite having moved out of the state several years earlier. The release of Romney's 2010 federal tax returns did little to dispel the concern. Romney failed to include his state returns in his release (or those from 2009) which would likely show, as Karger detailed, Romney was not a resident of Massachusetts at the time he voted for Scott Brown in the January 2010 U.S. Senate special election to fill the seat of the late Ted Kennedy. Romney, who had houses in CA and NH, did not, in fact, own a house in MA until July of 2010 (in anticipation of another Presidential run). MA state law defines residency as "where a person dwells and which is the center of his domestic, social, and civil life." Residents in Belmont, MA told Karger that neither Romney nor his wife had been seen in the town since selling their mansion and moving out of state years earlier.
• INDIANA SEC. OF STATE CHARLIE WHITE: In February 2012 White was tossed out of office after being declared guilty of three voter fraud felonies, having been found by a jury to have registered and voted from a residence where he did not actually live. (The same thing that Romney appears to have done, as noted above.) Although White was convicted on a total of six felonies, he did not have to serve even one day in jail. Instead he received one year of home detention. Prior to that, in a separate civil case, White was ordered immediately removed from office by a circuit court judge who found that his fraudulent registration made him ineligible to be on the ballot when he was elected in 2010 in the first place. Ironically enough, Indiana was the very first state in the nation, in 2008, to institute polling place Photo ID restrictions, despite being unable to cite a single instance of in-person voter fraud in state history. Those restrictions, however, failed to keep White himself, the state's top election official, from committing voter fraud.
• SEN. RICHARD LUGAR: In February 2012, the long-serving Senator from Indiana was accused of doing exactly what his state's Sec. of State Charlie White was tossed out of office for --- not living at the address where he was registered to vote. In this case, the allegations came from Tea Party supporters of Richard Mourdock who defeated the popular Lugar to become that year's U.S. Senate nominee. They charged that Lugar had been registered at a house where he had not lived since 1977. As in White's case, Indiana's First-in-the-Nation polling place Photo ID law failed deter any fraudulent voting by the erstwhile Senator.
• REP. TODD AKIN: Speaking of U.S. Senate candidates, the one nominated in 2012 by the Missouri Republican Party in an unsuccessful effort to challenge Democrat Claire McCaskill for a U.S. Senate seat, had as reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, been voting for years from a property outside of his own Congressional district where he did not live. The charges echoes those against Romney, Lugar and White. Akin's house, as the paper found at the time, was vacant and long-scheduled for suburban re-development. Still, the Congressman has continued to use it as his voting address for some seven elections, ever since the time that he and his family moved to their new house in a different town some 18 miles away.
• JON HUNTSMAN: In March of 2011, the then GOP Presidential hopeful was also identified as possibly having committed voter fraud. In his case, the former Governor remained registered to vote at the Executive Mansion in Utah well over a year after he had become the U.S. ambassador to China. As the Salt Lake Tribune noted at the time: "Huntsman voted by absentee ballot for last year’s general election using the state-owned mansion on South Temple as his Utah residence — months after Gov. Gary Herbert settled into the historic building and Huntsman purchased a home in Washington, D.C."
•ANN COULTER: Then there's GOP superstar ANN COULTER'S and her multiple cases of demonstrated voter fraud (in both FL and CT). Coulter evaded prosecution in CT only after the state's Election Commission ignored key evidence revealing that she resided in NY but used her parent's house to vote in CT.
The hypocrisy is by no means limited to Republicans accused of false residency voter fraud.
In his 2012 coverage of the Republican U.S. House staffers whose involvement in election fraud was so blatant and disgraceful that a Michigan prosecutor suggested the aides had lost their moral compass, Brad provided a still longer list of such high profile incidents. That one included a voter registration scheme carried out by some of the very same Republicans who had falsely and maliciously smeared the now-defunct community organization ACORN for the "crime" of legally registering millions of low- and middle-income voters --- including many Hispanics and African-Americans --- so that they might be able to participate in their own representative democracy.
Ernest A. Canning is a retired attorney, author, Vietnam Veteran (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968) and a Senior Advisor to Veterans For Bernie. He has been a member of the California state bar since 1977. In addition to a juris doctor, he has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science. Follow him on twitter: @cann4ing