Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bill Gives Secretary of State More Authority To Investigate Election Law Violations

Proponents of Indiana's Voter ID law, including Secretary of State Todd Rokita (R), have long maintained that the law is necessary to end voter fraud through impersonation. Opponents insist no such fraud occurs because the proponents can cite no cases where persons have been convicted of impersonating other voters. Judge Richard Posner, in his 7th Circuit Court of Appeals' opinion upholding the constitutionality of the Voter ID law, insisted detection and prosecution of such cases is extremely difficult because the person is long gone by the time election workers figure out that the impersonator was not the real voter. Sen. Mike Delph (R) thinks the answer is to give more powers to the Secretary of State to investigate any election law violations.

Delph has introduced SB 175, which empowers the Secretary of State to investigate election law complaints. In investigating complaints, the Secretary of State would be impowered to issue subpoenas, question witnesses, require witnesses to give testimony under oath, grant use immunity to cooperative witnesses, obtain investigative records gathered by other law enforcement agencies, election boards, county clerks and prosecutors, examine and inspect voting machines and otherwise exercise all the investigative powers of an investigating attorney. The bill would allow the Secretary of State to refer a case for prosecution to another prosecutor, or the office could make a request for the appointment of a special prosecutor. The bill requires the Attorney General's office to employ legal and other professional services necessary to assist the Secretary of State in carrying out its mandate.

I personally think Delph's legislation is worthy of consideration. It seems local prosecutors, who themselves are partisan, elected officials, are very reluctant to investigate alleged election law violations in their own communities. You commonly hear about things happening on election day, which seem to disappear after the election. One such example in Marion County was a video tape which recorded Democratic election workers on election day rewarding voters with sack lunches after they cast votes at their precinct, a clear violation of election law. Television news reports the day of the election indicated a restraining order was issued against the Democrats by a local judge after the evidence was presented at an emergency hearing, but there's been nothing in the news since the election. I suspect Rokita's office is behind the legislation, although I couldn't find any press release over at his website.


Wilson46201 said...

I have jay-walked. I have jay-walked several times in my life. Jay-walking is against the law in Indiana. I had an Aunt Joanne who actually got a ticket for jay-walking. Jay-walking is not something to be encouraged. Wholesale investigation and prosecution of jaywalking would be a waste of everybody's time. Doing hard-time at Michigan City for reckless, wanton and willful jaywalking would be a total waste.

Before the secret ballot, voters who visibly "voted right" could be rewarded with a half-pint of whiskey. To eliminate this, we adopted the secret ballot and criminalized such payments to voters. To ensure sobriety of voters, booze sales are prohibted while the polls are open. The laws remain on the books.

The casual giving of excess lunches to some voters at a precinct is hardly a major criminal project - at worst it is like jaywalking. In my own precinct, we stock up on snacks for the long election day and share the food with some voters. We used to get into competitive baking so sharing our tasty cookies and cakes to voters was important. This casual sharing of food with our friends and neighbors on Election Day is part of the Hoosier communal spirit - it is hardly the cynical manipulation of voters by clever political Machines.

I continue to be astounded at some folks distrust of those few sack lunches shared on videotape. By harshly criminalizing innocent and non-egregious violations, you will swiftly drive away the already-scarce patriotic volunteers who staff the polls for us with a pittance for pay.

Anonymous said...

My dad grew up in small-town Louisiana in the 1940's and he had some stories. New one-dollar bills circulating around town after election day. Releasing results-so-far during the that enterprising voters could time their votes to get a couple of bucks rather than just one in a close race late in the day. (It's all about supply and demand.)

He never said anything about food at the polls, though. I'll have to ask him.

Anonymous said...

This bill is long overdue and enforcement of current election laws are needed to keep all of the would be violators at bey. A gold star fo Senator Delph. I am sure the Democrats will fight the bill.
Testimony before the committee is going to be very interesting when the fighting begins.

Anonymous said...

I heard a story directly from a judge who used to work for a liquor distributor in Indy while he was in law school. Marion County Dems ordered cartons of the small liquor bottles, which they distributed for use on election day to reward voters.

Anonymous said...

More urban myths from 7:36...

I don't think the Voter ID law was necessary in the first place.

Why do we need more laws, when ample laws exist? If you see errors or violations, for cryin' out loud report them to the Election Board and the Prosecutor.

But, if the Voter ID fans would ease up a little on their Hitleresque pronouncements, I'd be in favor of giving the SOS subpeona and investigative power. It can't hurt. A tradeoff may be good: strip the Voter ID law of its ridiculous provisions, and give the SOS more investigative power. I can lighten up on Rokita a little too, whom I think is a raving goof. He won't occupy the office forever, thankfully. But whoever is in that office, having investigative power might solve some problems. There are lazy or turn-their-heads prosecutors everywhere. Ahem, Carl....

Can we please have a tally of fraud cases reproted in the 2006 primary and general elections? ANYwhere in Marion County? And please, no more urban myths.

(waiting) I thought so.

Anonymous said...

This is a useful post. I wouldn't have known about the bill. I do want to quibble with one passage:
Opponents insist no such fraud occurs because the proponents can cite no cases where persons have been convicted of impersonating other voters. I think that's a strawman. I don't know anyone arguing that. I am the lawyer in one of the suits against the voter ID.
The argument is not that there's no fraud, but that the voter licensing scheme is a bigger fraud, and will do more harm than good.
Robbin Stewart.
gtbear at gmail.

Anonymous said...

Local authorities have looked the other way for years when these acts have been reported and evidence presented. Having the Secretary of State's office to investigate any and all allegations removes the local officials from compromising their political positions within their own parties with precinct committeepersons. The same officials are usually voted on at their Party's slating coventions.
Even the elected judges don't like to preside over these cases in their courts. Neither major Party wanted to point fingers at their Party workers for commiting the acts for fear of a backlash from their voting constituents on the local level. This bill will impact the whole State not only Marion County. If you don't know, you really can't say fraud has not been committed in the past.

Anonymous 8:14 AM It doesn't matter that you dislike the current prosecutor, he was not in office at the time when I winessed such violations. The Democrat Party did look the other way. John Livengood, Tom Monayhan were the Party's chairmen at the times and nothing was ever done about it because some of your prominent Democrat officials were involved. Some of the Party's precinct committeepersons resigned their respective jobs because of the fraud and dishonesty they witnessed on election day. It is clear that admissions of guilt by the violators will not be forthcoming, unless witnesses to the acts are subpeoned to testify for their own protection. Political Parties do not have subpeona power and can not force witnesses to testify under oath. The allegations were always dismissed as "sore grapes or urban myths". Both local poitical Parties were concerned with the bad publicity and impact on voters' attitudes regarding particpation if the truth was publicized.