The chief election official in the very first state in the nation to implement polling place Photo ID restrictions --- under the guise of preventing "voter fraud" --- has been found guilty of three counts of felony voter fraud today.
In an early morning verdict following 12 hours of deliberation, a jury in Hamilton County found Indiana's Republican Secretary of State Charlie White guilty of three counts of voter fraud related to having voted in a precinct where he did not live and where he was illegally registered to vote. The Hoosier State's controversial first-in-the-nation Photo ID restrictions, originally implemented in 2008, did nothing to prevent either White's illegal registration or his unlawful vote for himself as Secretary of State in 2010 when he was elected to office.
Of the seven criminal felony counts White had been charged with in March of 2011, the jury also found him guilty of three other Class D felonies related to perjury and theft, while clearing him of one Class C felony for fraud on a financial institution.
White has vowed to appeal the decision in hopes of lowering the convictions to misdemeanor charges, rather than felonies.
Under Indiana law, a felony conviction makes White ineligible to serve in state office and would create a vacancy to be filled by Republican Governor Mitch Daniels. However, even if today's felony charges are upheld, the fight over who will replace White as Indiana's chief election official is likely to continue for some time, since a separate recent ruling against him in a related civil case could take precedence over today's verdict.
Republicans are hoping Daniels will be allowed to name White's replacement, even though a judge last December ordered White immediately removed from office and replaced by his Democratic opponent from the 2010 election, after determining that White had been illegally on the ballot in the first place thanks to his improper registration.
White's conviction is the latest in what is shaping up as spate of voter fraud convictions, allegations, and investigations of high profile GOP officials, including allegations against several of the party's 2012 Presidential candidates...
Over a weekend when the Super Bowl is set to kick off in Indianapolis, the embarrassing news comes as still another black eye for Indiana Republicans as well as for the GOP nationwide. The state party is already facing widespread blowback over recently-adopted anti-union legislation. Meanwhile, Republicans across the country have been attempting to implement polling place Photo ID restrictions, modeled on Indiana's 2008 measure, in advance of the 2012 Presidential election based on the specious claim that such restrictions are needed to curb "voter fraud".
White's voter fraud was due to his lying about his home address. He claimed to be living at his ex-wife's residence, which he also used to illegally serve as a member of the Fishers Town Council before becoming Secretary of State. In fact, he lived at a townhouse in a different area of town with his then girlfriend who he has since married.
Supporters of polling place Photo ID restriction measures, including those who passed the Indiana measure, have been unable to cite historic incidents of polling place voter impersonation --- the only type of voter fraud that might be prevented by such laws --- which would have been deterred by the draconian new polling place restrictions. White had no trouble committing voter fraud himself, even under the state's new law which has prevented otherwise eligible voters, such as elderly nuns, students and World War II veterans, from being able to cast their legal vote on Election Day.
Other legal voters in the Hoosier State who have voted for decades without incident, have since been forced to jump through remarkable hoops since passage of the law in order to cast their vote.
Today's ironic convictions of the Republican Secretary of State underscore both the hypocrisy of such laws and the fact that they have almost nothing to do with preventing actual voter fraud like White's, much as critics and democracy advocates have long maintained. Rather, critics charge --- with a great deal of evidence to back them up --- such laws are aimed solely at disenfranchising minority, elderly and student voters, all of whom tend to vote for Democrats, and all of whom are disproportionately more likely to lack the type of state-issued Photo ID required under the new GOP-supported laws recently implemented by Republican legislatures and governors in nearly a dozen states.
Last December, just before Christmas, a Marion County Circuit judge ordered White immediately removed from office and to be replaced by his November 2010 Democratic opponent Vop Osili. The ruling came in a separate case brought by state Democrats charging that, due to White's illegal registration, he was unlawfully on the ballot for Secretary of State in 2010. The circuit court judge agreed and found that since White wasn't actually eligible to be on the ballot, the next highest vote-getter, Osili, was the legitimate winner of the election and should be sworn in immediately.
White is appealing the verdict in that case. He is attempting to bypass the appellate court and is asking the appeal be heard by the state Supreme Court instead. In the meantime, the appellate court has stayed the Marion County Circuit Court's ruling, pending that appeal.
Separately, the criminal case moved forward towards today's 2am verdict. In a statement released just before 3am, the Republican Gov. Daniels announced his appointment of White's chief deputy, Jerry Bonnet, as interim Secretary of State.
"I have chosen not to make a permanent appointment today out of respect for the judge’s authority to lessen the verdict to a misdemeanor and reinstate the elected office holder," Daniels said in his statement in reference to the criminal case. "If the felony convictions are not altered, I anticipate making a permanent appointment quickly."
Democrats are likely to contest such an appointment, however, due to the previous court finding that their man, Osili, is the rightful office holder and, therefore, Daniels does not have the legal standing to appoint his own replacement.
Yellow Flags on the Field
In addition to White's conviction today, over the last several months, since Republicans took over many statehouses in the 2010 election and proceeded to pass a number of voter suppression measures, all modeled on the Indiana law, high profile Republicans have repeatedly found themselves hoisted on their own "voter fraud" petard.
Even several of the Republican Party's top Presidential candidates have come under scrutiny for possible felony voter fraud, and related charges, of late.
Here are just a few such cases over the past year...
• Last Summer, long-shot GOP candidate Fred Karger filed a complaint with Massachusetts officials charging that Mitt Romney was illegally registered to vote in his son's unfinished basement, despite having moved out of the state several years earlier. The recent release of Romney's 2010 federal tax returns did little to dispel the concern. The current Republican front-runner failed to include state returns in his release, nor any returns at all from 2009 or years prior. Karger has detailed that while Romney did not buy a house again in the state until July of 2010 (in anticipation of another Presidential run) he cast a ballot illegally in the January 2010 special election for U.S. Senate. Massachusetts law states that residency is clearly defined as "where a person dwells and which is the center of his domestic, social, and civil life." Nonetheless, residents in Belmont, MA, where Romney was registered in his son's basement at the time of January 2010 vote, say neither he nor his wife had been seen in the town since selling their mansion and moving out of state years earlier. Karger has suggested he may file a federal complaint as well if state officials fail to act. An online petition calling on the Massachusetts Election Division to investigate Romney's alleged voter fraud was recently created at Change.org.
• Last week, in an exclusive at The BRAD BLOG, we confirmed the fact that the Virginia State Attorney General is officially investigating some 1,500 incidents of ballot petition fraud by the Newt Gingrich campaign related to the former U.S. House Speaker's failed attempt to qualify for the GOP President Primary Election in his own home state. Gingrich had been video-taped late last year by CNN claiming to a supporter in Iowa, after failing to qualify for the ballot with 10,000 valid signatures: "We turned in 11,100 --- we needed 10,000 --- 1,500 of them were by one guy who, frankly, committed fraud." That, while Gingrich had joined with fellow Republicans over the years in falsely charging the community group ACORN with similar crimes. In fact, what Gingrich's campaign did in Virginia, if his own admission is accurate, appears far worse than anything ACORN had ever done. They had actually been the ones, in most cases, to have identified the fraud by a handful of their workers when verifying the validity of voter registrations before turning them all in --- as required by law --- to officials. Gingrich failed to either validate signatures before turning them, nor does he appear to have, unlike ACORN, turned in the guilty parties to law enforcement once the fraud was discovered.
• In March of 2011, then GOP Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman 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."
• In a case remarkably similar to White's, Missouri U.S. House Rep. Todd Akin is currently vying for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, even though, as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported last year, Akin has been voting for years from a property outside of his own district where he does not live. The house, as the paper found, is currently vacant and has been 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.
• In a ham-handed attempt to try and demonstrate that polling place voter fraud exists in New Hampshire, despite election officials' assertions to the contrary, GOP propagandist and federally convicted criminal James O'Keefe lead a video-taped conspiracy to commit polling place voter fraud during the state's "First-in-the-Nation" Primary early last month. A Republican Mayor in the Granite State has since called for O'Keefe and his co-conspirators to be "arrested and prosecuted". A petition with more than 100,000 signatures was submitted on Monday to the state Attorney General calling for an investigation of O'Keefe on charges of voter fraud.
• In an amusing turn of events, religious Republican supporters of Newt Gingrich charges that religious Republican supporters of GOP Presidential candidate Rick Santorum rigged an informal election during a secret meeting near Austin last month. The confab had been called in an attempt by "religious conservative leaders" to coalesce their support around a single GOP alternative to Mitt Romney. The attempt appears to have failed.
We'll spare you the details on a litany of other high-profile GOP voter fraud cases which took place recently, but prior to the last year (such as Ann Coulter's multiple cases of voter fraud, the 156-year sentences being served now by some 8 top election officials in Clay County, KY, and the voter registration fraud convictions of the California GOP's voter registration firm.)
But we note all of the above so that next time you are told by Republicans that polling place Photo ID restrictions are needed to prevent Democrats from committing voter fraud, you'll know that as great, or greater concern, should be focused on Republican voter fraud. More to the point, however, in every single case noted above, as you can see, polling place Photo ID restrictions would have done absolutely nothing to keep the fraudster from committing their crimes.
Such laws, however, are likely, as study after study has shown, to keep tens, if not hundreds of thousands of legal voters, from being able to cast their legal vote in their own American democracy in the Presidential election of 2012 and beyond.